Comic Relief appoints new CEO

11 Jan 2021 News

Samir Patel, chief executive of Comic Relief.

Samir Patel will be the next chief executive of Comic Relief, and interim CEO, Ruth Davison, will leave when he joins later this year.

Patel has more than 20 years of international digital, grassroots campaigns and communications experience. He will join the charity from the agency Blue State where he is the head of insights and innovation and part of the senior management team leading Blue State in Europe. 

Patel has overseen major brand updates, helped charities innovate in fundraising, and has led digital initiatives to engage and mobilise communities for high profile global NGO’s, charities and commercial organisations including Oxfam, Google, Co-op, Amnesty International and the UN’s Refugee Agency.

The new chief executive has also been a member of a number of high-profile steering groups focusing on equality and sustainability and has worked with UN Live to develop new ways to engage young change-makers.

Patel said: “Like many, I’ve experienced the magic of Comic Relief first hand through its unique events and shows. It's an honour to join the talented and passionate team there. This brilliant charity inhabits a special place in the UK's consciousnesses and is truly a unique, powerful force, using humour and entertainment for good. 

“Digital innovation, strategy and storytelling are all part of my DNA and I look forward to learning and evolving with the organisation to elevate the charity’s vital work to even greater heights.”

Ruth Davison to leave Comic Relief 

Patel is set to replace the current interim chief executive, Ruth Davison. 

Davison led Comic Relief throughout the challenges of the pandemic and delivered both Sport Relief and The Big Night In, whilst pioneering more inclusive storytelling, and introducing funding to tackle racial inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19. 

She will continue at the helm until Patel’s arrival and will lead the charity’s flagship campaign, Red Nose Day, which this year takes place in March.

Davison gave up her former permanent previous position whilst she acted up as interim chief executive during the charity restructure in the summer. Her previous role was as executive director of impact and investment.

Aleema Shivji was recruited to this position and started last week. 

Alex Reid had been made chief executive of Comic Relief in March 2020 but resigned after three weeks. This is because she would be in the United States because of Covid-19 and believed the charity should be run from the UK. 

Liz Warner was the chief executive prior to Reid and left to work in a social enterprise.

'We need to become digital in everything we do'

Eric Salama, Comic Relief chair, said: “The world needs Comic Relief more than ever before. To be able to achieve our goals, alongside our relationship with our partners and the BBC, we need to become digital in everything we do – from the content we create, to the way we engage with the UK public and the way we partner with organisations we fund. We also need to continue our growth and development to remain a brand our staff and our partners are proud to be associated with. 

“Samir has impressed us with what he has achieved, the way he conducts himself and his vision for Comic Relief.  I’m delighted that Samir is joining us to help deliver even greater impact and success.  At the same time I would like to pay tribute to Ruth Davison for the way that she has led the organisation through a tumultuous year and for her major achievements with Sport Relief and The Big Night In and I wish her every success in her future.”

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


More on