8. Sally Magnusson

For my series finale I chat to Sally Magnusson, distinguished broadcaster, journalist, author and founder of the music and dementia charity Playlist for Life.  When her mother Mamie Baird developed the condition Sally started writing about her in an attempt to hold onto the wonderful woman she loved so much. The result is a tender letter from a daughter to a mother. It is also a reporter’s investigation into one of the most feared conditions of our time. 


In Where Memories Go, Sally explores dementia, and what it does to an individual, through the eyes and heart of a loved one, through the theories of neuroscientists and quantum physicists, through the beliefs of theologians, and the words of poets and philosophers. Her investigations reveal that music is the one thing dementia cannot destroy. Which is why, up until the final stages of her life, when Mamie is lying in bed little more than “a breathing cadaver” she still whispers the words of a song. “For you and me, for us and we/All the clouds have rolled away”.  And why, after her mother’s death, Sally went on to found the highly regarded and successful Playlist for Life.


Her book is about that most slippery of concepts, the self. And about society’s morally questionable view and treatment of those in danger of losing this most precious, intangible thing to dementia.  As her mother nears her end, Sally muses on her unconquerable soul, her indestructible identity. “You are Mamie, the only one there has been or ever will be. You are you”.


Playlist for Life can be found at playlistforlife.org.uk and Sally’s latest novel, The Ninth Child, published by John Murray, is out now and available on Amazon.


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