CAMPAIGNS: Lending a hand to the Red Cross - Public Awareness

Following an expedition to Zimbabwe in 1996, artist Rebekah Gilbertson felt compelled to publicise the needless misery caused by anti-personnel landmines.

Following an expedition to Zimbabwe in 1996, artist Rebekah

Gilbertson felt compelled to publicise the needless misery caused by

anti-personnel landmines.

She created a book, Handlines, which features black-and-white

photographs of Angolan and Cambodian landmine victims interspersed with

the hand or footprints and comments of celebrities who rely on their

limbs to make a living. These celebrity contributors ranged from fashion

designer, Alexander McQueen to football star, David Ginola.

In March 1998, Gilbertson approached Aurelia PR to initiate a press and

PR campaign around the book’s launch on 5 May. As all profits from the

sale of Handlines go to the British Red Cross Anti-personnel landmines

campaign, Aurelia offered its services for free.


To generate awareness of Handlines and the issue of anti-personnel

landmines and their victims. Gilbertson also wanted to start the ball

rolling towards raising a projected pounds 100,000 for the British Red

Cross campaign.


To raise media awareness, Aurelia organised an exclusive four-page

feature with the Sunday Times magazine for 26 April and set up press and

radio interviews with Gilbertson.

Handlines was launched at the National Portrait Gallery on 5 May with

contributors such as Joan Armatrading and retired athlete Sally Gunnell

in attendance. Landmine victim and campaigner, Chris Moon and

journalist-turned-MP Martin Bell were key speakers.

Following this initial party, Aurelia PR also co-ordinated the launch of

an exhibition of images from the book and anti-personnel mines at Blains

Fine Art in London’s Mayfair on 20 May.

This free-to-view exhibition ran for two weeks and featured original

work from artists such as cartoonist Ralph Steadman and David



The book launch generated interest ranging from a full page entitled

’Helping Hands’ in the Evening Standard to celebrity spotting by OK!


The Sunday Mirror ran pictures of Sally Gunnell’s and footballer Ryan

Giggs’ feet, while the Independent used images of Elton John’s hand, a

peace sign by designer Stella McCartney and David Hockney’s image of

Love Life.

Gilbertson outlined the importance of the cause on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s

Hour, BBC GLR and Carlton Television’s regional news programme London

Today. The launch of the exhibition and the private viewing, resulted in

press coverage including the Express, the Telegraph and Londoner’s Diary

in the Evening Standard.


Undoubtedly, much of the success of this campaign was the result of

Gilbertson’s ability to twist arms and generate donations, such as

Diageo’s offer of free champagne and Guinness for the book launch.

However, Aurelia PR’s positioning of the initiative to both literary and

art critics and the general media helped to widen interest.

It is too early to judge the financial success of the campaign, but the

British Red Cross is looking to take the exhibition on tour and has been

approached by sister organisations in other countries such as Australia,

to replicate the idea overseas.

Client: Rebekah Gilbertson

PR Team: Aurelia Public Relations

Campaign: Launch of Handlines in aid of the British Red Cross

Timescale: March-May 1998

Budget: Agency time donated to charity, other costs covered by corporate


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