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Celebrity story time: stars reading to raise funds for charity

Melanie May | 26 May 2020 | News

A host of stars are supporting charities this month by reading famous and favourite stories aloud to raise funds for their appeals, from Andy Serkis’s Hobbitathon, to Cate Blanchett, Eddie Redmayne and others helping out with a reading of James and the Giant Peach.

James and the Giant Peach with Taika and Friends

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi is reading James and the Giant Peach in full, across 10 episodes, joined by a number of famous faces in a Roald Dahl Story Company’s fundraising campaign for global health non-profit Partners In Health, which is operating on the front line in the battle against Covid-19 in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world.

The collaboration between Roald Dahl, Taika Waititi and the celebrity guests is part of Partners in Health commitment to give £1 million to Covid-19 impacted charities, including Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, which provides specialist nurses to seriously ill children in the UK – and Partners In Health, a global health non-profit operating at the Covid-19 front line in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world.


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The first four episodes, featuring Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nick Kroll, brothers Chris and Liam Hemsworth, Eddie Redmayne, Cate Blanchett, Cara Delevigne and more, are available now at youtube.com/roalddahl, with new episodes available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6pm BST.
Episode three, for example, sees Taika Waititi lead an all-star cast with Cate Blanchett playing Centipede, Eddie Redmayne voicing Miss Ladybird, Kumail Nanjiani as Miss Spider, Ruth Wilson playing the Earthworm and Sarah Paulson as Old-Green-Grasshopper.

Those who tune in can donate on the Partners in Health site.

Save the Children’s Save with Stories

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex marked their son Archie’s first birthday by releasing a short film that shows Meghan reading him one of his favourite books, Duck! Rabbit!, to support Save the Children’s Save With Stories initiative, aimed at helping children hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis both in the UK and around the world.
The film, shot by Harry in California and posted on Save the Children’s Instagram account, shows Archie on his mother’s lap, turning the pages of Duck! Rabbit! as she reads.

Save the Children UK Ambassador Poppy Delevingne has led the initiative for Save With Stories in the UK and stars joining in so far include Micheal Ward, David Tennant, DJ Cuppy, Julie Walters, and Rita Ora. Launched by Ambassadors Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner in the US, the initiative has already raised more than £1m in America.
New videos are posted every day at 5pm on Save the Children UK’s Instagram and Facebook pages. To donate, people can visit savethechildren.org.uk/savewithstories or text STORIES to 70008 to give a one-off donation of £5.  All money raised will support the most vulnerable families in the UK and around the world, helping to provide supermarket vouchers, essential household items, virus protection and early learning packs.
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Hobbitathon COVID 19 Appeal

Actor Andy Serkis’s reading of The Hobbit for NHS Charities Together and Best Beginnings has raised over £300,000 so far.

Andy Serkis embarked on the feat on 8 May, reading the entire The Hobbit novel, cover to cover in 11 hours.
All donations will be split equally between NHS Charities Together and Best Beginnings, for which Serkis has been an ambassador for more than six years.

HarperCollins and the Tolkien Estate have also agreed to make Chapter 5, ‘Riddles in the Dark’ available online for a limited period, until 5 June.

On the Hobbitathon’s GoFundMe page, Alison Baum OBE, CEO of Best Beginnings, said:

“During Covid-19, the need for our NHS approved Baby Buddy app has increased as pregnant families and parents with young babies are isolated from their normal support network and are experiencing increased anxiety levels.

“Along with many other charities, Best Beginnings’ income has been severely hit by the pandemic and our continued work was in jeopardy. We will be forever grateful to our ambassador and friend, Andy Serkis, for conceiving and delivering the Hobbitathon to raise vital money to support our continued work and the work of NHS Charities Together.”

Two more ways celebrities are helping charities:


Barnardo’s celebrity video calls

Dame Helen Mirren and David Walliams are offering members of the public the chance to win a 15-minute video call with each of them to fundraise for Barnardo’s.

The celebrities are among the Barnardo’s ambassadors and supporters offering the chance to win a 15-minute video call with them. Other famous names offering calls include Dame Emma Thompson, Russell Howard, Catherine Tate, Jamie Vardy and Lennie James, with more to follow in the coming weeks.

Entry is via the Givergy site and costs £5 a time, with all proceeds going to the Barnardo’s emergency coronavirus appeal, to help the charity continue its work supporting vulnerable families across the UK during the crisis.
Dame Helen Mirren said:

“In partnership with Barnardo’s, I am offering one of you the exclusive opportunity to join me for a Q&A over video conference, with all the money raised going towards their coronavirus appeal, helping them continue their vital work with the UK’s most vulnerable children.

“You will have the chance to ask me a series of questions – they could be about a role I’ve played, about becoming an actor or actress or anything else that you’ve always wanted to ask about my work – within reason of course!”

David Walliams said:

“I’m working with Barnardo’s to give you the chance to have a special one to one video chat with me. Perhaps if you have children I could read them a bedtime story, or you can ask me questions – or if you really want I can dance for you like a monkey!”


Billy Bragg photo: Copyright Murdo Macleod
Billy Bragg. Photo copyright: Murdo Macleod

Covers for Carers

Billy Bragg is the latest musician to take part in #CoversforCarers, to raise funds for the RCN Foundation COVID-19 Support Fund.

Covers for Others is a music project where musicians cover a song to raise money for causes they care about. Frank Turner, Declan McKenna, Låpsley and Lauran Hibberd have also taken part in the challenge in the past month and raised £12,253 to date.

Once an artist or band has agreed to take part, Covers For Others sets up a campaign page for them with five different songs for fans to pick from. For five days fans vote for the song they want to hear by donating money at £1 per vote. At the end of the voting period, the song with the most votes is announced, and the artist is given a couple of days to reinterpret the song. The performance is then live streamed on Saturdays at 8pm.

From 25-29 May, Billy Bragg fans can pay £1 to vote for the cover they want to hear from him, with all the money raised going to front-line healthcare workers via the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) Foundation’s COVID-19 Support Fund, which helps staff who are experiencing economic or psychological difficulties.

Bragg’s five potentials are Only the Young by Taylor Swift, Before the Deluge by Jackson Browne, The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home by Declan McKenna, Fuck all the Perfect People by Chip Taylor & the New Ukrainians, and If I Can Dream by Elvis Presley. Taylor Swift’s song is currently in the lead.

Deepa Korea, RCN Foundation Director, RCN Foundation said:

“Donations to the RCN Foundation COVID-19 Support Fund through the Covers for Others music project will make a real difference to the many front line health and social care workers who are making an invaluable contribution at the very forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are very grateful for the support of the Fund, which will not only help those individuals who may be experiencing personal hardship as a result of COVID-19 but will also help to address some of the psychological implications associated with working on the frontline at this difficult time.“