When it started, Red Nose Day was an amazing national event with newsreaders and just about half the country wearing red noses. It appealed to our national psyche at a time – post sixties – when we were open to a bit of rebellious irreverence. Since then us adults have become rather more self-important and serious.
Red Nose Day has moved steadily from being a day when the whole nation had a laugh to the day when the family watched Comic Relief on television, and then this year it has become the day when schools took it up all together. Shops selling red noses have experienced a last minute rush of anxious parents desperate to secure the last red nose in town. My local Oxfam shop had a queue knocking on the door after it had closed.
So what are we to make of this slide? Have the times changed and humour slipped away from us like the joke over a pint in the local? Or are we getting bored with Comic Relief and is it only children who haven’t enjoyed the irreverence of wearing a funny nose to school before they get the joke?
Perhaps it is that cruel hoax austerity that has made us grimmer, but never the less the sums raised have risen steadily and are now way beyond the initial £15m in 1988 or subsequent £27m in 1989 and in 2013 (the event is now bi-annual) it raised £100m and is embedded in the national calendar.
Though I rarely see red noses on the streets or even on television outside the show, the whole crazy idea is still working and we are still out there fundraising to help those in dire need; and maybe that is the crux of the matter that having let our stiff manners slip that once, we have now reverted to type and let the kids get on with the funny stuff, whilst we give because we care and know how lucky we all are despite our personal problems.
The whole year we seem to have unending disasters presented to us in the news with such a steady increase in savagery that not only do many new programmes carry a health warning, but we are in danger of becoming like the Romans, brutalized by the spectacles of the Roman Circus and unable to look away. Yet, Red Nose day gives us the opportunity to help with humour and is something we can watch with the kids whilst letting them know that they are privileged and can (and should) do something to help others.
Go on txt FUNNY to 70011 to donate a £1 – you can afford it.