Underbelly boss Ed Bartlam rallies best of the Fest for cancer charity benefit in memory of son Alfie - Steve Cardownie

I caught up with Ed Bartlam, one of the directors of Underbelly just before I attended their charity benefit show last night.
Ed Bartlam founded Underbelly at the Fringe with partner Charlie Wood 23 years agoEd Bartlam founded Underbelly at the Fringe with partner Charlie Wood 23 years ago
Ed Bartlam founded Underbelly at the Fringe with partner Charlie Wood 23 years ago

Ed’s little son, Alfie, died recently from a brain tumour and Ed has pledged to do all that he can to prevent other youngsters from suffering the same fate.

Ed told me that Alfie died three days after the Fringe festival in 2019 at the age of 7 and that “he adored The Fringe and used to dance on the stage between shows at The McEwan Hall, in fact he was up dancing four days before he died.”

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Last night’s show was the fifth such Benefit staged by Underbelly and Ed was extremely grateful to the comedians that give their services free of charge.

Ed said that the acts that have taken part “reads like a roll of comedy greats and this year’s line-up is again exceptional, headlined by Frank Skinner, Adam Kay, Ivo Graham and last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards Best Newcomer, Lara Ricote.

Ed addressed the audience and spoke about Alfie’s story, how that he had the best of care and treatment from the NHS, with radiotherapy and “flawless surgery” being performed at the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

However, Ed said that unfortunately one weapon in the armoury against cancer, chemotherapy was completely useless against Alfie’s brain tumour “and that is the case for so many others. This needs to change.

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"Unlike other cancers, lots of chemotherapy drugs for brain tumours haven’t changed in the last 20 years. To do this we need to fund trials and research projects.”

He went on to say that it was a little-known fact that brain tumours are the number one cause of death from cancer for people under the age of 40 in the UK and that given that “so much of the Fringe is about young people performing” he wants to “shine a light on this and use it to raise money.”

He said that the main point that he wanted to make was that “we are now putting everything we raise into a specific paediatric research and new treatment project which is based in Cambridge and offers a real hope of success.”

Underbelly have committed to raising £1.5 million by 2025 to fund this project via the Brain Tumour Charity.

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They have raised £500,000 so far (“only a million to go” says Ed) from various sources, including £100,000 from the benefit shows and another £100,000 from people who have donated through buying tickets for other Underbelly shows and events, including Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay when they produced them.

Other funds have been raised by well-wishers who have undertaken to run marathons etc for the charity’s benefit.

Ed signed off by saying “the point being, that everything we raise and everything that people have spent tonight is going to a very specific project that has a real chance of finding a breakthrough. And I am grateful to everyone for that.”

With the talent and organisation that Underbelly has at it’s disposal I’m sure that their goal will be reached and that hopefully many brain tumour sufferers will reap the benefit.

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