Comedians, personalities and television stars joined forces to tackle food poverty and encourage donations for Hackney Food Bank Warehouse.
The brains behind the charity event, held at the Bill Murray Angel Comedy Club in Angel, London, was comedic and This Way Up actor Aisling Bea, who said she hopes to raise awareness of “how badly things have escalated” because of the cost of living crisis.
Speaking to Sky News alongside Barry Ferns, creative and managing director of The Bill Murray, Bea said: “During the lockdown I became friends with one of the ladies, Tanya, who runs the Hackney food bank and she is just amazing.
“The need for food banks has grown so much in the past year that something like that just got in touch with the community and turned into comedy.
“It’s something that both Barry and I care deeply about.”
Speaking of the importance of food banks in particular, Bea added: “Many people and families have been brought to their knees in recent years, and people in food banks and the Trussell Trust are often their only line of defence.
“I think physically donating something gives a lot more weight to what we’re trying to promote, and that’s the work that the trust and the food banks do.
“It’s not just about the people running it and the donations, it’s about how emotionally draining it is. Governments everywhere are lucky to have these charities but instead treat them like they’re temporary crisis centers instead of, for many people and areas, a long-term way of managing and staying alive.
“Food banks aren’t going anywhere and [the government] they’re going to have to support them at some point.”
The concept of “reverse Santa” was central to the event, with members of the public donating food to the cause instead of receiving a gift from the man with the beard.
London City Voices also led a sing-along of all nations’ favorite Christmas carols.
Mr Ferns added: “It’s been amazing. Even for helpers alone, we had 50 different people come along to help. It’s also really humbled the number of well-known comedians, artists and actors who come on board and want to be here.
“People don’t know how necessary food banks are. There’s so much shame in asking for things and unless you get the chance to do that service, you don’t realize it. It’s a sense of generosity.”
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Comedians, TV presenters and actors court guests
A host of award-winning comedians, TV hosts and actors were on hand to greet guests, thank them for donations and smile for a celebratory selfie, including Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Nish Kumar, James Acaster, Joel Dommett and Ed Gamble.
“Anytime you get a chance to do something like this, it’s good to grab it with both hands and actually do it,” said Acaster, who was accompanied by ‘Vader Nishmas’ – Kumar in Santa’s costume, complete with beard and glasses.
“I didn’t know it was going to be such a social event, so it’s doubled as a fun little catch-up with lots of old friends.”
“It’s extremely festive,” Kumar agrees. “People have brought in tons of food, it’s really positive.
“The Billy Murray has been keen to integrate into the local community from the start and they do a lot of work here so it makes sense for them to be involved. Good people.”