CILT’s Austin Birks in stand-up comedy fundraiser

Austin Birks, Chair of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport’s Bus and Coach Forum, will perform stand-up comedy at Birmingham’s Glee Club on Sunday 21 November in support of Cancer Research UK.

He plans to raise £3,000 for the charity and is asking members of the coach and bus industry to dig deep and help him to reach that target.

450 attendees will be in the room for Austin’s second time in front of the microphone. On the first occasion in July 2019, he raised a record-breaking £2,500 for Cancer Research UK.

Austin has been battling cancer from his own diagnosis in September 2018. Since then, he has received two major, life-saving surgeries and has recently completed his 52nd dose of chemotherapy. Each takes around nine hours in hospital and is in addition to extensive steroid programmes and regular stomach injections. That cycle continues every two weeks but Austin continues to take it in his stride, saying he has “no complaints” about the procedures.

The stand-up act is a five-minute performance that requires attending nine sessions with professional stand-up artist and tutor, James Cook. Each of 30 amateurs are taught how to write their own material, learn to deliver it on stage and – hopefully – make people laugh.

“Until you get onto the stage, you have no idea if your material is going to work,” says Austin. “It is equally petrifying and exhilarating, once you start to hear people laugh.”

In addition to his fundraising work, Austin writes a blog about his experience as a cancer patient called The Bag for Life. It includes a range of funny, honest reflections and thoughts of his journey to date, from being given a life-ending prognosis of six months to live in October 2019, when his cancer returned for the second time, to the joy of being told that he was cancer free, and then discovering that it had returned in February for a third time.

He says: “You have choices when you are diagnosed with something like level 4A bowel cancer. You can either give up, or say ‘to hell with it – I am going to fight back’. The latter is exactly what I have done, living by my martial arts background mantra of ‘never give up, never give in’.”

Austin notes that cancer “does not discriminate who it tries to take.” Anyone who wishes to donate can do so via JustGiving.