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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Comedy awards get politically charged
Garth Marenghi
Garth Marenghi won the Perrier in 2001

The Perrier Award - usually known for creating mirth and merriment - has become the politically-charged target of a rival comedy title at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The Tap Water Awards has set itself up in competition in protest at Perrier sponsoring the awards, because it is owned by Nestle.

The inaugural Tap Water Awards were hastily convened last year after comedian Rob Newman urged a Perrier boycott in support of the Baby Milk Action group, which is a strong campaigner against the food company.

Now arts trust Out of the Blue has decided to take up the mantle and make the Tap Water Awards a more organised affair for the 2002 festival as it hopes to stage a credible alternative to the Perrier as well as supporting Baby Milk Action.

Pub Landlord Al Murray
The Perrier can make stars of its winners such as Pub Landlord Al Murray

It has also received the backing from unions such as the Transport and General Workers' Union.

Nestle has been long criticised in some quarters for promoting powdered baby milk to African countries when others feel breast feeding should be encouraged because there is less chance of disease being passed to the child.

But the company strongly rejects the accusations, saying any problems it may have had in the past have been changed in line in with World Food Organisation guidelines.

But despite the denials the criticisms are still being thrown at Nestle.

Conflict

The Tap Water Awards were formed to create an anti-corporate, logo-free awards, run in a similar vein as the Perrier, to find the best comedy act at the Fringe.


We want to create a credible alternative system that does not have to be backed by Nestle


Suzanne Merrall, Tap Water Awards co-ordinator

It is not the only rival comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe, but it is the only one which openly attacks the original and biggest one.

And to make it a more high-profile event the Tap Water organisers are to announce the winners on the same day as the Perrier winner is revealed, at Edinburgh's Bongo Club.

Suzanne Merrall, Out of the Blue festival and project co-ordinator, said: "The idea was not to set up as an alternative to the Perrier Awards, but to set up an alternative to Perrier.

"We want to create a credible alternative system that does not have to be backed by Nestle."

Newman was joined in his call for a boycott of last year's Perrier Awards by actress Emma Thompson, a previous winner of the title when she was a member of the Cambridge Footlights.

Comedy crown

But the Perrier Award can be the launch pad for comedians to break into the big time and it would be difficult for performers to ignore its importance.

Previous winners include Lee Evans, Sean Hughes and Rich Hall.

Perrier itself welcomes the competition but is not overly concerned about award newcomers, having dominated the comedy circuit at the Fringe for 20 years.

The winner of the Tap Water Award will be given a trophy tap.

But participants will also be listed as part of an ethical performers index to be posted on the internet.

The Tap Water and the Perrier Awards will be announced on Saturday 24 August.

Coverage of the 2002 Edinburgh Festival from BBC News Online

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01 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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