Winter Survival Appeal: How stars aligned to help Londoners in distress

Campaigns Editor David Cohen chronicles the astonishing progress of our appeal this year — and how its big-name backers weighed in

We began our Christmas Campaign by revealing that food bank queues have doubled this year and that 4,000 people died last winter because they were unable to heat their homes — but we end it with the uplifting news that, thanks to your generosity, we have raised £2.4 million to help Londoners in distress due to the cost-of-living crisis.

It’s been an incredible group effort involving the whole newspaper — print, online, ES Magazine, our film, podcast and social media teams — and a superb, dedicated team at Comic Relief, our campaign partner. Over the past 21 working days, we have projected the plight of struggling Londoners in more than 35 articles amounting to some 30,000 words, generated five newspaper front covers and one ES Magazine cover, and augmented our reporting with six short films, four podcasts and scores of social media posts.

Evening Standard

After six months of planning, we launched on November 23 with a £500,000 donation from Comic Relief to get us under way and profiled two of the first 20 extraordinary charities we had already agreed to fund — Sister Circle and Kinship. Sister Circle provides trained volunteer “maternity mates” to help vulnerable pregnant women and mothers of newborns, while Kinship supports unsung heroes — grandparents who raise their grandchildren after the parents are unable to, preventing their kin from being taken into care. Dame Judi Dench and Kate Winslet were the first big names to back our drive, followed by Succession star Brian Cox and Peaky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy.

Evening Standard

The second week featured our first big donor, Sainsbury’s, who gave £500,000 to tackle food insecurity, taking our total funds raised to £1 million. West Ham United got behind us, with star strikers Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio visiting The Felix Project, the biggest surplus food distributor in London — another project we are funding. West Ham’s vice-chair, Baroness Brady, penned a comment piece, calling Londoners to give generously in the face of “heart-breaking” rises in poverty and reminding us that “when winter bites, children in poverty” suffer most.

Evening Standard

The week ended with a six-figure pledge from charity gaming event organisers, Jingle Jam, and a star turn by Celebrity Gogglebox headliner Babatunde Aléshé, who dropped in to Idias Community Kitchen, a charity supported by FareShare, the biggest food redistributor in Britain and another project backed by our appeal. In week three, Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham and rapper Big Zuu celebrated our reaching £1.5 million, thanks to a £250,000 donation from the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund.

Evening Standard

But it was in week four that we really began to motor, with philanthropists Julia and Hans Rausing donating £500,000 and fashion house Burberry giving us £200,000 to take us well beyond £2 million.

Rita Ora visited a women’s refuge supported by Buttle UK, another transformative project we are funding. And Richard Curtis, film-maker of Love Actually and co-founder of Comic Relief, headlined a podcast that hailed Londoners’ “love of humanity”. Backing also came from actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Anne-Marie Duff, and TV pair Charlene White and Alex Jones.

Evening Standard

Our final week began with a £50,000 donation from TK Maxx and Homesense and featured support from comedian and Comic Relief co-founder, Lenny Henry, and former primer minister Gordon Brown, with model Emma Thynn, the Marchioness of Bath, visiting Beyond Food Foundation, a project funded by our appeal. Perhaps the best news — left for last — was that over 3,500 Londoners gave us a whopping £200,000 out of their hard-earned income, enabling us to reach a total of £2.4 million.

Evening Standard front page - Rita Ora
Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures

How you can help

£10 could provide a nourishing meal for a Londoner every day for a month

£20 could provide a duvet and pillow to a young person helping them sleep at night

£50 could contribute to a new school uniform for a child fleeing with a parent from an abusive relationship

£100 could provide 400 meals for families at a local community centre

£300 could pay for all that’s needed by a family expecting a baby, including new cot, mattress and pram

£1,750 could get a truck packed with enough food for 7,000 meals

To make a donation, visit