EastEnders star Jake Wood said Dame Barbara Windsor’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease has been a source of inspiration during his marathon training.
The actor is joining Dame Barbara’s husband, Scott Mitchell, as well as past and present stars from the BBC soap in running the London Marathon to raise money for a dementia charity.
Dame Barbara, 81, spent 22 years playing battleaxe pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.
Wood has known the beloved Carry On actress for 20 years and said seeing her and Mr Mitchell struggling to live with her dementia spurred him on to take on the marathon and raise money to combat the disease.
He said: “It’s been very tough, the last couple of years for them, and spending time with them you sort of see the effects of what Barbara’s dementia has had, not only on Barbara but also on Scott. I just wanted to do something really as a result of seeing what they are going through.
“I did a marathon in 1998 and vowed never again. It’s very tough. I know how tough the day is going to be.
“Barbara is on my mind a lot, on a lot of my runs I have been doing and a lot of the training, if I am finding it tough. What she’s going through and I think the fact that Scott has gone public with it has really raised awareness of dementia in this country.
“I think it’s really opened that conversation. I think that’s really important.”
Dementia Revolution is a year-long campaign formed by dementia charities Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, for the marathon’s Charity Of The Year.
Wood, who plays Max Branning, will be joined by EastEnders cast members past and present, including Adam Woodyatt (Ian Beale), Emma Barton (Honey Mitchell), Kelly Shirley (Carly Wicks), Tanya Franks (Rainie Cross), Jamie Borthwick (Jay Brown), Natalie Cassidy (Sonia Fowler) and Jane Slaughter (Queen Vic barmaid Tracey) in running for Dame Barbara.
Wood said he is “honoured” to be part of Barbara’s Revolutionaries.
He said: “Barbara is such a well-loved figure in this country, isn’t she? Not just by all of us at EastEnders but by the whole nation. She’s a legend.
“I remember when I started on EastEnders 12 years ago, Barbara really took me under her wing. It’s very daunting starting on a show like EastEnders. It’s part of British life and as an actor you’re quite nervous coming in.
“I will always remember Barbara sort of giving me lots of advice and just making sure I was comfortable, really. So she’s always been a really good friend to me.”
Wood is supporting the Dementia Revolution as part of Barbara’s Revolutionaries and can be sponsored at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Barbarasrevolutionaries.
Dementia Revolution is a year-long joint campaign by Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. To find out more visit dementiarevolution.org