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David Oakes: Running to fight lung disease

Film, television and theatre actor David Oakes is running in support of his niece, Josie.

18 months ago my very little niece Josie, at the age of 3 months old, was admitted to hospital with lung problems. Various tests and a horrendous biopsy later, she was diagnosed with pulmonary interstitial glycogenosis - PIG for short.

I've subsequently imagined little Jojo’s lungs plagued by vindictive pigs chowing down on her oxygen as swill from an alveoli-shaped bucket. She is set to turn 2 in November, and despite having spent the majority of her life attached to oxygen tubes she’s a charming little madam with wonderful opportunities ahead of her.

The support that has been provided to Josie's incredible parents, my sister and brother-in-law, by the British Lung Foundation and the ChILD Lung Foundation has been incredible. As well as offering advice and care, they also work to provide money for further research which will hopefully lead to a cure for such diseases.

It is with this in mind that I have set myself a few challenges and fundraising opportunities. About 7 years ago I had the great fortune to leave drama school and commence my career at Shakespeare’s Globe on the South Bank of London. One of the shows I was to appear in that season was a new piece of writing about the formation of the American constitution called “We the People”.

It was an epic piece of political theatre with a cast of over 20 people, a running time of over 3 hours and a scene featuring a horse named after a surrealist painter. It was a delight to be a part of... ...The Telegraph branded it the worst play of 2007.

The assistant director on the job was a young man called Henry Bell. I thought him a pompous upstart who would be happier playing Dungeons and Dragons; he thought me a pompous actor with a thoroughly misplaced amount of self-belief. We were both right. We didn’t talk to each other much.

7 years later, we are as thick as thespian thieves and have manifested (god knows how) careers within the entertainment industry. Henry is currently the associate director up at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and I am currently playing Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe in the stage adaptation of "Shakespeare in Love" at the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End of London.

Now - here's a short “fictitious” history lesson to make our endeavour seem more valuable: It is perhaps not as widely known as it should be, but Noel Coward and Stephen Joseph (of the aforementioned theatres fame) were two of the closest friends that the theatre community had ever seen. Not only did they share the same birthday, but one uncle as well.

They are probably best known for their infamous, epoch-defining, production of Jurassic Park on Ice at the O2 arena, performed for the court of Queen Victoria using a cast of heavily made-up mustelids and various kinds of moss. What is less commonly known about them is their mutual appreciation for “rapid perambulation”. Back in the September of 1714 they decided to run between the two cultural capitals of their country - the noble bastion of spherical art, Scarborough, and the new pretender on the theatrical circuit, Londinium - or "London the Brave" as it is known today.

It is with this in mind (and here is where our fictitious history becomes brutal factual present) that 200 years later, in 2014, London Off-Westend Best Director Nominee, Henry Bell, and the Romy Award Grand Jury Prize trophy-minder, David Oakes, will be making this same journey.

For each day of September both Henry and I will collectively run 13km. Multiply that by September's 30 days and you get 390km - roughly the distance between Scarborough and London by road. On the final Sunday of September, we will meet somewhere equidistant, glamorous Nottingham perhaps, and run the final kilometres together to finish off this 390km journey.

In an ideal world we'd like to actually do that journey, but I have 8 shows to perform Monday - Saturday, and Henry has just started directing his new play "Slipping" for the SJT. Yet these hurdles are simply serving to make it a little more taxing.

Fitting a daily run around one's daily routine is a little frustrating. I was down in Salisbury for my first of September jog, and despite getting to do the run around Salisbury Cathedral and down Constable's Town Path, I then had to drive back to London and perform to 1,000 people.

There will be numerous challenges like this over the course of September. But I think that's the point. You can sponsor our endeavour online to donate to the British Lung Foundation and the ChILD Lung Foundation and help get me through the challenge.

Despite my charitable kind nature, Henry would like it known that this exercise purely stems from derision and self-loathing. Having been forced to go to the gym two years ago (by a very caring friend, who shall for the sake of this story be known as Shmavid Shmokes) he is mostly doing it to prove that he's now fitter than Shmokes... Shmavid fears that this may indeed be the case.

In addition to all that, for a small donation to the BLF, you can watch ‘Goblin?’, a short film starring myself and Borgias co-star Holliday Grainger which enjoyed great success at the Film4 FrightFest. Onwards.

You can donate to the British Lung Foundation by sponsoring David online. You can also watch 'Goblin?'.


This is a great reason to run. Lots of luck x
Good luck David, and you have my support. :) Best eishes to you, Mr. Bell, and little Josie, and her parents.

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10 September 2014