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Guildford Book Festival presents An Evening with Damon Hill

Rose Connolley
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    A highlight on the Guildford Book Festival calendar, 1996 Formula One World Champion and halow patron Damon Hill talks to BBC Sports Presenter Garry Richardson of his journey through the last golden era of the sport, taking on the greats including Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, and stepping out of the shadow of his legendary father, Graham Hill. Damon will also be talking about his new autobiography, Sunday Times Bestseller Watching the Wheels.

    This is an event not to be missed. Saturday 15th October, 19:30pm. Tickets £17 (price includes a £2 donation to halow). Selling fast so make sure you don't miss out and grab yours today.

    Click here to book your tickets on the Guildford Book Festival website.


    Extract from Watching the Wheels by Damon Hill (published by Pan Macmillan):

    On 4 March, Oliver marched forth into our world. I’d driven Georgie to the hospital in Hammersmith, a short enough journey – if you’re not in labour, and your husband doesn’t have to fill up with petrol on the way, which did not impress her much. The birth experience was something of a brutal awakening for me. I was there throughout, which put me one up on my father, and I think Georgie appreciated it, even if it was only to have someone to yell abuse at. The little chap was taken away, washed and weighed. I had an inkling that something was going on, but left the hospital thrilled at the idea of being a dad and didn’t think too much about it. I’d come back the next day and collect Georgie and this new person in our life.

    When I arrived at the hospital the following day, Georgie was in a secluded bed and clearly distressed. Georgie and I knew nothing about Down’s Syndrome when Oliver was born, nor that it was named after the Victorian doctor Langdon Down, who identified the obvious genetic differences such as the single transverse palmar crease, poor muscle tone and excess skin on the nape of the neck, and set up a home to provide for the Down’s children of Victorian society. In 1965, the World Health Organization recognized Dr Langdon Down as being the first to clearly identify the syndrome; thus ‘Down’s Syndrome’. Later research showed that it was caused by having forty-seven rather than forty-six chromosomes. Dr Down was a very well-intentioned and highly respected doctor who made the life of his Down’s Syndrome people as comfortable and fulfilling as it could be, paying particular attention to their typical love of music and drama.

    ‘They think there’s something wrong with him,’ Georgie sobbed, but the moment I saw Oliver, I connected with him and his plight as a helpless baby. He needed us. No one else would do, so, to my mind, whatever the doctor had to tell us didn’t really make any difference. We were told they had to do tests before they could be sure, although it was clear that they knew exactly what it was. The disappointment was that they behaved like it was a tragedy. Here was Oliver, a new arrival to the world. Either we gave him the best reception we could, or we didn’t. Thankfully, we had some good friends who supported us and our new arrival. Very rapidly, we were put in touch with the Down’s Syndrome Association and they have been there for us the whole way through. Now, 27 years later, Georgie is the chairwoman of the DSA, and Oliver is in supported living near us and couldn’t be happier. The doctor’s prognosis was that he might be able to recognize his immediate family and perform menial jobs in later life. Frankly, I reckon Oliver could do a better job than them. At least he’s got a sense of humour. For his twenty-fifth birthday, he made a guest list of about 150 people, only a small handful of whom were family.