Protesters target Perrier comedy awards

Protesters were today expected to picket one of Britain’s top comedy awards over its sponsor’s marketing tactics.

Protesters were today expected to picket one of Britain’s top comedy awards over its sponsor’s marketing tactics.

Supporters of the Nestle Boycott group will demonstrate outside the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and are also holding an alternative ceremony at another city venue.

They claim the multinational food firm, which owns the Perrier water brand, is guilty of aggressively promoting breast milk substitute to developing countries and endangering infant health.

The protest is planned for midnight in Edinburgh as nominees find out who has scooped one of the biggest accolades in the business.

But in a bid to quell protest over the multinational’s tactics, the winner of tonight’s award will also be asked to visit the African businesses of Nestle.

Andrea Hill, from charity Baby Milk Action, condemned the move as a marketing exercise.

She said: “They are putting infants’ health at risk by the way they promote their milk substitute.

“We would be really disappointed if a winner was to go to a Nestle operation because they would be shown only the things the company wants them to see and next year they would be used as a public relations tool.

“We have got real concerns that they would undermine our work.”

She said that more than 70 people were expected to attend the rally, around the same number at last year’s protest.

The prestigious award helped launched the careers of Steve Coogan, Frank Skinner, Lee Evans and the League of Gentleman.

Contenders Jimmy Carr, Omid Djalili, Noel Fielding, Adam Hills, Daniel Kitson and Phil Nichol will also be in line for a £7,500 (€11,700) top prize and the chance to headline a show at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End in October.

There are some familiar faces among the nominees for the award - which is now in its 21st year - at the Edinburgh College of Art, but also some relatively fresh talent.

Omid Djalili, 38, who is of Iranian descent, first found fame at the Edinburgh Festival in 1995 and was winner of the Time Out Stand Up Comedian of the Year Award for 2001.

The actor, who has appeared in The Mummy and Gladiator, and whose show, Behind Enemy Lines, was based on the aftermath of September 11, also won the Emma Best Comedian Award this year.

Daniel Kitson, 25, from Denby Dale in Yorkshire, first appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. His show, Something, focuses on “life, love and swearing”.

The bearded comic, who was this year’s Time Out Performer of the Year, was a runner-up at the 2001 Perrier Comedy Awards.

Jimmy Carr, 29, from Buckinghamshire, is a new face who was nominated for his show, Bare Faced Ambition. Specialising in sharp one-liners, he has been likened to Jack Dee.

Noel Fielding, 29, from south London, was Perrier best newcomer in 1998 and runner-up for the main award in 1999. The character comedian was nominated for his show, Voodoo Hedgehog.

Phil Nichol, from Toronto in Canada, based his show, Things I Like, I Lick, on mishaps he suffered during the past year. Nichol, who was born in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, won the Time Out Comedy Award in 1998 and has been a regular at the Edinburgh Festival for the past 12 years.

Adam Hills, 32, from Melbourne, was one of last year’s Perrier runners-up and is the only Australian ever to be nominated for the award twice.

His show, Happy Feet, pokes fun at the embarrassing situations that resulted from his artificial foot setting off security alarms at airports after the September 11 attacks.

The all-male short-list came under fire when it was unveiled on Wednesday amid claims the festival’s many female comic talent had been overlooked.

Jenny Eclair, who won the award in 1995, is the only female solo winner of the Perrier Comedy Award since it was launched in 1981.

An alternative corporate-free comedy event, dubbed the Tap Water Awards, was set up last year in protest and will be staged at the city’s Bongo Club venue.

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