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Honoured Classic FM host John Suchet hails music as dementia therapy

Honoured Classic FM host John Suchet hails music as dementia therapy

Classic FM host John Suchet highlighted music as the “greatest therapy” when it comes to helping people with dementia after being made an OBE at Buckingham Palace.

Suchet lost his first wife, Bonnie, to dementia in 2015 and is now an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society.

He was a journalist for 40 years – starting at Reuters before moving to ITN and becoming a newscaster in 1987, where he stayed until he retired in 2004.

In 2010, he joined the line-up of Classic FM as the new host of its Sunday afternoon programme. Last year, he stepped down from hosting a regular weekday show after 12 years and now hosts special programmes.

He said he has a “lifelong passion” for classical music – Beethoven in particular.

Suchet was made an OBE for services to journalism and charity on Friday and attended the ceremony with his wife, Nula.

Of his charity work, Suchet told the PA news agency: “The background is that I lost my wife to dementia and Nula lost her husband (James) to dementia. We met when they were both in the same care home.”

Asked if he thought there was any overlap between his music and charity work, he said: “In the sense that music of any kind is something that does seem always to get through to people with dementia.

“James was an absolute Mozart fanatic and she (Nula) would play him Mozart to calm him.”

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
John Suchet with the Princess Royal (Aaron Chown/PA)

He continued: “Bonnie … loved Abba. I would play Abba into her headphones and she would sit back in her chair with her eyes closed and tap her feet. She was content.

“With dementia, when words no longer work, music does.”

He added: “It doesn’t cure anything, it just leads to contentment.

“Music is the greatest therapy of all.”

The former journalist wrote a book about losing his wife called My Bonnie: How Dementia Stole The Love Of My Life.

Of his marriage to Nula, Suchet told PA: “No-one would be more pleased than James and Bonnie.”

He continued: “We were able to talk to each other in a way that you can’t talk to anyone else who hasn’t experienced what you’re experiencing.

“Dementia is the cruellest disease in the world because you slowly lose the person you love and you can’t talk to them.”

His hope, as ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, is to support scientists to find a cure.

“You pick up the papers today, almost every day of the week, there is another study on how to avoid dementia,” Suchet said.

“One theory after another – there is no proof that any of them work. You have got to leave it to the scientists.

“Keep supporting the people who are doing the research and let’s hope sooner or later they can get to the bottom of it and find what it is that causes that to the body and prevent it happening.”

Suchet called it an “amazing honour” to be made an OBE.

Sir David Nabarro
Sir David Nabarro was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (Aaron Chown/PA)

David Nabarro, special envoy on Covid-19 at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Chi-chi Nwanoku, the founder of the first professional orchestra in Europe to be made up of a majority of black and minority ethnic musicians, were also honoured at Buckingham Palace on Friday.

Sir David was awarded a knighthood, while Ms Nwanoku became a CBE.

Asked for his take on the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, Mr Nabarro said: “When I’m asked to comment on history in any government, in any country, my position at the moment is to be cautious about judgement. I have no authority to judge. There are inquiries being set up, let them do the judging.

“But I do want each government to learn and apply the learning. For me the biggest lesson of all when you have got something like Covid – the virus is the problem, people are the solution.”

Kim Little, the captain of Arsenal women’s football team, was made an MBE.

She told PA that there has been “a significant increase” in public interest in women’s football after England’s Euro 2022 victory.

Team GB wheelchair basketball player Ghazain Choudhry and celebrity hairstylist Samuel McKnight, who worked with Princess Diana for seven years, were also honoured, both being made MBEs.