Friday 19th September 2003 At the Kingswood Theature
Report from the Bath Chronicle - Tony Benn Speaks for Sophie by Rachael Sugden, 22nd Sept 2003
At Least £6,000 has been raised with the help of a political legend for a young woman left paralysed by a rare brain disease. World-famous politician Tony Benn agreed to take to the stage for the Sophie Cameron Trust at Kingswood Theatre and thousands of pounds have been raised by the 400 tickets sold.
Sophie Cameron was just 17 when she was struck down with Encephalitis Lethargica and left severely disabled. But the former Royal High School pupil has been bravely battling back and has begun to stand on her own two feet again. She was left unable to move or speak by the disease and her friends and family helped set up the Sophie Cameron Trust.
Mr Benn heard about the Trust through friends and did not hesitate in agreeing to lend his support on Friday night. He spoke for 40 minutes before fielding questions on various political subjects from the last 100 years, ranging from the Suez Crisis to the legalisation of cannabis.
Dr Richard Wharton, chairman of the Trustees, said: "It was a really wonderful evening and he is obviously an extraordinary man. "He has a wide range of knowledge and a great historical perspective as well as some amazing anecdotes. "It was also wonderful that he started by saying he was there to support the Sophie Cameron Trust and he had been to meet Sophie earlier that afternoon. "It was a very special evening and everyone had a wonderful time.
" Tony Benn finished at about 9pm and then spent time chatting to us until he had to catch his train back to London - second class with his cheese sandwiches, a cup of tea and a banana and a few pipes of tobacco; a very great man.
" The former Labour Cabinet minister, who left the House of Commons at the last General Election, famously interviewed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in Baghdad earlier this year before the war broke out. And he, like hundreds of people across Bath, was inspired to take up the fund-raising baton by giving the charity lecture as part of a national tour for the Trust. Now aged 21, and after months of intensive work with a physiotherapist, Sophie has been able to stand on her own for a short period.
Dr Bernard Whiteside, GP and chair of the Trust, said: "We sold 400 tickets at £15 each which is quite exceptional and we are extremely grateful to Tony Benn for his support. He supports a number of charitable causes so it is also wonderful that he felt able to come to Bath to support the Trust. "He has given his time completely free and Kingswood Theatre has not charged us for the evening for which we can only thank them profusely." The next fund-raiser for the Trust will be the resurrection of the former Glitter Ball in December. The charity event raised more than £100,000 for Save the Children and Oxfam in the ten years that it ran. For details about the ball on December 13, call Sally Feeny on 484597.
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