There is a simple and brilliant ad currently playing out in cinemas. I saw it last week and it has stayed with me longer than the movie. I went to see the new Downton Abbey film. I love Downton – all the shimmering otherworldliness and Lady Mary’s iciness. But the ad – for Variety, the Children’s Charity – remains the thing. Rubbing up against Downton gave it a particular friction.
In the ad, we see a load of happy kids, maybe early teens, during a day out at the seaside. They are clearly not from wealthy backgrounds. There’s nothing showy, no glorious weather.
“It’s one of those visits”, the voiceover says, “when your fingers tingle with the cold” – it’s all big coats and milkshakes and imperfect burgers and arcades. The message is clear. There are kids in Britain with little. Give them something positive. There is a text panel at the end that reads, “In the UK there are 1.3 million disabled children and young people – four million children are living in poverty.” It finishes with the sign-off, “Every child deserves a fair chance in life. Let’s create a brighter future.”
On TV, there’s an ad for HSBC highlighting a circular trap people who are homeless can face – without a home and address there is no chance of a bank account, and so no access to jobs or payments and the rest of things we, within the accepted norms of society, take for granted. The ad says HSBC are working with some charities to address this.
On social media, there is a photo doing the rounds of a local mayor smiling as he cuts the ribbon on a foodbank.
Opening foodbanks is now a cause of civic pride. Charities and third sector organisations have always played a big role in British society. They have represented that nexus of generous hearts and a need not served by those in power, at whatever level. This goes for everything from local sporting clubs to people offering days out for those in need.