A FORMER soldier is taking to the stage with one of the stars of Downton Abbey at a venue in Somerset.

Parkinson’s campaigner Guy Deacon will join actor Hugh Bonneville - who played the Earl of Grantham in the hit TV show - to talk about his remarkable overland trip from Sherborne in Dorset to Cape Town in South Africa.

In 2023 Guy drove solo down the west coast of Africa across 25 countries, covering 18,000 miles in 12 months, using the journey to highlight the experiences of people like him who suffer from the debilitating disease.

The event on April 25 at North Cadbury Court is a fundraiser for Parkinson’s charities.

Joining them will be filmmaker Rob Hayward, who documented the story in a film to be broadcast later this year.

The evening has been arranged by friends and supporters of Guy’s endeavours, marking World Parkinson’s Day on April 11.

Hugh Bonneville will talk to Guy about his new book Running on Empty and about the making of the documentary.

Proceeds from the evening will be divided between Cure Parkinson’s Trust, Parkinson’s Africa and the Deacon Foundation. Tickets will be available in advance via Eventbrite and Bailey Hill Bookshop, Castle Cary. Doors open at 6pm.

Guy said: “There are 10 million people suffering with Parkinson’s - now the fastest growing neurological disease in the world and still with no known cause or cure.

“While I struggle to get dressed, to tie my own shoe laces, to pick up a pen and write, and to remove my necessary pills from their blister packs, I know I’m the lucky one.

"In many African societies, Parkinson’s is entirely misunderstood and is seen as a curse rather than a neurological condition. Most sufferers have no access to medicines nor the kind of care that we in the west receive. Instead, they are abandoned and shunned by their local communities; their stories are heart breaking.”

Hugh Bonneville said: “Guy’s efforts to raise awareness and understanding of Parkinson’s have been extraordinary. His overland route down the west coast of Africa, passing through a great number of extremely dangerous and politically unstable countries, would have challenged the strongest and fittest among us.

“But for someone suffering from advanced stage three Parkinson’s, it is a truly remarkable achievement. His story deserves to be heard and I look forward to getting into conversation with Guy and Rob, to find out more about Guy’s life on the open road in Africa and what it was that drove him to keep going. It’s going to be a fascinating evening.”

Guy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010. Despite this diagnosis, he was appointed Colonel in Charge of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC), based in Bovington, Dorset, from July 2015 and he continued his military career until retirement in 2019.

His achievements with the RAC were recognised with the CBE.

Since his return from Africa, Guy continues his mission to raise awareness and understanding of Parkinson’s disease in the UK, throughout Africa and beyond.

The event has been arranged by the Montgomery family, the owners of North Cadbury Court which has been their family home for more than 100 years.

Tickets: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fundraising-for-cure-parkinsons-parkinsons-africa-deacon-foundation-tickets-852832614307?aff=oddtdtcreator.

Also available at The Bailey Hill Bookshop in Castle Cary. https://donate.cureparkinsons.org.uk/running-on-empty