£15m boost for cancer charities

Caroline AherneCaroline Aherne
Caroline Aherne
Fund-raisers across the country helped generate more than £15m after an evening of television in aid of cancer research.

Celebrities including footballer Daniel Sturridge, actor Martin Freeman and actress Anna Friel took part in Channel 4’s Stand Up To Cancer on Friday night.

The night raised £15,700,222, the event’s website said.

The programme included tributes to the late David Bowie and Caroline Aherne, both of whom died from the disease earlier this year.

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Bowie died on January 10 two days after his 69th birthday following a private 18-month battle with liver cancer, while actress Caroline Aherne died in July aged 52 after a battle with lung cancer.

Boy George paid tribute to Bowie during a performance of the late musician’s hit Starman.

The 55-year-old said the Heroes singer’s death was “like losing a family member”.

Backed by the NHS choir - made up of doctors, nurses and staff members from across the health service - the Karma Chameleon singer performed a moving cover of Bowie’s hit track.

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Following his performance, he told the programme’s host Davina McCall: “I think to a lot of people who grew up in the 70s he (Bowie) was like one of our relatives, he was part of us.

“Losing him was just like losing a family member. It really hit everybody.”

Boy George added he had his own experiences with cancer.

“My grandmother, my aunt two years ago, a close friend very recently. I know so many people who are fighting it.

“What’s amazing is that people are really fighting now. There’s a real spirit, there’s a defiant spirit.”

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Actor Steve Coogan, who was friends with Aherne for almost 30 years, said she was “sassy, sexy, earthy, kind, smart, sometimes daft”.

He added: “She mercilessly took the [expletive deleted!] and she made me and a small gang of Manchester friends laugh until they cried.

“She was both ordinary and extraordinary.

“I never thought Caroline would become famous, she seemed too real, too genuine,” Coogan added.

He recalled working on a television pilot with the Royle Family star on a hot day and he chose to wear shorts. “She took one look at my legs and said, ‘That reminds me, I must get some chicken drumsticks on the way home’,” he said.

The programme then screened a montage of Aherne’s work, including her performance as Denise Best in The Royle Family for which she won best actress at the British Comedy Awards in 1999.