Rose Garden packs away her Saturday Market/Swap Shop for one week only this Saturday to welcome oodles of talented acts to the Halfway 2 Heaven stage, all gathering to raise money for new charity, Cancer is a Drag. Jason Reid spoke to the ravenous Rose and the charity’s founder, Alan Bugg…
When Alan Bugg was diagnosed with lymphoma (a type of blood cancer), in 2010, the first priorities in his mind, as you’d imagine, were coping with the physical and emotional effects of the disease. As time went on, and the sick pay dried-up, Alan realised that the associated financial burdens were causing much unwanted distress. He managed to salvage his flat, after falling behind with payments, and decided to set up his own charity for people who were in similar situations – all whilst undergoing treatment.
Alan told me: “I started researching into places that could help, financially, and apart from Macmillan – or the government, if you’re VERY lucky – there was just nothing out there offering help for people going through cancer treatment. Because I knew what it was like going through it, having to face mortality issues, and so on, as well as keeping your head above water, I thought I had to help to do something. “
Cancer is a Drag – an official fundraising group for Macmillan Cancer Support – was given a soft launch at World Pride in 2012, with Alan’s drag alter ego, Diva Vera, and friends, marching in the parade. In the space of a few months over £1,000 was raised through collections – some of which was allocated in grants.
It has, however, been another rough year for him, continually undergoing treatment; and with most of the trustees working full time, this has meant things have not gone to plan. Regardless, though, Alan is determined to expand the charity and the reach it has, as much as he can. He has stepped it up a level, bringing Jeff Kristian on board as the charity’s patron, and Topsie Redfern and Miss Demeanor as ambassadors.
A striking logo – the stiletto -wearing rainbow ribbon legs – has been designed by Glen Webb, and fundraisers are now in place. The launch event will take place at Halfway 2 Heaven: “Everything has come together perfectly and everyone at Halfway has been so supportive. And amazingly, through all the initial correspondence, I’ve managed to reconnect with an old friend: Trindy. We used to hang around together, thirty years ago, in Heaven! [laughs] I’m really looking forward to the day, and very thankful to all the acts for giving up their time.”
Alan also told me that the name of the charity came about in a moment of inspiration: “I’ve always loved drag and I wanted that to be reflected in the theme. So, when a friend said to me, one day, ‘Oh this is an awful drag’ – talking about the cancer – I kind of put two and two together and came up with ‘Cancer is a Drag’. The aim of the charity is to give financial assistance to the people, and families, going through the cancer journey. We want to alleviate the drag it causes on people’s life.”
You’re hosting the day, tell us what to expect and who else is performing?
It’s going to be a fun-filled day with the best of the cabaret circuit giving up their time for a great cause, hopefully entertaining people along the way. As well as myself there are over a dozen acts performing, including Lola Lasagne, CK, Mrs. Moore and Trindy.
A cause that’s close to your heart?
Yes, very much so. Having gone through cancer myself and knowing others who have, I’m very supportive of raising money for research and also for coping with everyday living.
Cabaret artists have always lead the way with fundraising events over the years. Why do you think this is? And how important is it?
As a cabaret artist I think we have a platform to raise awareness of many causes – be it political or charitable. The audience gives us so much and it’s good to give something back. You never know when you, your friends or a member of your family will need the support of a charity.
Very true. We know you absolutely love what you do, but what are the three best things about your job?
The audiences, the laughs and of course… THE VODKA! [laughs]
• ‘Cancer is a Drag’ is at Halfway II Heaven, 7 Duncannon Street, WC2N 4JF, 4-9pm on Saturday 24th August.