Raising £3.4m for charity is no joke for John Bishop
IT TOOK him five days to cover 290 miles on almost no sleep. But comedian John Bishop could be rightly proud of himself yesterday after it was revealed that his gruelling sporting challenge raised a record £3.4 million for Sport Relief – the highest amount ever donated to an individual for the charity.
And £1.8m of this amount was donated after a TV programme documenting his efforts entitled John Bishop’s Sport Relief Hell was watched by more than five million viewers. It is more than 30 times what was given to daredevil Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton, who trekked 500 miles to the South Pole by ski, bike and kite for the charity to raise £113,067, suggesting that British viewers may just like to watch public figures suffer before they pick up the phone and donate.
This year’s Sport Relief, which culminates today with thousands across the country taking part in the Sport Relief Mile, raised £50m over the weekend – the highest amount ever achieved by the charity.
Host Fearne Cotton said: “What an amazing, stunning total. We always hope to beat the previous amount, but to do it so spectacularly is just incredible.
“Huge thanks to the British public who, once again, have shown enormous generosity to help those in need.”
The total sum was confirmed as £50,447,197 – £21m more than the amount raised last year.
Bishop’s individual total of £3.4m dwarfs even the £2.5m donated to comedian David Walliams, who last year spent eight days swimming 140 miles of the River Thames, enduring tummy upsets and severe cramps in order to raise money for the charity.
Other individuals taking part in challenges for this year’s Sport Relief included Freddie Flintoff, who broke 14 Guinness World Records in 12 hours to raise £260,394 and Skelton, whose epic trek to the South Pole also included breaking a Guinness Record for the fastest 100km by kite ski.
Bishop – a 45-year-old comedian and father of three – pushed himself to his limits during a triathlon, which included having to row the English Channel on just one hour’s sleep, and running three marathons despite serious shin problems and back pain. He was also left traumatised after hearing one of his sons had been involved in a bike accident – but later heard he had survived unscathed. Arriving in London’s Trafalgar Square on 2 March after finishing his 290-mile trek, he was told that he had raised £1.6m for the charity.
“That’s just blown me away,” he said at the time. “That money’s going to change lives. It’s going to change the lives of people we don’t know.”
However, it was after watching his determination and hard work on the documentary of his challenge, which was aired on Thursday night, that the public was motivated to donate a further £1.8m.
His success, along with that of Walliams, reflects the growing popularity of watching celebrities tackle ever-greater challenges in the name of charity. The star-studded BBC show that was broadcast on Friday night featured comic sketches with athletes and feats of endurance from celebrities.
Comedian Frank Skinner overcame a lifelong phobia of water by swimming 25 metres to raise money for Sport Relief. Skinner underwent eight weeks of physical and psychological training in order to finish the swim, which he managed to complete.
He said: “Towards the end I had one of my little panics that I often have but I could hear the crowd and I just thought, ‘no, no, I can’t stop now’ and I kept going. I was half drowning, half choking. It was a good advert for terror.”
After completing the challenge, Skinner said: “I’m absolutely knocked out. I’m so relieved and excited. I lay in bed last night thinking about all the different ways I wouldn’t finish that length. I want someone to learn to swim because of this. I know it looked really tough and frightening but I’ve had a good laugh and it will stay with me forever.”
The UK Government will match £10m of public donations to Sport Relief, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell announced last night.
BT handled 260,000 calls from viewers across the country during Friday night’s Sport Relief programme.
Beth Courtier, community investment programme manager at BT, said: “Sport Relief is a very important cause and BT has been providing support to Comic Relief since the first ever Red Nose Day in 1985.
“We are in a unique position to assist charity telethons and are proud to be using our technology and network expertise to help raise as much as possible for Sport Relief this year.”
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