For 18 months young Huddersfield actor Alfie Clarke has been at the heart of one of television’s most emotional TV storylines.
As Arthur, the on-screen son of Emmerdale vicar Ashley Thomas, he has watched his father slowly succumb to Alzheimer’s disease.
It has been an emotional rollercoaster for fans of the series. In the case of nine-year-old Alfie, who lives and goes to school in Huddersfield, the experience has prompted him to organise a sponsored swim in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society.
“We found out about the storyline a couple of years ago and we knew it would lead to John leaving,” said Alfie’s mum Fiona.
“Emmerdale has been Alfie’s second home. He even called John ‘Daddy Ashley’. So we have prepared him for this moment. He has been very grown up about it. We have talked a lot about how his character would be feeling and especially the scene in the church for the funeral. Although he has never experienced a family member dying quite a lot of it was real emotion. He did it really, really well.”
Co-star John Middleton, who makes his final farewell tonight (Friday) as Ashley, praised Alfie for his professionalism.
“He is a lovely little lad and he really embraced the story,” said John, who has been with the show since 1996.
“He’s very mature for his age. I have been working with him since he was two-and-a-half. He has grown up with a life in a studio and is a proper little professional. He has presence and that’s a rare thing in a child.
“He came up with the idea of the sponsored swim off his own bat. I tweeted about it, EastEnders’ Adam Woodyatt retweeted it and it’s more or less gone viral, which is great. I hope he raises thousands.”
Fiona added: “Alfie first mentioned it before Christmas. He wanted to do something to help people and families with Alzheimer’s. He chose swimming. Alfie plans to swim between 20 and 40 lengths later this month.
“We’ve been so busy filming that it’s only now we’ve been able to set things up. It’s only coincidence that it’s happened around Ashley’s final scenes in Emmerdale.
“We set a target of £250 and then put it up to £1,000. It went past that in 48 hours and is currently at £2,600. We have been amazed at how good the response has been.”
To donate go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Alfie-Clarke