Comic Relief opens up in Holland as global expansion drive begins

Comic Relief, the charity fronted by Lenny Henry and best known for its Red Nose Day, is to launch in Holland next year as part of a worldwide expansion which could stretch to the US, Japan and Scandinavia.

The charity earns more than 90 per cent of its income from its biennial telethon, which is broadcast on the BBC. But it is anxious to expand its earnings base by having a year-round presence.

It plans to open a leisure venue, probably in London, which is being dubbed the “House of Fun”. It will have restaurant facilities, possibly a bar, and entertainment will include stand-up comedians.

The charity has also been given the rights to publish the scripts to the Black Adder TV series, although it has yet to sign up a publisher. The majority of royalties will go directly to the organisation’s charities in Africa.

The rights to reproduce Red Nose Day have been licensed to Dutch charity de Stichting. Comic Relief will take a percentage of revenues raised, in exchange for the use of the Red Nose brand and its expertise in fundraising using comedy. In Holland, de Stichting hopes to launch its first Red Nose Day in 1999.

The charity, which raised over 27m last year, is also in talks with organisations in the US to launch a similar venture, but does not expect a concrete tie-up until late 1999/2000. After that, it is considering extensions in Japan, Hong Kong and Scandinavia.

Comic Relief marketing director Amanda Horton-Mastin says moving away from being a biennial event is key to the charity’s growth. She says the charity would be extremely vulnerable if its one-day telethon were cancelled.

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