When was the Comic Relief charity started and who does it help?

Red nose day is back. Comic Relief’s flagship fundraising event returns today with the aim of generating millions of pounds to help people live free from poverty, violence and discrimination.

This year’s Red Nose Day will end with a star-studded evening of live TV from the BBC base at MediaCityUK, Salford, from 7pm tonight. There will be a host of unique sketches, live performances and comedy specials – which will be accompanied by videos highlighting the impact the donations have had in the UK and around the world.

The show will be hosted by Alesha Dixon, David Tennant, Zoe Ball, Paddy McGuinness and Sir Lenny Henry – while stars who will appear include French and Saunders, Jack Whitehall and Tom Daley. But if you’ve ever wondered about the history of the charity – and who it helps – then read on…

Read more: Which Comic Relief sketches will air on Friday night – including Rock Profile and The Repair Shop

History of Comic Relief

The charity was founded in 1985 by Notting Hill screenwriter Richard Curtis, comedian Lenny Henry and charity worker Jane Tewson – in response to the famine in Ethiopia. The idea was that it would build on the success of Band Aid and Live Aid, using only comedy as its primary fundraising tool.

The very first Red Nose Day was held in 1988 and raised £15million. Lenny Henry and Griff Rhys Jones hosted it with Jonathan Ross.

It featured a new episode of Blackadder – “The Cavalier Years” – and a special edition of Spitting Image which reunited the rubber puppets with their human counterparts. It has become a biennial fixture in the schedules – taking place every two years.

The charity’s work has grown to include Sport Relief – as well as shows such as the Great Comic Relief Bake Off. In 2021, Red Nose Day raised over £55million for charity and in its 30+ years it has raised over £1billion.

Who helps Comic Relief?

Money raised by Comic Relief is spent to help poor and disadvantaged people in the UK and in the poorest communities around the world.

The charity said: “All year round the money donated to Comic Relief works hard to support incredible projects that change the lives of people in the UK and around the world. In fact, over the past two years, Comic Relief funding has helped support 11.7 million people.

The charity added that it had supported:

  • Over 750,000 people in the UK in financial and material poverty have access to advice and support.
  • Over 29,000 people who have experienced or are at risk of domestic violence to access safe housing and specialist services.
  • Over 46,000 children and young people in the UK and over 8.1 million worldwide.

Comic Relief is also “extremely concerned” about the situation in Ukraine.

The charity said: “As the conflict escalates, civilians are increasingly at risk. We are currently working with our partners to ensure that your Red Nose Day donations can support people fleeing war in Ukraine.

Read next: Comic Relief TV specials are airing this week including This is My House, Glow Up and Blue Peter

Then watch: Little Britain returns to BBC iPlayer after Matt Lucas and David Walliams make changes

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