Saturday, 5 March 2011


I've been converted! I know you'll rejoice with me. Yesterday I watched all the way through Comic Relief 2011: Famous, Rich and in the Slums - Part 1 on iPlayer. I wanted to watch because it looked as though it would remind me of the time I spent in 1967 in Pumwami, which was then the slum area of Nairobi. (I have to say I remember it as being nothing as bad as Kibera today.) Fortunately I watched it while Jane was out, because it had me moved to tears, and I still feel embarrassed when I blub.
Now I've always been a bit sceptical about Comic Relief and very sceptical about "reality" TV shows. And here, basically, were four broadcasting celebrities being stranded for a week (with cameramen of course) in Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa, on the edge of Nairobi, capital of Kenya, "for Comic Relief". The celebs were Angela Rippon, Lennie Henry, Samantha Womack and Reggie Yates. But despite the publicity photo it wasn't either jokey or mawkish or sensational. Each of them had their own clothes and possessions removed and were supplied with second-hand Kibera clothing. They were given the equivalent of £1.50 each and an 8-foot square corrugated shack each and left to cope, like the Kiberans have to. It's a programme you need to watch because there's no way in which I can do justice to it, the open sewers running down the alleys, the latrines shared shared by up to 1000 each, the matter of factness of death (one in five children don't reach the age of five), the commitment of the parents, often on their own. The four celebs were torn between reporting and identifying with their neighbours, and the end the 3rd-generation Kiberan who'd arranged their contacts himself was overwhelmed by the emotion which he and other slum-dwellers habitually suppress in order to survive.

It was a remarkable programme. And I could understand why someone this morning said her immediate reaction was to make a donation. I shall have to watch Part 2, of course, although part of me would rather not. But these are our neighbours.

So I may still not go for the razzmatazz of 18th March evening TV, and I'll still find Ant and Dec's antics in the jungle absurd, however this was real reality TV and that's not absurd. And I will no longer look down my nose at Comic Relief. I'm converted. Famous, Rich and in the Slums

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