British broadcaster and culture commentator, Emma Freud, OBE, has a serious – and seriously impressive – pedigree. Her father was politician and broadcaster Sir Clement Freud; her mother is the British actress and film director June Flewett (stage name: Jill Raymond); psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was her great-grandfather; and painter Lucian Freud was her uncle. Oh, and her partner is Richard Curtis, the screenwriter, producer and film director at the helm of so many British classics, including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually.
Her own role as a trustee of Comic Relief and the director of Red Nose Day shows that Emma is also serious about raising funds for charity, but her latest venture, the Comic Relief Danceathon, is proof that she knows how to have fun in the process…
As director of such an iconic charity as Comic Relief, it must be such a challenge to continually think of new and inventive ways to fundraise. This year’s idea is brilliant – how did you come up with the idea for a Danceathon for Red Nose Day? “A group of friends and I did a Danceathon last year for Sport Relief. We did it in my children's playroom at my home – we had a different teacher every 30 minutes – and kept going for six hours. I don't know I have laughed as much in decades. Every hour we tweeted, facebooked or texted that we were doing it, and posted photographs in various stages of shape-throwing. By the end of the six hours we had collectively raised over £7,000. I booked Wembley Arena the next day, and on 8 March, 2,400 people will take part in the First Official Comic Relief Danceathon. Claudia Winkleman is hosting it, and there are around 40 Comic Relief celebrities doing the whole thing as well. Come and join us – it will be mighty, and funny.”
The event involves six hours of sponsored dancing, with 2,000+ people following 12 of the nation’s best dance instructors. They'll lead 30-minutes classes in everything from ballroom to Bollywood; 70s disco to funk; and musical theatre to Michael Jackson – what’s your favourite dance style, and what are you totally rubbish at? “Look – I really can't dance – I look like a bad granny throwing inappropriate shapes. I’m most particularly awful at anything streetdance-ish – which should be illegal for people my age, but thankfully isn't. The one time I come into my own is 70s disco – I'm AMAZING at that, thanks to a childhood devoted to David Cassidy and the Jackson 5. We are starting the Danceathon with that. I will be in my element.”
What other ways do you like to move (eg running, yoga, gym etc) and take care of yourself? “Oh all the usual horrific stuff that women of my age are supposed to do as often as they can... sit ups, lunges, squats and various other inhumane body tortures. I always do it with a little gang of friends so we can chat, which takes some of the pain away."
How do you relax and recover after six hours (!) of dancing? Do you have any cherished daily (or nightly) rituals that support wellbeing? “This year Comic Relief passes a billion pounds in money raised since we started. So it's the biggest campaign we've ever done, and I'm director of Red Nose Day, which means that the idea of wellbeing rituals are a distant memory at the moment. I think in the old days I used to have a glass of wine and cuddle members of my family. And without meaning to sound like a suckbutt, I do ADORE your Radiance Exfoliant, which is as close as I get to taking my face on a mini-break."
Apart from – obviously – doing crazy dance moves with your friends, who or what or who makes you laugh? “My children – they are hilarious. Not always intentionally. And my boyfriend, who makes me laugh every day, even after 23 years. That’s the sort of thing that makes me want to kick the person who said it really hard – but it's annoyingly true. Also Modern Family – and Radio 4 every day at 6.30pm."
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given, and who gave it to you? “When I was 16, an old friend of my parents said to me, ‘If you scrape your boyfriend's car, tell him you've written it off. That way, when he sees the scrape, he’ll be delighted instead of angry’. I use that advice in different situations virtually every day."
What book, or books, have left the biggest impression(s) on you, and why? “Everything ever written by Esther Freud – no relation (she is a relation). She alters the way I see the world, in a really loving way."
What does your perfect day look like? “Bed, coffee, croissant, walk by the sea, huge lunch, nap, friends for tea plus egg sandwiches, movie with the kids, pint of beer, dinner with Richard, another pint of beer, bed."
Follow Emma on Twitter.
Celebrities including Claudia Winkleman, Zoe Ball, Rufus Hound and Jo Whiley will join more than 2,000 people for six hours of sponsored dancing at the Comic Relief Danceathon. It takes place at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Sunday 8 March from 12-6pm, in advance of Red Nose Day on Friday 13 March.
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