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Comedian Griff Rhys Jones
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

DAVID FROST:

And Griff Rhys Jones is here right now as I predicted about one and a half minutes ago, and let's start, before coming on to your personal fund-raising triumph, let's start with, with Comic Relief since we just heard about it there. You've been involved in it for almost all of the years it's been on?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

Well in fact David, I was originally sent off to the Sudan only because Mel was going to go and then at the last minute he couldn't go for one reason or another and naturally as is often the way with these things, if you're a partnership, they thought very hard about who they should send and turned and thought oh I know why don't we send that other one, Griff, so I found myself suddenly becoming a sort of key person in Comic Relief. But this year I decided for, I've been given a sort of sabbatical from Comic Relief this year because, in fact partly because, mainly because of Hackney, I was doing, I was going to the public, you know, in London anyway so much and saying you know give us your money, I thought it was a bit, a bit off to say give us your money for Hackney and then sort of suddenly go oh and by the way while I'm here Comic Relief is coming up, so I sort of, I thought I'd, I'd concentrate on one thing.

DAVID FROST:

On one thing for this time, what, just one other thought for Comic Relief, what's the most moving sight you had in looking at the work of Comic Relief?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

Well early on we went because the, it was, it was because of the famine in Sudan, I was sent, we went all the way down to Port Sudan and further down, right down¿and I met a guy who was a Bajan nomad and he'd been involved in the famine and he'd lost his, his, the livelihood, his family and his animals, and I just remember that he was so much the opposite of what you might have expected from our idea of people suffering. He was a very noble, strong man, it was like meeting a fisherman or a farmer, it was like meeting somebody who was themselves a, a vigorous strong man who'd suffered and the last thing he wanted in a way was to have to put out his hand for charity, he was forced into this position. But the other thing that was so strong about that meeting was the feeling that he had that, the help was coming to him from other people and that, I think, is the, the thing that struck me as being the difference at that point between charity and aid. It was, it was the feeling that other people in another country, in Britain, yes had put money in in order to help him and his family and that was something that meant something to him and I thought that was, in a funny way that was a very strong feeling, a very strong one.

DAVID FROST:

Absolutely, and now your fund-raising has been crowned with success for the great, the great theatre in Hackney, theatres round the country are struggling but this was really on its last legs, wasn't it?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

Well the funny thing is a lot of what happened with Hackney is about 15 years ago Roland took it over and it's been a bit of a success story, it's a very big theatre in the East End, it's 1500 seats, so it's been a remarkable thing that Roland's run this wonderful theatre for the last 15 years and made it into something which in one of the poorest boroughs in Europe, you know people go there and they, they use it and it's worn out through over-use. So it's not, it wasn't so much on its last legs as really in desperate need of a refurbishment. I was with Mark Lamarr on Saturday and he said well he appeared there the last time on tour he went there and it started raining and the people in the most expensive seats were sitting there putting up umbrellas to try and protect themselves from the water that was pouring through the roof. So it's a theatre that is actually being used, the people are there, but it sort of, it needed repair yeah

DAVID FROST:

It needed how much?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

Well it needed £15 million because these things are expensive, it's a Grade II listed theatre and also it needs, you know we need to get some of the backstage stuff storted out¿

DAVID FROST:

So how did it, how was it that Alan Sugar's final, final big donation of what, £1.3, that triggers the other grant?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

It does yeah, it's like¿well when you start these things it's like holding up a tottering sort of pile of plates, you know one of those¿things going round swinging those things because there's money comes in from various sources and the Arts Council have been as generous as they can be with lottery money, they've given us £5 million. We've got money coming in from the European regeneration fund over here and then we've got money coming from lottery heritage over there but all this is dependent on getting the matching fund otherwise the European regeneration fund, it has a time limit on it so it stops at the end of this year, 2001 and we start to go backwards instead of forwards in terms of the money. So I was beginning to, I knew that we had to get the matching funds we'd managed to raise, we were within sight of our last total and we could start work and then, and then Sir Alan came out, he rang up and said he wanted to help the community, Hackney and it was, I remember I was just sort of, I don't often go down, you know literally, but when you sort, yeah thing was so fantastic it was an incredible thing, yes.

DAVID FROST:

This thing, was, you didn't jump for joy?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

Yeah like that, I put the phone down and ran down the corridor, ran around the house shouting.

DAVID FROST:

Yes and in fact he did it because he's, he's Hackney born and bred?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

He is, we showed him the model, you know and we looked at the model and you often wonder with a model, because models are rather extraordinary, these rebuilds and they look at them simply because and then they say is the building going to be white, no, no that's just to distinguish it from the rest of the grey bits that they've left. But Alan looked at it and he said, oh look is that the fish and chip shop where I used to go?

DAVID FROST:

And what about, what about performing there, have you ever performed there?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

Since I've been a fund-raiser¿

DAVID FROST:

You have?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

I've performed an enormous amount and the funny thing was when Roland rang me up I thought I had, I thought I'd performed, I thought Oh yes of course I've done many charity shows but I hadn't at all. But that didn't make much difference, I'd been there enough times to see things.

DAVID FROST:

Well it's a great story, a great story, a happy ending to a story and maybe there's a lesson in it for other places, but they'll probably need you?

GRIFF RHYS JONES:

Well I have to say if you have got a theatre and you do need help don't call me.

DAVID FROST:

Alright we'll call you, we won't call you, thank you Griff and congratulations.

GRIFF RHYS JONES: Thank you.

DAVID FROST:

There, a good Hackney ending story.

END

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