Behind the fun, the fundraising and the baths of baked beans involved in raising money for Sport Relief and Red Nose Day, there's a serious message. And it is this. Poverty and injustice blights millions of lives across the world, including here at home in the UK. Our mission is to bring positive change through the power of entertainment and over the last 25 years we have been lucky enough to work with the BBC and an extraordinary array of celebrities, to bring the voices of those affected by poverty and injustice into the living rooms of millions of people up and down the country. We do this to raise money so we can fund organisations with the people, ideas and ability to empower and support those who are most in need. And the public has responded magnificently, contributing over £900 million since we began.
But it's not all about money. Indeed some would argue that without greater understanding of the complexities of poverty, especially in the UK where the government itself defines poverty as relative, we will continue to question whether someone with a plasma TV or a dog can really be poor. I hope that Famous, Rich and Hungry for Sport Relief shines a light on food poverty in the UK by tackling these issues head on. Thankfully, Comic Relief and the BBC are not alone in raising awareness of this deepening crisis. The causes and impact of poverty, and food and fuel poverty in particular, have been recently debated extensively in the media, and many charitable organisations advocate strongly on behalf of those often without a voice. Aside from funding some of those organisations with the money raised through Sport Relief and Red Nose Day, our contribution is to widen the debate through our stock-in-trade - using a popular and accessible format to raise awareness of complex issues. Famous, Rich and Hungry for Sport Relief invites the audience to consider the impact of zero hours contracts, pay day loans, poor physical and mental health, domestic violence, housing that's hard to heat and relationship breakdown on people's ability to put food on the table. It paints a picture of the complexity of poverty and populates it with people telling their own stories. By illustrating how the spiral of debt, redundancy and life challenges can happen to us all, it creates the space for empathy. And it does this meaningfully, accessibly and above all, respectfully.
The solution to poverty is complex. Minimum wage and benefit levels are the business of government. Of course people sometimes make choices which lead to long term problems but a great public empathy with those who are struggling will increase the will for action to address poverty in all its forms. Famous, Rich and Hungry for Sport Relief aims to raise the debate in a well -balanced and sensitive way. The programme is not an academic or policy critique of poverty - but provides a platform for people who struggle daily to put food on the table to tell their own stories, alongside some well-known faces. It aims to draw attention to an increasingly serious situation unfolding in the UK where more and more people are having to rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families. And by portraying the contributors in an honest and sympathetic way, which illustrates the complexity of their individual circumstances, we hope it will encourage people to question the enduring distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. It is only then that we will really be able to tackle poverty in the UK.
Famous, Rich and Hungry for Sport Relief will be broadcast on BBC One at 9:00pm on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th March.