As 2015 nears its end, I can reflect on a year of change with good reason to feel encouraged.

A blog isn’t the place for an annual report though. I could rabbit on at length (get the scroll bar ready) on our office relocation and all that led to it, but you don’t want to read about all that. Suffice it to say that we spent a year effectively hidden away on a dying hospital site at Frenchay but, since our move to Southmead in April, have had a new lease of life. Watch out for the reinvigorated BRACE in 2016.

Picking highlights is always a subjective process and there’s a risk that someone will feel that I’ve left out something that really matters. However, a blog is meant to be personal and bit subjective, so here are some of my favourite things of the year.

The headbands campaign was good fun with a serious underlying message. It also produced some of the best photos of the year. High profile supporters included Robert Peston, who said we had sent him an Alice band for his famous hair, and John Challis, aka Boycie in Only Fools and Horses and also the uncle of Dr Laura Palmer who manages the Brain Bank here at Southmead. And I got to meet the Gloucestershire cricket team a few days after they won the one-day cup, a happy partisan moment for someone like me who grew up watching Procter and Zaheer.

The headbands campaign was the brainchild of our new fundraiser, Amanda Cole. Our move precipitated a turnover of staff, with Amanda and Nazmi Rana (accounts) joining Lynda Checkley, Henry Lowe and me. We also had Jasmine Pickford with us as a science intern from the University of Bristol for three months. I’m lucky to be surrounded by bright and positive people and all our newcomers have given us a real fillip this year.

An undoubted highlight of the year was the conference in November. We were indebted to former BBC news presenter Martyn Lewis, who again did a brilliant job fronting the conference and drawing out the deeper issues and personal stories in the interviews and question sessions. All our speakers were excellent too – “every one was sensational” said Martyn afterwards.

You can get a flavour of it from the first of our conference videos.

The purpose of our conference, as in 2014, was to bring together diverse groups and individuals involved in one way or another with dementia, people whose paths would not normally cross. There is a sort of mutual education that happens when people with different perspectives on shared concerns get together. It also opens up the possibility of new collaborations. I was delighted with the enthusiastic response we received and the knowledge that new connections had been made.

We are always looking for businesses and others to take us on as their supported charity. This year, Radius, Butterworth Jones and Arup’s Bristol office all emerged as supporters and we continue to receive support from Jordans and QS Burroughs Day. Veale Wasbrough Vizard’s charity year continued until the end of April and they achieved a notably high fundraising total.  All these firms have done a grand job for us and we are very grateful for all their support.

I’m sure they’ll forgive me, however, if I single out a rather smaller business for a special mention.

Avenue Café in Emersons Green has only a small staff team which has plenty of work to do feeding its customers. The café has raised about £4,500 in each of the last two years, split between four charities including BRACE. What a great example of what can be achieved by commitment and engagement. The coffee’s rather good, too.

Reporting on research is rather more difficult than reporting on fundraising or even conferences. You need the verbal equivalent of time lapse photography rather than snapshots. As well as specific projects, BRACE supports lots of basic science - the critically important underlying research into causes - and providing the resources that researchers far and wide need to call upon. Converting this into headlines isn’t easy. However, the number and variety of the research projects we fund tells me what a wide front the battle against dementia is being fought along and how science is gradually making inroads. Our part in securing the opening of the new Brain Centre was a definite high point, though, and we have been able to report encouraging news from researchers in our Newsletter and Research Update this year.

Now for 2016… it’s looking very promising.