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Ali Brown aims to break World Record for drumming

A Co Antrim man and double world record holder will go without sleep for a week as he attempts to set a new world record by drumming continuously for 150 hours. If he succeeds, Allister Brown from Lisburn will enter the Guinness Book of World Records for the third time.

The event begins at 7 am on Sunday, July 16th at the Lisburn Music Centre where the 45-year-old will test his physical and mental endurance to the limit playing 2,500 songs in memory of his late partner Sharon Deegan, who died from pancreatic cancer in January 2021 aged 49.

Allister, who works as a senior detailer for a structural steel engineering firm, hopes to raise as much money and awareness as he can for NIPANC.

Funds raised for NIPANC are invested in raising awareness about the symptoms of the disease, research, and supporting families who face a diagnosis of this devastating illness.

Allister is also donating half the proceeds to the UK charity, Mind after struggling with mental ill health after nursing Sharon for over three years before she died.

He said: “People never think anything bad is going to happen to them until it does. Pancreatic cancer survival rates are very low because it is usually not picked up in time. Sharon did have a chance to get an operation known as the Whipple’s procedure which only around 15% of patients are eligible for but recovery was far too difficult for her. Watching someone you love die of this cruel disease is just horrific. NIPANC is working to fund research which is something we all need to get behind and support.

“After I lost Sharon to pancreatic cancer in 2021, I was devastated. I needed help with my mental health. Now I want to raise as much awareness and money for NIPANC and Mind as possible, while going for the world record. My aim is to let people understand you should never feel you’re on your own.”

Playing drums has been a much-loved hobby since getting his first kit, at age two. Allister is already a double world record holder.

He broke the individual drumming marathon in 2003 playing for 58 hours and 17 minutes and was invited to sign the 100 millionth copy of the Guinness Book of Records along with many other record breakers.

In 2004, he achieved 78 hours in a drum marathon, and in 2008 broke the world record of 86 hours by playing for 102 hours and 49 minutes. The current world record stands at 134.5 hours and after 10 months of training; the local man is ready to take on the challenge.

Ali Brown with his two World Record certificates
Ali Brown with his two World Record certificates

He said: “I am training myself to cope with sleep deprivation by staying awake for 24 hours at the weekend so my body and mind can get used to it. Guinness rules allow a five-minute break every hour which you can save up and it all has to be recorded and verified, so I aim to accumulate the time by stopping every four hours for 20 minutes when I will eat and have a 10-15 minute power nap.”

Allister met his partner Sharon at a drumming event in Lisburn in 2017. Just six months later she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

He says: “She started taking pains in her side and back. This went on for a few months with doctors diagnosing constipation. I took her to A&E numerous times until eventually a doctor asked for a CT scan to make sure nothing else was triggering the pain.

“They kept Sharon in for the scan and the following day I got a call. She was in tears and asked me to get down to the hospital urgently. She said she hadn’t got good news. It was a large tumour to the head of the pancreas which was likely to be cancer.

“Sharon was amongst 15% of people in the UK able to receive a Whipple’s operation to remove the head of the pancreas. However, after a biopsy, it was discovered the cancer had already started to spread.

“Treatment was available and Sharon needed 24/7 care. Work allowed me to set up an office from home and I nursed her for the next three and a half years. She fought right to the last breath and taught us all how to change our mindset to life. A true cancer warrior.”

After Sharon’s loss, Allister suffered with mental ill health and says it was only the drumming community which helped him heal.

During the pandemic in 2020, he teamed up with drummers from around the world to take part in DrumathonLIVE; a 24-hour drumming marathon, which raised more than £45,000 for NHS charities.

It was held again in 2021 and live streamed on Facebook with the local man playing alongside famous drummers from some of the world’s top bands including Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs, Simple Minds, The Kooks, The Feeling, Hans Zimmer, The Cure, Imagination and many more.

This year organisers have given their support to Allister to perform DrumathonLIVE on his own during his world record attempt on July 16.

He says: “After I lost Sharon I needed help with my mental health, and for me it came in the form of DrumathonLIVE. It has brought many people together across the world, becoming a huge family of friends who are there for each other. I have benefited greatly through it giving me a purpose to play and enjoy drums again.”

Co-founder and producer of DrumathonLIVE Bev Sage Kennedy said: "Ali Brown's epic GWR Challenge exemplifies the boundless power of drumming to drive positive change. The entire DrumathonLIVE family of 2023 stands united, cheering Ali on as he drums his way to new heights, supporting MIND and NIPANC.”

Chairperson of NIPANC, Ivan McMinn MBE said: “Yet another epic endurance event to raise money and awareness for pancreatic cancer. Another story of human kindness and endeavour to turn a devastating diagnosis of pancreatic cancer into something positive. Ali, NIPANC is behind you every beat of the drum.”

Ian O’Reilly, Head of Community & Events Fundraising at Mind, said: “We are really grateful to Ali for choosing to support Mind through this incredible challenge, and we wish him well.

“One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year, and it’s so important that no one has to face this alone. Every donation Mind receives allows us to campaign to improve services and provide information and support. This includes through services such as the Mind Infoline, legal line, and our online peer support community for adults, Side by Side, so we can be there for as many people who need us as possible.”

Allister appeals to people to get behind him and donate. The event starts on July 16 in Lisburn Music Centre, Railway Street which will remain open 24-7 while he drums through night and day.

You can watch Allister’s attempt live here and donate here

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