On 15 March, millions of people in Britain will be “doing something funny for money”… and wearing some very strange red noses.
Red Nose Day was started in 1988 by Comic Relief, a collective of comedians that had formed in 1985 to do benefit shows to fundraise for victims of famine in Ethiopia. It could have been a hard sell –“Let’s do comedy shows to help people who are starving.” But somehow it appealed to the British public. So, when Comic Relief asked people to buy clowns’ red noses and do something silly to raise money, it caught on. Celebrities, including the original comedians, are the mainstay of the TV telethon, but it’s a genuinely mass fundraising event. In 2015, 17,000 schools and 6 million schoolchildren participated. And that’s without counting all the other parts of society who join in.
The events can be small or large – a class quiz or no uniform day, a bake sale, joke-a-thon or danceathon. The TV evening mixes specially commissioned sketches with films showing how the funds raised are spent to help those in need in Africa and the UK.
Red Nose Day takes place every second year, alternating with Sport Relief. During the last RDN in 2015, the barrier was broken of £1 billion raised since 1988. Since 2015, Red Nose Day has an American version, in May.
Do Something Funny...
This public service announcement for Red Nose Day is in the pure British pantomime tradition – plenty of double entendre jokes which will go straight over children’s (or EFL learners’) heads, but lots of examples of fundraising ideas.
.... For Money
In 2017, many projects are devoted to helping people, in particular children, affected by the Ebola epidemic. Many of the teaching resources focus on children in Sierra Leone and Liberia affected by the epidemic. See our webpicks and downloadable resource for ideas.
Ed Sheeran visited a centre in Liberia for children affected by Ebola. He reflects on how he didn’t want to be the celebrity who came to Africa and cried, yet couldn’t stop himself when singing with a girl who lost her father to the epidemic.
Comic Relief's founders are immensely proud of what has been achieved. Yet this is one tradition they wish didn't need to return every two years.