After Diana, every charity needs its star supporters

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IT STARTED in 1985 with Live Aid. Since then, celebrities of varying importance and stature have been falling over themselves in the race to be associated with the most fashionable causes.

For a while it was Romanian babies; then it was Tibet. Ever since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the fight to ban landmines has become the dernier cri in charitable work.

Other charities which the Princess supported have dropped out of sight since her death, yet landmines have remained at the top of the media, political and celebrity agendas.

David Ginola, the French footballer, has taken up the Princess's mantle, while the biggest boost to the landmines campaign comes on 15 September. Dancers Viviana Durante, Darcey Bussell, Matthew Bourne and Wayne Sleep present a spectacular at the Albert Hall in aid of the British Red Cross landmines campaign and dedicated to Diana.

A spokesman for the British Red Cross said: "There is no doubt that more people have been willing to come on board because of Diana and tickets for the show are selling well."

Until the Princess took up the cause, few seemed to care about landmines. Cynics would say her death provided a series of B-list celebrities with the chance to grab the limelight again.

The Red Cross said it had not finalised the guest list but confirmed Angela Rippon, Nigel Havers, Lord Archer and Jerome Flynn had agreed to help out.

Yet whatever its appeal, the landmines cause has as limited a shelf life as any. Famine, Aids, and the rainforest have all had their moment in the limelight. The Red Cross realises it has to make as much mileage out of the landmines issue and its attraction for celebrities while its popularity holds.

Vicki Pulman, of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: "There is no doubt that it is a two-way thing. The charity can benefit from the extra publicity and the celebrity can raise his or her profile by associating with it.

"Bob Geldof was the prime example of that. He was accused of organising Live Aid for his own ends but at the same time it was the largest single fund-raising event ever and it brought a new audience to the concept of giving to charity."

Publicist Max Clifford said as long as the charity benefited he did not mind why a celebrity became involved.

"Sometimes the stars do it for the right reasons and sometimes they do it for the wrong ones," he said. "But I have always said that I am happy for the stars to do it for their own ends. As long as the charity benefits there is no harm in it."

But sometimes it backfires. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were less than amused when Naomi Campbell, who had previously declared "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" for their campaign, strutted down a Milan catwalk wearing animal skins.

Public relations consultant Mark Borkowski said people were no longer impressed by celebrities lining up for charity. "They have seen too many celebrities, who have done something they shouldn't, trying to defend themselves by talking about all the work they do for charity," he said.