THE first fund-raiser for a major national festival for Tourettes sufferers has taken place in Morpeth.
Visitors came from across the UK to attend the Talented Touretters art and photography exhibition and sale in Morpeth Methodist Church on Saturday.
The event was organised by Ellington resident Jac Campbell, who three years ago set up the first Tourette Syndrome North East Support Group after her son was diagnosed with the condition.
Now the group is regularly in touch with around 40 families across the region and has become part of the national Tourettes Action charity.
And along with other supporters, Mrs Campbell is planning to stage the first ever Tourettes Family Friendship Festival in Cramlington in May.
However, organisers need to raise at least £6,000 to cover the costs of the event.
The Morpeth art exhibition, which featured work by Tourettes sufferers across the UK, was the first of a series of fund-raisers planned to support the festival.
It was attended by Morpeth Mayor Mark Horton and included paintings, prints, photographs, woodwork, music, toys and even computer games.
Money raised is still being counted, but Mrs Campbell is delighted with how it was received.
“It was great, it went really well,” she said.
“From a feel-good point of view it couldn’t have gone better and everybody who came along was really interested in the pictures and the other art work.
“There were people there from different parts of Scotland, Hull and Blackburn, just to show their support.
“Everybody who has Tourettes who put in a piece of artwork to the exhibition should be congratulated. It should really boost their self-esteem because it was so successful in making people feel good.”
Tourette Syndrome is commonly misunderstood as a swearing tic, but only around 10 per cent of sufferers have such a problem.
The disorder is a complex neurological condition where sufferers make uncontrollable sounds and often painful involuntary movements.
More than 90 per cent of people with Tourettes have other brain conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, depression and difficulties controlling emotions.
Because of the stigma around the disorder sufferers can feel isolated.
Mrs Campbell says part of the support group’s work is to raise awareness of the condition.
“I think most of the people who came along to the exhibition were predisposed to have some empathy. We need to do more public awareness and get out more to schools, colleges and local organisations,” she said.
“We have done a few WI talks in the area and we are always available to do awareness raising talks to community organisations. It is about getting out to grassroots level and talking to families and children.”
The festival next year is for people with Tourette Syndrome of all ages, and their friends and families.
The aim is to have fun, share experiences and offer friendship.
There will be information and discussions about Tourettes, music and entertainment, arts and craft workshops, storytelling, games, quizzes, shared meals and other activities.
Within hours of suggesting the event in a closed Facebook group more than 40 families had expressed an interest in taking part.
Mrs Campbell said: “The festival is going to be a national event. There is a lot of interest and people are coming to Northumberland from all over the country and abroad, from the north of Scotland to the Isle of Wight, we’ve even got a family living in Dubai coming along.
“It just goes to show the level of need there is for people with Tourettes to get together and have companionship, friendship and support in a safe place.”
The festival is scheduled to run from Friday, May 24 to the following Monday.
For more information about Tourette Syndrome visit www.tourettes-action.org