Earlier this month, actor Chris Chitell who plays Emmerdale’s Eric Pollard, attended Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s Parkinson’s Physical Activity sessions at the AMT Headingley Stadium. The visit was part of his research for a new storyline he is involved in which has seen his character diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
The Parkinson’s Physical Activity weekly programme, which is run in partnership with Parkinson’s UK, is for people living with Parkinson’s to help improve and maintain their physical activity levels through accessible, fun and engaging rugby themed sessions.
To ensure the portrayal of Parkinson’s is as accurate as possible, the production team at Emmerdale and Chittell have been working closely with Parkinson’s UK and he was invited to attend one of the sessions run by Leeds Rhinos Foundation.
Chittell joined in the session which was focussed around Wheelchair Rugby League and got the chance to speak to participants and learn about their experiences of living with Parkinsons, before getting the opportunity to engage in a social setting with refreshments in the Keith Howard Community Hub after their session.
Project and Partnerships Manager, Ben Berry, said: “It was fantastic for Chris to attend one of our sessions and share the experience with our participants. To have someone depict Parkinson’s disease on a national television show is a powerful way to raise awareness in the wider community.
“Our sessions have been an amazing way for people with Parkinson’s to get active and forge new connections with likeminded people. While we typically centre our activities around walking rugby, this week we were lucky enough to provide a unique session of Wheelchair Rugby League”.
Tim Morton, Physical Activity Programme Lead at Parkinson’s UK also commented: “Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world, but is still misunderstood by many. We hope that Eric Pollard’s storyline will increase awareness and understanding of a condition that around 153,000 people in the UK live with, and it’s great to see Chris finding out more for himself.
“Being active is one of the best ways people can manage their Parkinson’s symptoms and live well with the condition. We know it can often help with balance, mobility, coordination and reduce the risk of falls. Parkinson’s UK is proud to be supporting this project with Leeds Rhinos Foundation through our physical activity grant funding.“We hope that Chris enjoyed his visit to the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, and we look forward to seeing his storyline unfold further. We’re honoured to be assisting the Emmerdale team in portraying Eric’s journey, and Parkinson’s UK is here to support anyone affected by the condition through our helpline, local groups and website.”