This weekend, comedian and actor Hugh Dennis, 49, star of the BBC television comedy Outnumbered, will take part in the Bupa Great South Run in Portsmouth, supporting Alzheimer’s Society (www.alzheimers.org.uk).
What is the first charity you can recall supporting?
Action Aid – which I still support – when I started university. It was an odd time to start donating. I think it came from a combination of studying overseas development in my Geography degree and my father being a vicar whose parish had ties to Africa.
Which cause do you feel most strongly about now?
Action Aid and Alzheimer’s are the charities that I support more than any others. I don’t have any family connections with Alzheimer’s, although my grandfather had something that was probably Alzheimer’s but was termed “pre-senile dementia” back then. What swung me was a plot in Outnumbered where my pretend father-in-law has the beginning of Alzheimer’s. I learnt that about a third of us will get it but it’s a rather unpublicised, silent problem, particularly because those who’ve got it can’t complain about it too much.
Do people in the public eye have a duty to charity?
I think everyone has a duty to themselves to try and get it right depending on how they feel. A lot of people strongly believe that the state should do it all. I don’t think it can, though. Government can never target the things you’d like to be targeted and, as the last three years have proved, there’s never going to be enough money. If you’re going to get things done, you need charities.
What do you get out of your giving?
I do it because I think you ought to, not for Christian reasons. It just makes absolute common sense. If you earn money there’s a duty to do something for people and causes that don’t
Do celebrities use good causes for their own ends?
I suppose that some do. I don’t think it matters particularly, so long as money is being raised.
How do you feel about chuggers – ‘charity muggers’ – on the streets with clipboards?
I think chuggers are awful. They turn me off giving to charity. I don’t object to people being paid to raise money but I wonder whether chuggers themselves support the causes they’re promoting and I don’t like the way they operate by playing the guilt card. Fundraising works best when you can get something back – doing the Great South Run for example. You’re doing something you want to do and at the same time raising money.
Should we have an option to donate money at ATMs?
When you go to a cash point you’re thinking about how much cash you need, rather than how much money you have to give away, so I can’t really see that it would be effective. But why not?