HIP’s Sophie Shaw talks to comedian Mark Thomas & HFS director Naomi Ridley as they prepare to bring their favorite comedians to the De La Warr for an outstanding night of comedy on 25th May

Bridget Christie, Daniel Kitson, Shazia Mirza, Robin Ince, Jonny and the Baptists and compere Tiernan Douieb will be joining Mark Thomas on stage at the De La Warr Pavillion on May 25th to raise vital funds for local furniture charity, Hastings and Rother Furniture Service (HFS) “I chose my favorite people and asked if they’d come to Bexhill and perform for free. And because they’re all amazing people they all said yes.” he tells me. Ridley is blown away by the line-up. “I’ve tried to get tickets to see a few of these guys in Brighton when they’ve been down on tour over the last few years” she says “but they’ve always sold out too fast. None of the performers are getting anything out of this, it’s a thankless task, so we really want to give them a great audience; a full auditorium of people who are interested and want to think.”

“Hastings Furniture Service is a shining example of how communities can improve peoples’ lives on a really practical level.” Thomas says. He agreed to become the charity’s patron over ten years ago after Ridley approached him at a gig. “A friend of mine was running the merchandise stall,” she says, “and I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to him about what we do so I offered to help out.” And what made him say yes? “It’s the unsexist cause you could imagine.” he answers. “Furniture for poor people. It’s making a real difference for people and that’s what I really like.”

All funds raised by the benefit gig will help support HFS’s Starter Pack project, which provides basic cleaning and cooking items to individuals and households starting out again from scratch after a crisis, such as homelessness, time in a refuge, a prison sentence or fire/flood damage to property.

“I think if you’re going to be a patron of a charity you should do some work.” says Thomas, who is fitting this in between tours, having just finished a project with Palestinian comedians, Faisal Abualheja and Alaa Shehada, and who is about to launch a tour centered on the 70th anniversary of the NHS. “Of course the state should be taking care of all of this and there shouldn’t be any need for HFS. When the benevolent dictatorship arrives I’ll eradicate poverty but in the here and now we have a choice, we can have an intellectual discussion about it or we can roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. Hastings and Rother should be really proud of HFS and the brilliant work it does.”

Tickets for the fundraiser cost £20 or £15 for concessions and are on sale now via the DLWP website at www.dlwp.com/event/mark-thomas-friends

• HFS collects and reuses furniture and electrical goods to help low-income households and provides training and opportunities for people with low incomes in Hastings and Rother.

Read more about HFS at www.hfs.org.uk

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