Friday, 18 March 2011

Red Nose Day

Fund-raising with a difference is organised by Comic Relief biennially across the UK, the biggest and most noticeable event being Red Nose Day.

In 1985 Ethiopia was experiencing a devastating famine.  On Christmas Day, 1985, a charity organisation called Comic Relief was launched from a refugee camp in Sudan. Red Nose Day, a fundraising idea founded by the charity, took place for the first time just over two years later, on 5th February 1988.

The aim of Red Nose Day is to raise money to help the plight of thousands of people in Africa and the UK who are suffering dreadful injustice or living in extreme poverty. On this day everyone in the UK is encouraged to overcome natural reticence, put on a Red Nose (or wear something red) and be sponsored to do something amusing or unusual or even quite mundane for money.

In the first year the red noses were shiny, hard and very uncomfortable to wear - sales amounted to 3.4 million. The red nose was so popular that it was difficult to find one, outlets like Oxfam selling out as soon as they went on sale. Twenty-five years later sales of red noses had risen to more than 50 million. It is not uncommon to see cars, lorries, trucks sporting large red noses.

The day is celebrated in diverse ways – schools, offices, pubs, hairdressers are among the institutions that participate. Anything from cake sales to sponsored silences, sitting in a bath full of baked beans to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro can take place in the lead-up to the day. People work together or individually to raise funds.

This year Red Nose Day falls today, Friday 18th March. The biggest event of the day is a marathon telethon hosted by the BBC. It involves many celebrities and is a mix of comedy and poignant documentary films. All the money raised goes to good causes. The three main sponsors, the BBC, BT and Sainsbury’s give their services free and all of the participants waive their fees. All administrative costs are met from the interest accruing from monies raised before they are distributed to the many good causes.

The founders of Comic Relief are amazed and gratified by the success of their vision.

Richard Curtis, (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, Blackadder) Co-founder of Comic Relief, says:

‘An astonishing credit to the British people, because of their continued and remorseless generosity’

The CEO of Sainsbury’s comments:

‘The Red Nose Day campaign has become part of Sainsbury’s way of life, and we’re incredibly proud that our colleagues and customers have been able to help raise £48 million for Comic Relief over the years’


In 1988 Barry was working in London and used to go running with two others during his lunch hour through the streets and parks. On that first Red Nose Day the three men collected more than £200 for Comic Relief, the equivalent of around £800 today.

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