Eva Brencicova on Red Nose Day

Eva Brenicova If you had asked me last week what I associated with a red nose, I would have replied (slightly puzzled about the question) “common cold” or possibly Rudolph, the celebrated reindeer to whom we owe the accurate delivery of our Christmas presents even on the foggiest Christmas Eves. Only very recently have I discovered that year after year, the people of the UK go wild for a day, demonstrating generosity as well as their often questioned sense of humour for a very noble purpose – raising money to help those in need.
Red Nose Day, well-established and acclaimed in the UK, remains largely unknown to the rest of the world. Having spent most of my life in Slovakia and Germany, I was not familiar with this event. There has been some movement in Germany in the last two years to follow Britain’s example and introduce Red Nose Day, however the progress is rather sluggish. I wonder if it will kick off in near future or if the Germans are, as one editor remarked this morning, simply not eligible for a Red Nose Day, due to their reputed inability to frolic.

Three days ago, I started working at the BMJ Publishing House in London as a Clegg Scholar – just in time to experience the vivid run-up to this year’s Red Nose Day. The event caught my attention and I decided to learn more about its purpose, practice and history.

On Christmas Day in the year of 1985, while Rudolph was pursuing his usual business, BBC One broadcast a show called Comic Relief for the first time in history. The idea behind the latter was to make people laugh and raise money for charity along the way. This promising concept proved successful, and in order to support Comic Relief’s year round activities and increase their popularity, Red Nose Day was created in 1988. The first event alone raised a record-breaking £15m.

Ever since, Red Nose Day has been a regular annual happening in the UK, involving the general public as well as world-famous celebrities. The efforts some individuals go to for Red Nose Day are superb. Objectors may claim that for many others however, donating money to charity on this day is an annual, one off deed and should not be mistaken for genuine dedication to helping the weak and needy. Also, due to keen involvement of the media, participation in Red Nose Day is likely to increase the popularity of the celebrities involved and might thus not be entirely selfless – again something critics might suggest.

However, I believe that all these points of criticism are secondary. I am fascinated by the impact of the project upon this country. A giant step has been achieved towards an increased awareness of the importance of charity and the dependence of the socially or otherwise disadvantaged upon our help.

The personal reasons of each individual for their donation are irrelevant. I think we should believe in the good intentions of the people who have contributed to the Red Nose Days of the past and give everyone the benefit of the doubt – even if some few might not deserve it. At the end of the day, it was their donation and efforts also, that put smiles on many tearstained faces.

I am very excited about my first Red Nose Day in London. There seem to be endless opportunities to get involved, and everyone’s interests are likely to be met. Being a passionate cook and gourmet, I am looking forward to contributing to our office’s fundraising with homemade goodies and also broadening my culinary horizon with some new recipes from Jamie Oliver’s Red Nose Day Recipe Book.

Tell us about your own experiences with Red Nose Day or similar events in your country. Let’s make this Friday special, everyone! Get involved, do some good – and Rudolph might even bring you a special one next Christmas.

Eva Brencicova is a BMJ Clegg Scholar and medical student, Freiburg, Germany.