Ever wanted to experience the early morning hustle and bustle of Smithfield Market, the last surviving market in central London? Or what about learning more about the history of Soho and how its vibrant music scene in the 1960s influenced David Bowie’s career? These are just two examples of the 40+ guided tours that will take place from early morning till late night on 25 May all across London. The goal of this day is to raise £20,000 in 20 hours for the MS Trust: 20in20.
20in20 is the brainchild of fellow Dutchie and London tour guide Ans Vaessen. When she invited me to join her superstar team of tour guides for the day, I was obviously thrilled, but disappointed at the same time as I couldn’t clear my schedule for the day. Nevertheless I wanted to use my online network to raise awareness and money both for 20in20 and the MS Trust. The cause for MS, short for multiple sclerosis, is still kind of a medical mystery. So far MS is understood to be an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s own immune system starts attacking the tissue surrounding nerves leading to damaged nerves in multiple places in the brain and spinal cord. So what’s the cause for one’s own immune system to attack their own body? Possible causes would include viruses such as herpes and low Vitamin D levels (not very reassuring as I suffer from both these factors (cold sore is also a type of herpes virus) and often have numb limbs and ticklish skin), but also genetics and more. It’s speculated that over 100,000 people in the UK suffer from different types of MS and yet there’s no proper cure for it yet. The only thing that medication could do, is to help dealing with the symptoms. Coincidentally I heard in the breakfast news last week that there’s a drug trial starting this summer to test the effects of a drug used to lower cholesterol in the blood in MS patients.
Ans’ motivation for supporting the MS Trust is a very personal one. After sudden problems with her eyesight nearly 10 years ago she underwent several medical tests and was eventually diagnosed positive for MS. This obviously turned her entire life completely upside down. Although she had no idea how her life would pan out, she decided to take matters into own hands and asked her boyfriend to marry her. They had a daughter together and moved to London where Ans decided to pursue her passion to become a qualified London guide. Thankfully she hasn’t had a relapse again, but she realises she’s been very lucky and in a way her diagnosis has had a positive effect on her life once she decided to live every day as if it could’ve been her last one.
Also Heleen van Schoonhoven, Ans’ partner for 20in20, has been confronted with MS in her personal life: her father was diagnosed with MS when he was 38 years old. (MS is often diagnosed with people in their 20s/30s.) Sadly for him and the family, he has a different type of MS and he keeps getting new attacks resulting in losing more and more body functions.
How you can be part of 20in20
By taking part in 20in20 YOU can help raise money for the MS Trust. To join is very easy: go to the schedule for all the different London city tours on 25 May on this page, choose one or more tours and book your tickets using the link provided on the individual pages. Besides the aformentioned Smithfield Market and David Bowie’s Soho tours, there are dozens of other tours you could chose from. London’s fascinating history and also the important persons who have passed throug the city over the last centuries, lend itself for many interesting different tours with a variety of themes. For instance, if you’re interested in culture and history, then the Dickens and Shakespeare or the Churchill and WWII tours might be right up your alley. Or what about guided tours in significant buildings such as Tate Modern or the Foundling Museum? You could go on a historical pub crawl or a ghost tour in the evening or if you’d rather prefer a bit more active tour, then you can book a Secret London bike tour.
The organisers ensured that all tours are accessible for people who are visually impaired or are in a wheelchair. There are also tandems available for the bike tours and even bespoke or private tours are possible. Finally, if you can’t make any of the tours on the day itself, you can join an interactive tour from the comfort of your own home any time from 25 May till 24 June. You can find more information about the virtual tours on this page.
My personal experiences with MS
Besides wanting to support my fellow Dutchies, I wanted to dedicate a post about this event, I know quite a few people with MS. About 12 years ago a friend from uni woke up one morning and discovered he had lost his eyesight and some other body functions. Fortunately, just like Ans, he recovered from this scary episode. Unfortunately not everybody is this lucky. My ex sister-in-law was diagnosed with MS in her teens. In a time-span of about 15 years I’ve seen her health seriously detoriate. It started with difficulties with walking, then she couldn’t cycle anymore, later she was permanently in a wheelchair and eventually she was unable to eat or drink by herself as she couldn’t stop her head and hands from shaking vigoursly. It was so heartbreaking to see her health deteriorate so rapidly, but she never stopped smiling. Although MS isn’t necessarily a fatal disease, she sadly did die from it in her thirties.
Being familar with the disease and its possible effects, I was impressed to see how my fellow Rauschenberg resident, photographer Patricia Lay-Dorsey deals with her disease. She was diagnosed with MS in 1988 already and although she can’t walk anymore nor has proper control over her fingers, she took 7,000 photos during our 6-week artist residency to use for her digital collages, went swimming and even made drawings. She was the only one of our entire group who went out to meet the locals and became part of the Captiva incrowd. I very much admire her positive and inquisitive attitude and I regard her as a highly inspirational and strong woman.
Essential 20in20 details
When: from 6am till midnight on 25 May 2017
Where: all across London
Why: to raise money and awareness for the MS Trust
More information: 20in20 and MS Trust
Unable to join the tours? You can make a donation directly to the MS Trust here.