Thompson joins comedians' 'boycott' of Perrier Awards

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The Independent Online

One of the Edinburgh Festival's leading venues is setting up an alternative to the prestigious Perrier Awards for comedy – to be called the Tap Water prize – in protest at the working practices of the mineral water's manufacturer, Nestlé.

The Bongo Club's move follows the call by comedian Rob Newman for a boycott of the Perriers because of the controversy surrounding Nestlé's sales of powdered baby milk in the Third World.

Actress Emma Thompson, who won the Perrier Award in its first year as a member of the Cambridge Footlights, yesterday joined Mr Newman in asking comedians not to take part. Other former winners include Frank Skinner, Steve Coogan and the League of Gentlemen.

"The Perrier Awards should be boycotted by all right-thinking people, because Nestlé has got to be stopped," she said.

Emma Thompson, like Rob Newman, is a supporter of Baby Milk Action, a campaign encouraging breast-feeding instead of using powdered milk. Scottish supporters are already planning to picket the award-winners' ceremony on 25 August. And the Bongo Club, which is operated by a charity and runs a mixed programme of entertainment and comedy, has decided to have no involvement with the Perrier Awards in the Edinburgh Festival which starts this weekend.

All comedy performers at the giant venue in New Street have been asked to agree not to accept a Perrier award if their show is nominated.

Among those already booked to appear are Jamie Glassman, one of the team behind the Ali G show, Joel Spence and Douglas Frawley, in a show One Night Only, "depicting male identity in crisis at the beginning of the 21st century". John Sinclair, a leading Scottish comedian, appears in Bagpipes and Angels in a show billed as "quality nonsense".

Suzanne Merrall, a co-ordinator for the Bongo Club, said details of the alternative Perrier Awards were still being finalised. But although the evening would be light-hearted, she said their point was not. "There is a problem that people don't know Perrier is owned by Nestlé, but as soon as we realised we wanted to do something," she said.

Mark Thomas, the comedian and another supporter of Baby Milk Action, may also enter the Tap Water Awards where the winner is likely to receive a tap and runners-up a glass of water.

Nestlé has tried to reassure protesters. The giant company has been accused of promoting infant formula in developing countries in breach of the World Health Organisation's code on marketing. "Many of the allegations are years out of date and have long since been rectified," a spokesman said.

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