Our fifth annual conference took place this week and it was a great success.

Expertly chaired by former ITN and BBC news presenter Sir Martyn Lewis, it was attended by over 200 people in the conference suite of the Future Inn, Bristol. As with our previous #Together4 Dementia conferences, the aim was to bring together people with diverse expertise and experience to share knowledge and inspire one another.

Professor Clive Ballard, a world-renowned dementia scientist who is now leading the University of Exeter’s growing research programme, was our first speaker. His fascinating talk explored the relationship between behavioural and psychological symptoms and the risk of dementia.

Chloe Meineck then explained the thinking behind the design of her ‘Musical Memory Box’, which is now being used in a dementia care context. She was followed by Dr Shelley Allen and Dr Tanya Cerajewska of the University of Bristol, whose research, part-funded by BRACE, looks into the relationship between oral bacteria and dementia.

Bestselling author Wendy Mitchell travelled from her home in Yorkshire to be interviewed by Martyn, and quickly won the hearts of the whole conference. Wendy’s book, Somebody I Used to Know, describes her struggles with dementia, and the way she copes through her humour and positive attitude. We had arranged a sale of her book at lunchtime, organised by the nearby branch of Foyles, and over 50 copies were sold and signed in half an hour.

Wendy blogged about her day as she headed homeward. From the Twitter activity and other feedback we received, we know that she made a big impact on everyone present.

Tony Hall is Chairman of Bristol Dementia Action Alliance, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in July. We work closely with BDAA and asked Tony to tell us about the achievements of the first five years and the challenges still to be faced. His talk after lunch showed how much could be achieved by motivated campaigners and volunteers.

The final session was a panel discussion, again chaired by Martyn. Dr Katie Featherstone’s research into hospital experiences of people with dementia has attracted national media coverage. We invited Jet O’Neill, Southmead Hospital’s Dementia Matron, to talk about the good work being done by the hospital staff and the difficulties they face. This helped create a balanced discussion about our shortcomings nationally and the great work done by under-resourced NHS staff.

The other panellists were financial adviser Mark Stone from Whitechurch Securities, a firm which has supported BRACE brilliantly in recent years, Libby Miles, Client Services Manager for Porthaven care homes and our own Trustee, Bridget Lumb, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Bristol. All contributed strongly to interesting debates on a range of subjects.

BRACE Chief Executive Mark Poarch said afterwards,

We are very grateful to all our speakers and panellists, all of whom were excellent and gave us much to think about. I would also like to thank the James Tudor Foundation, which has generously funded our conferences over the first five years. Last, but not least, I want to thank Martyn Lewis, who has also been a regular presence at our first five conferences and whose skills as an interviewer, question-master and presenter have lifted the whole event to a higher level.