Ash and Divine Comedy support Alzheimer's Charity Gig

Tim Wheeler and Neil Hannon lend their support to a very personal cause

Ash will play their breakthrough album 1977 in its entirety on the Ulster Hall stage for an Alzheimer's Society charity benefit gig.

Top bands The Divine Comedy and The Undertones will be joining the Downpatrick boys in the line up, each group perfoming tracks from one of their classic albums in sequence.

This event is part of the Belfast Music Week programme, which will run from October 30 to November 5. Organised by Belfast City Council with support from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Tourism Ireland, the programme will provide a run-up to the MTV Europe Music Awards on November 6.

Ash will present their platinum selling album, 1977, their first official record. Released in 1996, the record topped the UK chart that year and was the source of several successful singles such as ‘Girls From Mars’, 'Angel Interceptor’, Goldfinger’ and ‘Oh Yeah’.

Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy wil be accompanied by a string quartet to play the 1994 Promenade album, featuring 'Tonight We Fly’, ‘The Summerhouse’ and ‘When The Lights Go Out All Over Europe’.

The Undertones will perform their debut self-titled album from 1979, including some of the band's biggest hits, 'Teenage Kicks’, ‘Get Over You’, ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ and ‘Here Comes The Summer’.

Tim Wheeler from Ash explained how he became involved in this fundraiser event.

'My Dad passed away in January this year. He'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 2008 and lived the last 6 months of his life in the Psychiatry of Old Age Ward at Downe Hospital.

'I spent a lot of time in the hospital with him and saw many other patients and families going through exactly the same thing as we were going through.As my Dad's condition deteriorated I felt very helpless as there was nothing I could do except visit him as much as possible.

'When I heard that Neil's father had also been diagnosed with Alzheimer's I thought that we could actually do something using our music to help fight Alzheimer's. It is a growing worldwide problem and as yet there is no cure. The main hope seems to be in prevention and a lot of funding for research is needed.'

Neil Hannon said: 'My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's several years ago. It is a debilitating and frustrating condition, and affects not just the sufferer but all those around them.

'It is, however, possible, with early diagnosis and medication, to continue living a meaningful and enjoyable life as my dad has shown. I find him as entertaining now as ever, just in a much more random sort of way.

'Of course being my Dad he decided to use his capacity as a public figure to talk openly about the inner workings of his ailing mind. To help demystify and de-stigmatise it a little. He's a very awesome man.'

The triple headline gig from three of Northern Ireland's most influential bands will be a major draw for audiences, the ticket sales of which will all go towards the Alzheimer's Society.

Wheeler added: 'The Undertones have been a big influence on Ash, they are Northern Irish music legends and it's going to be a real treat hearing them play their first album.

'I've been a friend and massive fan of Neil for years too and always love being on the same stage as The Divine Comedy. With Ash, we're really excited to be playing our debut album 1977 in full, something that we've only ever done twice before.'

The Ash frontman hopes that the power of music will be able to make a positive impact on those whose lives are affected by the disease. 'My Dad loved music, playing piano was one of his joys and he would never miss an Ash gig in Belfast. I know he'll be there in spirit.'

Wheeler also hopes the event will be an opportunity to thank the often much-maligned NHS, without which the musician's father would not have received the care his illness required.

'As well as raising funds for the Alzheimer's Society I'd like to use our gig to say how important a service the NHS is and that we can't let it be taken away. I'd also like to say how grateful my family and I are for the NHS and the kindness of the staff at The Downe Hospital for the care my father received.'

Ian Thomas, Alzheimer's Society, Operations Director for Northern Ireland and Wales, adds:

“It's brilliant that Ash, The Divine Comedy and The Undertones have chosen to support Alzheimer's Society through this gig. Not only do music fans get to hear three great bands but it raises awareness of dementia and helps tackle some of the stigma that surrounds the condition.

'There are currently 17,700 people with dementia in Northern Ireland and by 2021 this is set to rise to 25,000. Every ticket sold will help support people to live well with dementia today and fund vital research to find a cure for tomorrow.'

The Divine Comedy, Ash, and The Undertones with support from John D’Arcy will play the Alzheimer's Society Music Benefit in the Ulster Hall, Belfast on November 3, 2011. Tickets will go on sale on September 22. Further details can be found here.

Belfast Music Week will run from October 30 to November 5. Full details will be announced in October.