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20 août 2006

Amnesty to re-launch Secret Policeman's Ball

LONDON (Reuters) - Amnesty International is reviving its Secret Policeman's Balls, comedy events spearheaded by Monty Python star John Cleese 30 years ago to raise awareness and cash for the human rights group.

The new show, on October 14, will be held at London's Royal Albert Hall and feature what the organisation on Friday called an "unprecedented lineup of comedy and music talent".

"Nowadays, it's taken for granted that famous people support good causes," Amnesty said on its Web site. "But in 1976, no-one thought like that. Fundraising events were evenings of experimental poetry." That all changed when Cleese rounded up "a few friends" for Amnesty's first show at Her Majesty's Theatre called "A Poke in the Eye (With a Sharp Stick)" and later televised as "Pleasure at Her Majesty's".

The evenings grew increasingly ambitious with musical acts joining in, and in 1979 The Secret Policeman's Ball was staged at the same theatre and featured comic heavyweights like Cleese, Peter Cook, Rowan Atkinson and Billy Connolly. By "The Secret Policeman's Third Ball" in 1987 at the London Palladium, comedians were joined by musicians including Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed and Duran Duran.

Amnesty said the next ball would launch its Protect the Human Week and would include 21st century ingredients including animation and podcasts. "Public support for Amnesty increased by 700 per cent after the first three shows (and) the profile of human rights went through the roof," the organisation said. The show's producer Lisle Turner, added: "We're doing it now because the world needs a poke in the eye, it needs laughter and frankly, it needs more Balls. "Sometimes what the world needs to see global human rights abuses is a hard hitting report. But sometimes a side-splitting joke can work just as well."

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