View all news

David Walliams' (BA 1992) swim in river Thames makes a million for charity

14 September 2011

Little Britain star David Walliams (BA Drams 1992), has finally completed his Big Splash Challenge, an epic eight day charity swim for Sport Relief along 140 miles of the river Thames. The former Bristol University student has now raised £1,093,325 and counting.

Little Britain star David Walliams (BA Drams 1992), has finally completed his Big Splash Challenge, an epic eight day charity swim for Sport Relief along 140 miles of the river Thames. The former Bristol University student has now raised £1,093,325 and counting.

The actor has been overwhelmed by the support he has received. "It's been amazing and the public have been fantastic because you know the weather hasn't been great but people have been out to cheer me on," he said, just before setting off from Kew Bridge on Monday afternoon. His rescue of the pet labrador Vinny, who was struggling to get out of the river near Cookham Lock in Berkshire, further augmented his hero status, prompting Walliams's mother Kathleen to pronounce him "a sort of nation's sweetheart". "I'm very very proud of him," she said. "Saving the dog. That was great," he said. "The British public love dogs." He was also grateful because the incident kept up the media coverage.

Having survived without being menaced by swans – "when they're coming towards you, fluffing their wings and hissing when you're in the water, it's quite scary" – Walliams is now likely to hang up his trunks.

He has already swum the Straits of Gibraltar and the Channel, as well as cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats, all for charity, leading his friend and stalwart swim supporter, the comedian Jimmy Carr, to comment he was "turning charitable endeavour into a personality disorder".

The actor confesses he is uncertain what compels him. "I must be a masochist," he has said.

But, at the lowest points, he focused on why he was doing it. He would conjure up the image of a 12-year-old orphan, called Philip, whom he met living in a centre in Kenya funded by Sport Relief, and who wants to be a pilot. "He's living in the most desperate circumstances, yet he still has great aspirations. I think about him and not wanting to let him down," he said.

To read more about this story please visit the Guardian News website