Comic Relief | It’s [not] All For Charity




Some time ago I wrote a piece on Art vs Justice, which threw about some arguments as to whether art is ethical when people are still dying of hunger. More recently some discussion around that issue came up over on Jonny’s blog as to whether art is ‘vital’ in itself or not.

Tonight my niece came over and insisted on watching Comic Relief Fame Academy, where a bunch of people with perhaps 16 minutes of fame between them sing songs badly and get the public to phone into premium rate numbers to vote for them. Most of the money goes to charity. What riled was that these people – all of whom clearly do well out of their careers –  were accommodated in the ‘Fame Academy’ and showered with champagne and fine foods… Cut then to a short film interlude about starving children in Africa.

Pete Rollins has written a little about Derrida and his ideas about what the perfect ‘gift’ would be. He concludes that there is never any gift we give that doesn’t bring with it some strings attached. In this case, we seem happy to give to charity as long as we get some sloppy singing or second rate comedy. Without the telethon bit, we’re less prepared to simply give.

Connectedly, a report today (not in a paper I like, I must say) suggested that Bono’s Brand Red idea (see original debate on this blog) for raising money has pulled in £9m. Great. But on an advertising spend of £52m, completely shameful.

Poverty has been commodified. We can handle the short interlude films, but only if we have fat sections of people making fools of themselves. Perhaps the phone lines ring because people just want to pay to see the images go away. Either way, I for one am sick of celebrities being wheeled out to try to get us to give.


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6 responses to “Comic Relief | It’s [not] All For Charity”

  1. some time ago. it was precisely a year ago. 08.03.06
    i read the same news article today. a horror. but not entirely unexpected. we respect and are inspired by the actions of others. its what you do not what you say.
    when i was in stockholm at christmas i shopped with a girlfriend. as she paid in each shop she told the cashier to round it up. the round up is organised by the red cross in sweden. shoppers are encouraged to round up to the nearest kroner or to add a couple of kroner to the cost of their purchase.
    i was taken by the scheme. would be pleased to see it here.

  2. nice work on the image kester! it speaks a thousand words – while only actually using ten. l way to wrap the root of the argument up and make it plain….
    i’m sure you could put it on a shirt and sell it (for charity of course)

  3. Interestingly, The Independent, which is sort of the official paper of the Red campaign, comes out fighting with an editorial by Paul Vallely today, staunchly defending the campaign.
    Doubtless the figures I quoted above from the Daily Mail are exaggerated. But I do fundamentally disagree with Vallely (a frequent commentator in the Christian press, and speaker at Greenbelt) that just giving money, rather than buying our way out of poverty is “a rather romantic and American notion.”
    No, private charitable giving may not solve problems. But surely we can encourage people to give without getting? To raise money without massively rich companies like Gap, AmEx and Motorola getting a good bit of free publicity and sales out of it?
    Go visit instead. “Shopping is not a solution”

  4. I was reading in the Guardian (I think – could have been the Times) that the advertising budget for the RED campaign was £110 million, the income it has generated for charity has been about £43 million so far. Those two figures say it all for me. People are buying into an ethical way of life as defined by global corporate brands. I wonder what income those brands have had from their RED association?

  5. mnn
    i wonder if like the independants comments on the funding for the red campaign being spent anyway by the companys is the same as the fame academy piss up
    the likeyhood being that the english being english and celebs being celebs, that champagne and fine foods were going to be wasted on knob head c listers whether or not they were in fame academy
    at least this way my mate gets paid a salary to try and stop kids getting knocked up down the road from me and his collegues can continue to get paid for working to help working girls get off the game in in middlesborough and offer youth clubs and activities to at risk marginalised young people.
    for all its awefulls at least comic relif isn’t as patronising as children in need. plus there was a gem later on in the night when ricky gervas’s sketch roped in bob geldof, bono, jamie oliver and andy peters to take the piss out of them selves and the whole comic relief thing.
    they’re not perefect they’re very deffinatly getting dirty geting stuck into inspiring generosity in so many of the country, for all the fault i believe they do ignite elements of gods character into activity (if only for a few moments)in so many people.
    but they are reaching out to inspire compasion in many more people than most of the church emerging or not
    i mean they raise s**t loads of money that help charity not impload in this country and abroad
    and watching the little emotion pulling bits
    i think most people cry
    i did
    and then you start to see some of the work of god being carried out by dirty little famous angels
    when you see how much comic relief have done