Dance For Dizzy | Preview

Dance For Dizzy | Preview

Sandinos Bar, Derry • Thursday 24 November ’16

“A tribute to an inspirational lady”

By Stacy Fitzpatrick

On Monday 29 August 2016, many many hearts in Derry were broken at the news of the passing of Emma McLaughlin. Emma, commonly known as Dizzy, one of the communities most inspirational, popular, and genuine spirits lost her 14 year fight against a brain tumour aged only 37.

For those who knew her-of which there were many, as she showed kindness and warmth to anybody she came into contact with- the news was expected, but nevertheless incredibly desolating.

Dizzy was a rare, remarkable and inimitable soul. From a young age her life had been marked by tragic losses to cancer. At the age of just five years old, Emma and her three siblings, younger sister Claire,and brothers JR and Rory- lost their mother to cancer. Their father Pat became their world raising his four children.

Emma, as a fit and healthy young woman, had a passion for horses and went on to become an instructor at Delphi Lodge, a choice that change the course of her destiny positively. It was here she met Harry, an Australian, which led to her travelling to Australia having the time of her life.

She returned to Derry, but soon became unwell in which her brain tumour was diagnosed in 2002. Shortly after her diagnosis, in a cruel twist of fate her father Pat developed cancer and sadly passed away, whilst she herself was battling her own disease.


Following the passing of her father, with a dream instigating a memory, she made contact once again with her old friend from Australia, Harry.

Harry travelled across the world to be with her in Derry. The two fell in love, and brought a beautiful girl into the world, a child they named Hope.

News of Dizzy’s illness spread wide across Derry, and the mass army of friends, family and even strangers came together to do whatever they could to find a cure for Emma, in 2012 raising funds for treatment in America. They did this with a fundraiser called ‘Dance For Dizzy’ which brought over 400 people together in support of Emma.

It was hoped that this treatment would rid her of the disease for good. But a scan in June revealed the cancer had returned. The return of the cancer saw her being cared for by the same Foyle Hospice nurse, a nurse called hannah, that had tended to both her father and mother previously.

In her fourteen years living with cancer, Emma underwent three brain operations, as well as radiotherapy and Gamma knife surgery. Yet this beautiful selfless woman dealt with it in an incomparable way. She remained positive, she radiated kindness, she emanated selflessness. And she continued to be a naturally amazing mother, wife, sister, niece and friend.

Her sister Claire said “ Emma faced every hard day with total gratitude and drive to look after her wee daughter Hope. She faced every diagnosis with determination and positivity. Emma taught us all so much about how to eat healthy and surround ourselves with positivity and love. She was the most strongest, most inspirational sister and mother.

“Emma loved life and life, and lived even the toughest days to their fullest.”

Her funeral mass at St Patrick’s Chapel in Pennyburn revealed the extent of the love for this caring, unique woman, as the large chapel was packed beyond capacity, with mourners spreading out into the grounds beyond to pay their respects at the service led by her very own uncle. The grief and sadness at the loss of this bright, pure spirit tangible.


For one more time, Derry will come together again to Dance For Dizzy. On 24 November, at Sandinos, a mammoth gig featuring 16 acts across three stages. Many of whom knew, or at very least knew of Dizzy herself.

The event organisers said:

“We want to recreate that overwhelming sense of togetherness, and although she will not be there dancing as before she will dance on forever in all our hearts.

This charity gig has been put together as a stand against cancer and a tribute to an inspirational lady.”

Teknopeasant, with his quirky charm and humour will compere the night.  The line up includes some of the North West’s prolific and well known talent

The Henry Girls/The Ard Ri Band/ ExMagician/PORTS/Triggerman/The Woodburning Savages/Waldorf & Cannon/Lady J/PAddy Nash And The Happy Enchiladas/ Plain Zebra/Figure of 8/Confute/Jonny Boy/Stephen McCauley/ Conal McFeely.

Combining solo performers, bands and DJ’s the range of musical genres guarantees something for all tastes and for an incredibly poignant purpose.

“Her friends meant the world to her and have been with her through everything.” says Claire.

“She would be so proud of this special night and delighted that we are making a difference for other people facing this terrible disease. The hospice were the most amazing support to our family. The  talent and big hearts of musicians playing is unreal.

Acknowledging the continuing love and support from Emma’s friends she says: “Sha Gillespie, Philip Wallace and Marty Doherty, as usual, have moved mountains to make this night something special.”

“It will be a great celebration of life and love. Just as Emma would have wanted.”

Tickets priced at only £10 with all proceeds going to charity. Tickets are available from Sandinos Bar, Water Street, Derry or online via eventbrite:

If you aren’t able to attend and would like to show your support, raffle tickets are also available with a host of prizes-from hair and beauty treatments, meals, recording studio sessions, music vouchers and more. All proceeds raised from the event will go to support the amazing, dedicated work of The Foyle Hospice.


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