Britain may be struggling with all sorts of economic woes, but the public still reached into their pockets last night to donate a record-breaking £31 million to the annual Children in Need telethon. In the same week, they have donated £30 million to the Disasters Emergency Committee to help send aid to the Philippines.
Sir Terry Wogan, the Irish broadcaster, now in his 70s, who has been hosting the seven-and-a-half hour telethon since 1980, said the total was “beyond their wildest dreams” and he was finding it hard to find words to express his gratitude. “I want to thank you, thank you, thank you so much for your contributions,” was his message to the public. The figure will rise over the days to come, as amounts come in from all over the country, where people stage all sorts of fundraisers from sitting in baths of cold baked beans, to shaving heads and wearing pajamas to work.
Sir Terry is now trending on Twitter and is being hailed as a “hero” for his sterling presentation skills. He is a much-loved figure in Britain and very much associated with the Children in Need appeal, as is the mascot, Pudsey Bear. Kylie Minogue showed what a good sport she was by appearing in a pair of Pudsey Bear ears.
The Children in Need broadcast featured starring appearances from Doctor Who, One Direction, boy band JLS, Tinie Tempeh and former Olympic ice skating stars, Torvill and Dean, among many others. Ellie Goulding wrote and performed the official song How Long Will I Love You.
The night commenced with a live performance of songs from the hit musical Matilda, sung by the cast. Penned by funny man Tim Minchin, the lyrics were curiously touching: “And when I grow up/I will eat sweets every day.” Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean competed in a spoof version of Strictly Come Dancing and were relieved to get high marks from the judges.
A highlight for millions of viewers was the sneak preview and world exclusive of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode. All those who could not wait for the night of November 23rd for it to go on air are even more on tenterhooks now. This treat was doubtless a prompt for many Brits to reach into their pockets and show their thanks and give generously to Children in Need.
Producer Paul Wright spoke of the challenges in putting out this show on a shoestring budget. A key difficulty is in striking the right note with the stories of the children who are in need of help. There is a danger of being overly sentimental or asinine. The appeal videos are an essential component in reaching out to the viewers and revealing the enormity of the problems faced by so many youngsters in the UK. “When you see the appeal films” said Wright ”it’s almost like a short cut to make you realize why you are doing this job.”
The famous names who appear on Children in Need all waive their fees for the night. Skits this year included Joanna Lumley’s newest creation, Patsy as a bear; JLS singing from Albert Square, home of the top rating soap Eastenders; Miranda Hart in Call the Midwife; Harry Hill and the “super-dooper” band of McFly; Busted and One Direction, all put together in McBusted.
Another West End musical, The Commitments, closed the event with a medley of hit tunes. Since it has been running, Children in Need has raised over £690 million for charities supporting children’s causes in Great Britain. The telethon has become – along with Comic Relief, which was started by screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill) – a huge draw for donations.
It may be coming close to Christmas, and times may be hard for many, but Britain has once again shown its true colors by giving so much and so generously in record amounts to all the children who really are in need.
By Kate Henderson