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Almost 100, Ken’s big walk for eye hospital

Musician sets target of 1km a day for 10 days in bid to raise funds for Moor­fields

17 July, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Ken Essex was inspired by Sir Tom Moore

A VIOLA player who dazzled the classical world and rubbed shoulders with pop-royalty like the Beatles and ABBA is racing towards his 100th birthday on Monday with a show-stopping fundraising target in sight.

Inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore, Ken Essex has set himself the target of walking 1km a day for 10 days leading up to his centenary celebrations.

Former Royal Marine Mr Essex, who suffers from macular degeneration in one eye, hopes to raise around £20,000 for Islington’s Moor­fields Eye Hospital, where he has been receiving treatment.

He told the Tribune his daughter had marked out a 500 metre route from his front door for him to follow.

“I had already tried the distance a few weeks ago, so I know I can do it,” he said.

“At first I started with a stick, but I felt quite anxious, so my daughter got me a three-legged walker. Now I keep beating my time. I started at 20 minutes, and have got that down to 12. I have to stop myself from breaking out into a run.”

So far Mr Essex, who lives in Muswell Hill, has raised £11,000, but hopes that amount will keep growing even after his marathon challenge comes to an end on Monday.

He added: “The treatment I have received at Moorfields is exceptional. I cannot thank the NHS enough, especially at this difficult time. I would like to do something for Moorfields in return.

“I want to raise money for Moorfields Eye Charity to support the hospital’s work around macular degeneration and help others.”

Mr Essex’s viola play­ing can be heard on the recording of Yesterday by the Beatles, and he contributed to the backing tracks of countless more legends including Barbra Streisand, the Bee Gees, Burt Bacharach, Kate Bush, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, David Essex (no relation) Dusty Springfield, Sir Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, and the Walker Brotherd.

Asked what the secret to long life is, Mr Essex replied: “It’s certainly not living a discreet lifestyle, I can tell you that much.

“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve played with some of the best musicians in the classical world, and then I was able to play alongside some of the greats in the sessions world.”

You can donate to Ken’s challenge via his Just Giving page at


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