Famous, Rich and Homeless - We don't need Willie Thorne to make us care

I don't know about you, but I wander about oblivious to the iniquities of life, the inequalities, the unfairness.

Willie Thorne, Kim Woodburn, Nick Hancock and Julia Bradbury sleep on the streets for Famous, Rich and Homeless
Willie Thorne, Kim Woodburn, Nick Hancock and Julia Bradbury sleep on the streets for Famous, Rich and Homeless

Like Hoffman’s Johnny Head-in-Air, I keep my chin raised and my eyes on the sky, away from the dirt in the gutter and the problems on the street.

Unless, that is, a celebrity gets involved. Then I notice all right, my awareness is raised to unprecedented levels, and I immediately start caring about ‘isshoos’.

Yes, all it takes for me to become a useful member of society is for a former snooker professional –Willie Thorne, say – to show me there are homeless people on the streets of London.

Despite the fact that Ralph McTell made the same point 40 years ago, with more emotional impact and a hummable tune, Famous, Rich and Homeless (BBC1, Wednesdays, 9pm) is back as part of Sport Relief, higlighting the plight of the homeless.


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This is a laudable aim, attempting to humanise the problem, showing us that, though we may stride past them on the street with a sneer, we are only a P45 and a couple of missed rent payments away from joining them.

What I don’t understand is why we need famous people – and with this programme we are stretching that term – to tell us about it.

Without exception, the most interesting stories came from the homeless themselves – former Armed Forces veterans, those with mental health issues, ‘respectable’ people forced, through circumstance, on to the street.

Why can’t the programme makers trust us to listen to their stories, without having to also put up with Kim Woodburn’s – the one who looks like a part-time dominatrix off How Clean is Your House? – rants about the undeserving poor, or Thorne throwing a strop and storming off?


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The only one who seemed to get under the skin of the problem seemed to be Julia Bradbury. The former Countryfile presenter was recognised by Steven, a homeless man who took her under his wing.

Give to Sport Relief, take part in their Sport Relief Games next weekend, but don’t bother watching next week’s episode.

Just keep your eyes on the street, and don’t walk by – don’t leave it to a celebrity to raise your awareness.

l For your nearest Sport Relief event, visit www.sportrelief.com