Lancaster comedian Jon Richardson launches appeal with friend he met at Leeds United match
Jon Richardson, stand-up comic and star of 8 out of 10 Cats, has opened up about his extraordinary friendship with a man who lives with a very rare muscle-wasting condition.
Richardson, who was brought up in Lancaster and attended Ryelands Primary School and Lancaster Royal Grammar School, met Martin Hywood, 47, at a Leeds United game some years ago, and the pair immediately hit it off.
Martin, from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, lives with limb girdle muscular dystrophy, a progressive and life-limiting illness that causes his muscles to weaken and waste over time.
But while Jon, 38, enjoys a life in the limelight, Martin has spent more than a year shielding amid the coronavirus pandemic because he is classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
During this period, he has tragically lost the ability to walk as his muscles have further wasted.
The pair’s friendship is one of lively banter, a love of football, and helping each other through the tough times in life.
Jon said: “Martin and I first met at the football, like proper lads.
"I remember the game specifically because, like many, we'd both travelled a fair distance to be there.
"Martin had travelled in hope of a comfortable win and I had brought my father for his 70th birthday celebrations for the same reason.
"We lost 1-0 to a team that went on to be relegated but things are better now and we can appreciate the good times for having been through the bad.
"That’s a good metaphor for Martin's approach to life.”
The duo has now released an appeal on BBC Radio 4, asking the public to donate to Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK) in a bid to help the charity recoup vital funds to continue its crucial work.
Last year, MDUK’s income plummeted by £2.4m overnight as the country went into lockdown and the charity’s calendar of in-person fundraising events was cancelled. Jon and Martin’s amusing - yet heartfelt - appeal can be heard here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000vgdh
The pair, who perhaps have more in common than might be initially obvious, are both trying to make the world a better place.
Jon said: “Martin is doing it with direct fundraising and inspirational writing and I'm doing it by being so negative and draining that the world will improve by default just for not having me in it any more”.
Martin said: “It's great to have a mate like Jon because you just feel better about yourself when you’re in his company.
"Seriously though, he's a fantastic friend who endorses all the good things I'm trying to achieve, especially when I'm trying to raise awareness and funds for Muscular Dystrophy UK on social media.”
Of course, you’d need a thick skin to share a close friendship with one of the UK’s most popular comics, but Martin gives as good as he gets.
Jon said: “Martin is consistently rude about my comedy and asks me if I can help him reach more famous comics than me.
"I tell Martin that I resent being asked to help and live in fear of whatever scheme he's going to come up with next.
"I hope we're both winding each other up or it's a damning description of our friendship.
"The Radio 4 appeal came about because Martin knows very well that because of the pandemic my diary has evaporated and I can no longer claim to be too busy to help.
“But, all jokes aside, when something difficult happens, Martin redoubles his efforts and raises more money to help other people.
“He is honest about his difficult moments and shows that that positivity is a force of will, rather than something that some people are simply born with.”
Martin, who lost the ability to walk during lockdown because of months spend shielding inside, added: “I will not stop shouting about this until I see a treatment or cure in my lifetime.
"I do feel that we're on the cusp of greatness and it would be magnificent to say Jon and I were there and that we contributed towards that result.”
More information about the Radio 4 appeal can be found HERE.