In memory of Debbie: gigging (and fundraising) for Meningitis Research Foundation

February 2022

Charles Riley, along with his band the Bardstars, has been supporting the Meningitis Research Foundation by organising gigs to fundraise in memory of his wife Debbie Riley. We hear from Charles ahead of some fundraising gigs in March 2022.

Hi Charles, tell us why you fundraise for the Meningitis Research Foundation

Debbie - Bardstars Charles' wife Debbie, who contracted pneumococcal meningitis in October 2015

My wife, Deborah, contracted pneumococcal meningitis in October 2015, whilst we were on holiday in New York City. We switched her life support off on November 10th and she donated some of her organs. We knew little of meningitis, save for the tragic reports of young people contracting viral meningitis. We never realised the different types of meningitis that can affect all parts of the community all over the world. That realisation and Debbie’s memory meant I had to try to fundraise for MRF, in the Foundation’s mission to eradicate the scourge of meningitis.

Where did you get the idea for the event?

Music was always an enormous passion for Debbie and she introduced me to all kinds of new music I wasn’t familiar with, in all kinds of genres. Debbie also worked in the music industry for many years, touring with some of the biggest artists, all across Europe. She loved that period in her life as it brought her into the heart of what she loved.

After we settled in London she continued in the arts, working for Sadlers Wells Theatre. Music was always being played at home and in the car and we talked about it and shared it together. I would sing to Debbie and started bands with her encouragement.

These fundraiser gigs therefore seem so fitting. They bring friends together who knew Debbie too and who shared that love of music. Half the band are in London and half in the Wirral, so the challenge has been to meet and rehearse. But everyone has risen to that challenge and it has brought those friendships into a new phase. Debbie had a wide circle of friends and I hope the gigs will bring us together to remember her.

What advice would you give to someone else organising a similar fundraising event?

Be patient, ask for help and support. I literally could not have put on any of the fundraiser gigs over the years without my friends volunteering so much time and commitment to rehearsals, travelling and performance. Debbie would be quite surprised, I think, but it’s nothing less than she deserved.

The fundraising and music has brought many of us together after such a tragic event. Be ready for things going wrong on the journey, but you know you can get there. I haven’t sung that much in public so it’s still outside my comfort zone but I’m getting more confident. Whatever the challenge you set yourself, you can get there. Good luck!

Tell us about your next event.

The Bardstars have two upcoming gigs in London, and the in the Wirral in March 2022. For more details go to the JustGiving page or Facebook page.

Interested in helping fund vital meningitis research, advocacy and support? Find out more and get involved today.

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