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It’s become a national institution, held every November for the past 37 years, and today is Children in Need day 2017.

Since it began in 1980, the annual BBC charity telethon has raised more than £600 million for disadvantaged and disabled children and young people in the UK, with this year’s mammoth fundraiser set to boost that total once again.

Children in Need is now the BBC’s UK charity and although most attention is focussed on one day each November, the corporation actually raises money all year round for its in-house good cause. The money raised is allocated in the form of grants to a huge range of charities and good causes working with and for children and young people throughout the UK. Films about the type of projects supported by Children in Need form an integral part of the annual fundraiser.

This evening’s Children in Need appeal will run from 7-30pm to 2am on BBC1 and feature a feast of entertainment and information about the many projects which people’s donations pay for. Stars from television, film, theatre, pop music and many more fields take part on the night, and in a week-long build-up on the BBC’s network of national, regional and local radio stations, especially BBC Radio 2.

Across the country, millions of people get actively involved, holding fundraising events in schools, workplaces, residential homes, village halls and all manner of other places, as well as making individual efforts. A key part of the national and regional TV coverage is people handing over cheques or buckets of cash they have collected to various celebrity hosts.

Children in Need has also become known for ‘charity special’ versions of popular BBC programmes, or specially filmed and often tongue-in-cheek segments featuring the cast of shows such as ‘EastEnders’. It also features well-known TV faces doing things you wouldn’t normally expect, such as newsreaders performing dance routines. Pop music acts perform live and there is also an official Children in Need song released each year, with proceeds from its sale going to the charity.

It has come a long way from the very first Children in Need, in 1980, which was simply a series of short information segments and appeals slotted in between the evening’s normal programming. Even then it raised more than a million pounds and the BBC quickly realised the potential to expand the format. Over the next three years the telethon segments grew longer and the regular programming diminished until it was dropped altogether in 1984 in favour of a single continuous Children in Need programme.

Involved right from the very start was radio and TV personality Terry Wogan, who over the next three decades would become synonymous with Children in Need. Sir Terry (as he became in 2005) was the main presenter until 2014, when ill health forced him to step down. Last year saw the inaugural presentation of the Sir Terry Wogan Fundraiser of the Year Award, set up by Sir Terry’s family in his memory, and tonight will see the winner of the second award announced.

Working alongside Sir Terry over the years have been several co-hosts, including Sue Lawley, Esther Rantzen, Sue Cook, Joanna Lumley, Gaby Roslin, Fearne Cotton and Alesha Dixon. The current longest serving presenter is Tess Daly, who has taken part every year since 2009 and will co-host tonight’s show with others including Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc.

Another key character is the Children in Need mascot, Pudsey Bear, created and named in 1985 by BBC graphic designer Joanna Lane. The teddy bear mascot was named after her hometown of Pudsey, West Yorkshire, where her grandfather was the mayor. Pudsey Bear is now widely used in marketing and merchandise supporting the annual appeal and has become the face of Children in Need.

Last year’s Children in Need appeal raised a record £46.6m on the night, rising to a total of £60m when all the money was in. Organisers are hoping this year’s telethon will top that total, with the proceeds supporting a massive number of projects and good causes for children and young people in every corner of the UK. However you can contribute, every donation helps.

To find out more, click here to visit the official BBC Children in Need Website.

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