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Hackney Empire comedy night to raise funds for Josie Long’s charity Arts Emergency

11:05 18 June 2013

Comedian Josie Long

Comedian Josie Long

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A huge comedy night at the Hackney Empire will see visual artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, a raft of comedians and a surprise special guest take to the stage to raise funds for an arts charity set up by BBC comedienne Josie Long.

Comedian Josie LongComedian Josie Long

Arts Emergency was launched three years ago by Neil Griffiths and Hackney resident Ms Long, who started stand-up aged 14 and appeared on Ian Hislop and Paul Merton’s comedy news show Have I Got News For You last month.

They were motivated to set up the charity after the government voted in 2010 for universities to charge up to £9,000 in tuition fees – which were previously means tested, with some students paying nothing.

From an office in Gillett Square, Dalston, they have set up an “old boys” network of 200 artists, activists and academics who act as mentors and contacts to pupils at BSix in Kenninghall Road.

The idea is to keep the doors of universities open to everyone and to create privilege for those without.

Comedian Josie LongComedian Josie Long

“We want to defend studying arts subjects as a valid choice for anyone from any background and to make it so that people who are going to benefit from doing arts degrees but maybe are least able to pay for them, still have the chance to study them,” said Ms Long.

“Lots of BA degree courses have closed, and people aren’t studying what they might like to study. They might study something that will get them a job instead.”

Grim and awful

She continued: “Studying arts is not being encouraged no matter what people are saying. We are not living in a society now which says whatever you love, go and pursue it: it says if you want to do that it will cost you this much.

Comedian Josie LongComedian Josie Long

“It’s grim and awful for society as a whole and for furthering human knowledge. Art is not a means to a financial end.”

Going to Oxford University completely changed her outlook on life and she wants other people to benefit from that.

“I was really lucky, I got to experience that level of privilege for three years. I loved it and it made me think, why shouldn’t I go for the things I love and have the life I love. If I don’t all these people around me will,” she said.

“It gave me that sense of entitlement.

“It taught me so much about reading and writing and so many wonderful things about literature.”

This night of comedy, live art, music and stories brings together prominent names from stage, screen, contemporary art and literature, many of whom support and volunteer for the charity themselves.

The charity’s patrons, collaborative artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, will be appearing on Thursday along with comedians Mark Watson, Stephen K Amos, Isy Suttie, Robin Ince, Brigitte Aphrodite, Greg Jenner from Horrible Histories and poets Kate Tempest and Joe Dunthorne, along with The British Humanist Association Choir and some secret special guests.

Ms Long is feeling nervous about it: “I really want it to go well so people are excited about Arts Emergency and get involved in the charity,” she said.

Tickets cost £30, or £9 for students. See www.hackneyempire.co.uk or http://www.arts-emergency.org.

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