Feature: PENNYFEST Interview #10: Dan Wheeler

Our final interview in the build up to PENNYFEST is with the man that started it all; Dan Wheeler.

When Dan's mum, Penny was diagnosed with a terminal ilnness several years ago, the Wheeler family set up Penny's Fund to raise money for her medication and treatment. Dan wanted to do something himself to contribute to the fundraising and having been involved in the local music scene for years, decided to put on the first Pennyfest in December 2010. Since then he has enlisted the help of Hatch'd Magazine and Derby promoters, Apples For Discos to put on 2 more PENNYFESTs with a fourth taking place this Sunday. We caught up with Dan just a couple of days away from PENNYFEST 4 to talk to him about this event, previous fundraisers and how it helps his family.

HM: Tell us about PENNYFEST and why you started the alldayers?

DW: PENNYFEST is a one day music festival I began in the winter of 2010 to raise money for medical equipment for my mum. When she was diagnosed with Scleroderma and Pulmonary Fibrosis, my family decided that we needed to find ways of raising funds for things like oxygen concentrators, mobility equipment, drugs and care. We obviously wanted to do everything possible to help and decided we were going to help my mum to fight the illness anyway we could. I've been playing in and with local bands for years and the only way I knew how to raise any money was by putting on a fundraising gig.

HM: Why is the money raised through PENNYFEST so important? How does it help you and your family?

DW: My mum has a condition called scleroderma. In very basic terms this means that the immune system is overactive and attacks the major organs - in my mum’s case, her lungs. This has caused what's known as Pulmonary Fibrosis, which means my mum’s lungs are deteriorating and her lung function is limited. Her lungs are brittle and even breathing causes damage. It also causes my mum to cough almost constantly and means that the amount of oxygen in her blood is very low. Even every day things like brushing her teeth or going upstairs can cause my mum’s blood/oxygen count to drop to a critical level. This means that she needs to be constantly supplied with concentrated oxygen to survive.

I initially started the festival to raise money for an oxygen concentrator and a mobility scooter so that she could still get about and have a nearly normal quality of life. However, as her illness has progressed she has started to need other things including a life-prolonging drug called Rituximab. The drug is currently unavailable on the NHS, which means it costs us £26,000 a year. It slows down the rate of the condition and will hopefully give her more time. As my mum can no longer work and my dad pretty much cares for her full time, there is no way that they would ever be able to raise the money on their own to fund her treatment. Events like this, and others we organise, really do make a massive difference to my mum’s quality of life.

HM: What has it been like to see so many people get involved with the events?

DW: Overwhelming! I can’t thank the people that have been involved enough! I’ve been amazed at peoples support and kindness. Everyone who has been involved in any of the PENNYFESTs previously and currently, are responsible for its success and popularity. All I did is come up with the idea. Without their generosity and support and the support of the people that have attended, my family would be struggling. It really does make a big difference. Not only does it help to get the things that my mum needs, it reminds us that we aren't on our own and that we have the support of the local community. Expect a blubbing thank you down the microphone at some point during PENNYFEST 4!

HM: What can we expect from PENNYFEST 4?

DW: A bloody good day out! We've got loads of excellent bands spread across 2 stages with the AWESOME Shapes finishing the day off. Loads of lovely arts and craft stalls and the creme-de-la-creme of raffles with the grand prize of...Granny’s Hamper; A hamper lovingly made by my grandma, bless her. Not to be missed!

HM: Sell PENNYFEST 4 to us in 10 words.

DW: Bands, Artists, Beer, Hamper...what more could you ask for!

PENNYFEST 4 takes place this Sunday at Vines Bar, Derby. For more information, check out the event page on Facebook or follow the PENNYFEST Twitter.