One week ago, everyone’s favourite one eyed bear launched his 31st appeal to raise money for children’s charities around the world. Pudsey first came to life in 1980, and has been attracting celebrities to his annual small screen extravaganza with his furry charms ever since. But this year marked an added A-list event in the shape of Children in Need Rocks Manchester, a big name music concert that aired the night before Friday’s entertainment telethon.
Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Jessie J and Kelly Rowland were amongst those participating in the show which was organised by everyone’s second favourite Take That member, Gary Barlow. The event raised a staggering £2.5 million for charity and contributed to a record breaking number of donations, doing wonders for both those in need and Barlow’s profile. Whilst the intentions behind the concert were undoubtedly noble, it seems that the Children in Need brand has fallen into the same trap it does every year: promoting celebrities as much, if not more so, than the charities themselves.
Of course, anyone who gives up their time to perform at such an event should be commended, but how much do these A-listers really care about the good causes they are supposedly supporting? It seems improbable that the likes of Dappy from N-Dubz would spend their Saturdays doling out minestrone at a soup kitchen, and yet as soon as the opportunity to appear on a nationally televised charity event crops up, these fame hunters jump at the chance.
To take a consequentialist view, it is the end result that really matters, and raising over £26 million for good causes is a truly incredible feat. But what would really be charitable would be for these (very) part time philanthropists to offer a little bit more than just a five minute set once a year and actually give something tangible to the causes they are helping to promote. Raising funds is brilliant, but let’s not kid ourselves – an impossibly miniscule minority of the celebrities involved will actually take any interest in how this money goes to help those in need. For the most part, walking off the stage brings an end to their humanitarian work and a misguided surge in the public’s opinion of them.
It is a rather sad indictment of our celebrity obsessed culture that the sight of lady molester Gok Wan prancing about to a musical number inspires us to part with our pennies more so than any heartfelt charity infomercial. To look cynically at the Children in Need franchise would be to accept that it is a product catering to a mass market with the sole intention of raising as much money as possible, and to that end, it is hugely successful. But it is embarrassing for both the musicians that endorse their new singles under a philanthropic ruse, and for the public that lap this shameless self-promotion up. There is no end to the number of young people worldwide who need support, and it is just a shame that we need to boost so many egos and profiles in order to give them the help they desperately require.