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Armando Iannucci abseils down hospital for charity

The creator of the BBC 4 sitcom The Thick of It, has abseiled down the John Radcliffe Infirmary to raise money for the hospital's Silver Star baby unit
Xin Fan on Thursday 26th April 2012
Photograph: Armando Iannucci

Writer and director Armando Iannucci has raised over £4,700 for a specialist pregnancy care unit at John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington – by leaping off the top of it.

Mr Iannucci was one of 90 people taking part in the charity abseil on Sunday at John Radcliffe Women’s Centre, which raised a total of around £30,000 for five different causes within the Hospital.

Best known for his creation of BAFTA Award-winning political sitcom The Thick of It, Iannucci, an English alumnus of University College, Oxford, is a patron of the Hospital’s Silver Star Baby Unit, where all three of his children were born.

On his JustGiving page, Mr Iannucci explains why he was taking part. “I'm no John Bishop, can't run for toffee, am a rubbish swimmer and find cycling a bit sweaty.

“I am however prepared to use the power of gravity to drop to the ground from a high building to raise money… I've seen first hand the amazing work [the Silver Star Unit] does saving the lives of mums and babies every day.”

The Silver Star Baby Unit was set up in 1971 to provide intensive care for women with pregnancy complications – the world’s first specialist maternity centre. It has delivered around 20,000 babies since then, and also leads research into treating serious prenatal conditions, notably pre-eclampsia – the development of often life-threatening hypertension during pregnancy.

“Nationally, we are a unique unit,” Silver Star Society Secretary Maggie Findlay told Cherwell, “Women in Oxfordshire are, of course, our priority, but we receive referrals from all over the country.

“People don’t realise that, even nowadays, not everyone can have an easy pregnancy. There are about 6,500 births at the John Radcliffe each year, and over 400 of those come through us.”

Iannucci was characteristically wry about his descent. “I'm told I just need to stand at the edge of the building and lean back. That sounds stupid”, he quipped to well-wishers on Twitter.

“If I abseil past someone as they give birth, the whole exercise may prove counter-productive though!”

Mr Iannucci was instrumental in generating support for the Unit when it was threatened with closure over two years ago. “For small charities like us, patrons like Armando are invaluable. He raises our profile considerably,” stressed Ms Findlay, “He is very supportive, and always comes to events if he’s around.'

The John Radcliffe Hospital voiced encouragement for charitable undertakings, “Fundraising across all our hospitals is hugely important and pays for a vast array of additional medical equipment and patient facilities for patients. We have another abseil in June which is particularly focussed on cancer fundraising.”

Iannucci addressed followers after the event, saying, “Big thanks to everyone from Mr Shakeylegs… Came home and celebrated a successful abseil with a glass of wine and 5 minutes in the garden clearing dog poo.”

The comedy writer has no shortage of fans within the Oxford student population. St Anne’s finalist and political enthusiast Robin McGhee said, “Besides his day job as a genius Armando Iannucci spends his time being a really lovely man.

“He has always been a brilliant supporter of Oxford charities. I'm sure I join everyone in wishing him well and expressing relief that he didn’t fall off.”

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