IT is perhaps the most iconic charity symbol in history. The Comic Relief red nose is celebrating its 25th birthday this year and fundraisers young and old across the Capital are marking the milestone with a look back on the charity campaign’s extraordinary growth over a quarter-century of fun and laughter.
The statistics speak for themselves.
Since the very first Comic Relief “Night of TV” – broadcast from 7.05pm until 3.15am on February 5, 1988 – a staggering 66 million red noses have been sold, along with two million red nose T-shirts.
But as ubiquitous as the red nose has become, it is generosity and an enduring desire to help society’s neediest which are at the heart of this successful campaign.
More than a million public events generating an astonishing £600 million have been organised in support of Red Nose Day, which has also emerged as the number one charity campaign among UK schools.
Residents in the Capital have done their fair share of wacky fundraising over the years.
Dancer Claire Robertson, 25, grew up with Comic Relief as a pupil at Clermiston Primary and the Royal High School.
Now a ballet instructor to 120 Edinburgh youngsters aged between six months and five years, Claire is leading her pupils in a colour- coordinated celebration of Comic Relief’s 25th birthday.
“The kids will be swapping their usual pink and blue uniforms to dance red,” she said. “There’s always a buzz in the venues where I teach. I just think they like coming into something different.
“The youngest kids are always coming up to me to show me their red noses and deely boppers, while the older ones love it because already they have this idea that the day is about helping people.”
She said there had been dramatic growth in the event’s profile since she took part in smaller-scale Comic Relief pyjama days and cake sales at Clermiston Primary.
“I would say everyone, the kids included, are a lot more aware of it,” she said. “Back when I was at primary school, I don’t think there was such a strong concept of what it was for.
“It’s also become more celebrity driven, and the kids follow everything the celebrities are saying about it on social media. Awareness has increased through that as well.”
The growth of Comic Relief in Edinburgh has also been noticed by Bonaly Primary deputy head Linda Darroch, who has been fundraising for the past 17 years.
She said: “I’ve just been overwhelmed by the support the event has received in Edinburgh since I got started at Broomhouse Primary.
“Our kids will be dressing up in red, helping out with cake sales, and some of the older ones are going to be in charge of selling and advertising red noses throughout the school.
“It’s a community-driven event, involving parents as well, and it’s fun. That’s why I think it has done so well.”
The benefits of 25 years of fundraising activity are being felt in the city’s neediest communities.
In Broomhouse, one of the city’s most deprived districts, community workers are offering free, drop-in cookery sessions to residents with the help of Comic Relief funds.
Broomhouse health strategy project coordinator Lucy Aitchison said: “Last year we delivered 70 sessions to 100 people of all ages. These classes give some of the neediest people in the city support so they can keep going and we couldn’t have done it without Comic Relief.”
The efforts of Edinburgh-based fundraisers have also been hailed by bosses at Comic Relief HQ.
A spokeswoman said: “Whether you dug deep and supported a friend or colleague, texted in a donation or took part in a group activity, your money will be spent helping people.”
Money going to a good cause
A TEENAGER has told of how Red Nose Day cash is helping her beat her self-harming addiction.
Nicola, 15, who did not want to give her full name, said that when she cut her skin for the first time about a year ago she knew history was repeating itself.
She revealed that when she was a child, her mum, Ruth, suffered from severe depression and self-harmed on a regular basis.
Fearful her mum would take her own life, Nicola, who lives in the Capital, found it impossible to concentrate during school lessons.
She said: “At 14, I got involved with a guy who treated me badly. It was the final straw. I began burning and cutting myself.
“Hurting would take my mind off the emotional pain. I thought I’d rather hurt physically than mentally.”
Finally confiding in a friend, Nicola was put in touch with Penumbra, a Scottish charity that uses Red Nose Day funds to help young people who are struggling with self-harming.
Now, things are looking up for the teenager.
Nicola said: “My friend said to me, ‘if you’re hurting so much on the inside, why do you want to want to hurt on the outside as well?’
“Spending time with my counsellor makes me smile and feel better about myself.”