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Becoming an Inspiration with Ian Donaghy

Ian Donaghy didn’t set out to be an inspiration. He just is one. In this episode, you’ll hear his passion for helping people living with with dementia. What is an inspiration about Ian is how he relates to people. Ian draws out their individual stories. An Inspiration? You decide. Listen to Ian Donaghy’s story.

Inspiration, Ian Donaghy, Dear Dementia

Ian says modestly, that he has only one trick: surrounding himself with good people.

The career

He was brought up in Tow Law, a North East mining village. Ian was like Billy Elliott, but couldn’t dance. He was a good talker. At 28 stone 8lb, with a skinhead haircut, one of Ian’s first jobs was as a bouncer in Durham. He took the heat out of situations. Diffusing situations meant that Ian never got hit!

He’s no longer 28 stone either. “I decided to stay alive!”.

Afterwards, he went to university in York to become a school teacher. However, getting his first teaching assignment was a challenge. He’d turn up for interview in a big black suit and headteachers wouldn’t hire him. So the leafy lane schools in the North East were a step too far.

A special school actually headhunted Ian. Big Ian as he fondly calls himself. They said come in for a day, the kids will like you. He went in for the day and left eight years later.

“I learnt more from those students in that special school than I ever taught them.”

Crime Reduction Unit – Secondary Schools

Ian worked for the Home Office, setting up crime reduction units in secondary schools. This was to prevent crime on the streets. He was an inspiration there too. He helps reduce exclusions from 22 to zero. He’d go home and watch WWF wrestling and Man U and Liverpool on the TV so he could talk and relate with his pupils.

When you teach for the Home Office, that means work is pretty gritty on its day.

But it made him.

A Keynote Speaker Inspiration?

Inspiration, Ian Donaghy, Keynote, Dear Dementia, The Next 100 Days


Many speakers have one good talk. It just happened. He does stuff and then people see him as an inspiration. He speaks people listen and get motivated.

YOU MUST watch this short clip from Ian. Tell me it’s not an inspiration!!

How can you help other people?

All life, says Ian, is a series of interactions. Our lives are a series of snapshots. So make sure each one of those frames is spot on.


People sometimes ask Ian why he bothers to take people with Dementia to the beach, after all, they’ll forget they were there tomorrow. Not the point, Ian says. At the time they are on the beach, eating and ice cream, riding the donkey, they’ll know how happy they are.

It is a snapshot of happiness. He’s happy to see a smile in that minute.

How did Ian Get into Dementia?

After 18 years in education, dealing primarily with people with learning difficulties. He was speaking at a conference and was discussing how we’ve got it all wrong. Why compare Michael, Susan and John against the same measures. Shouldn’t we be aiming to produce the best Susan we can? We compare completely different people with different schools. School makes you fall short of so many people’s expectations, despite the fact that we are all different. We have different skills.

Ian’s educational style was to focus on the individual in front of him. He cannot turn them into something they are not.

Someone saw this and said that would be amazing if you did this in care. Can you take learning disabilities and apply it to people with dementia.

He became the Dementia Detective.

Will you break your Kit Kat with someone?

Dear Dementia

One of the most popular books there is on Dementia was written by Ian Donaghy.



Ian was frustrated. He’d seen too many families who didn’t know what had happened. It is simple. It’s the size of a Mr Man book. He started recording into his iPhone dicta-phone…


What is Dementia?

It’s more than memory. It is problem solving. It is about the absence of numbers. Lose time, money. Cooking goes – how many grams, minutes, what temperature.

TAKE THIS TEST NOW: write the answers to these questions on 6 cards..

  1. Write down the name of your children, or people you love
  2. Write down a skill, like wallpapering, making a good cup of tea, piano playing.
  3. If a burglar pinched something from your house, regardless of value, you’d be devastated if it went.
  4. Give me the name of the person you ring up when you want to have a rant.
  5. Favourite holiday
  6. If you had a time machine and you could have one day again, cannot change it.

Shuffle the cards. Pick TWO one with your left hand and one with your right. Read what is in your left hand.

Now crumple them up. Throw them behind you. THEY HAVE GONE. Dementia.

Inspiration at its best?

Angela Ripon, the famous BBC newsreader, said of Ian “He’s the bloke who makes you think”.


The Missing Peace

It took Ian 3 years to write “The Missing Peace” – all about coping with losing people.

How to buy The Missing Peace:

Ian has hated bullies. That is what Dementia is. It attacks people who have not done anything wrong. Dementia steals from you.

“I dont know what he’s called, but I know I love him.”


A Night to Remember

Check out Big Ian:

He started a band in his teenage years, called HUGE!

Ian has gigged with James Blunt, Aliesa Dixon. Cameron Diaz booked him for a party.

His secret? He remembers stories. A stockpot of everyone he has ever met.

Contact Ian Donaghy


The Next 100 Days, Ian Donaghy, Dear Dementia