City comedian teams up with Oxfam for climate change exhibition


Shazia Mirza reveals one thing she would save if her home was flooded

WHAT would comedian Shazia Mirza save if her home was flooded – her joke book of course!

The Birmingham-born comedian has teamed up with Oxfam for a photographic exhibition highlighting the increasing dangers of flooding due to climate change.

The exhibition is the brainchild of renowned British photographer Martin Parr.

He teamed up with Oxfam to take striking portraits of well known celebrities holding the one item they would save if their house were flooded following a visit to flood hit Quang Tri province in Vietnam in 2009.

Fifteen famous names, including designers Paul Smith and Zandra Rhodes and Glastonbury organiser Michael Eavis posed with their most treasured items for the exhibition.

For comedian Shazia Mirza, it’s not surprise that she chose a notebook containing her comedy material.

“I’ve chosen my joke book, which is all my notes, my comedy ideas, things that make me angry and sad and observations about people that I want to turn into material,” she said.

“I carry it all around the world with me because I get ideas when I’m travelling.  I get ideas in the strangest of places. At Christmas I went to the Caribbean on holiday. I was lying on the beach and going to write some jokes when a mini hurricane came. It swept away my joke book, my iPod and my Keith Richards autobiography into the sea. I panicked; I ran to the lifeguard and told him he had to rescue my things. He asked which thing I wanted to save the most. I said my joke book. He put his life vest on swam out and got it back, but it was in such a state, I’ve been drying it ever since. I’ve still got bits of sand in between the pages.”

Shazia said it was imperative everyone did their bit to help save the planet.

“We all have guilt about not recycling,” she added. “We’ve been told we must recycle, the recycling man comes to get the recycling, we have recycling boxes outside the house. And yet sometimes I just spend hours sorting out the recycling box, my recycling box is tidier than my bedroom. Sometimes I get really annoyed and just stick stuff in the bin.

“But then I wake up in the morning and I feel really guilty so I take it out of the bin and put it back in the recycling box. We are aware of what we should be doing to save the planet but we have to be consistent and not give up when it seems like such an effort.

”The reality of climate change is that across the world especially in the world’s poorest places floods are sweeping away peoples’ homes, food and livelihoods. As climate change worsens we must realize that situations like this will affect all of us. Governments need to take action now, by championing innovative mechanisms to tackle the problem before it’s too late.”

The series of shots follow on from a trip Martin Parr took with Oxfam in 2009 to flood hit Quang Tri province in Vietnam.

Here he photographed people who were struggling to cope with increasingly unpredictable flooding due to climate change. Parr asked them to pose with the possession they battled to save when their homes were unexpectedly hit.  

Martin Parr said: “When I visited Vietnam for Oxfam the thing that really struck me was how the local farmers had to prepare to evacuate or climb to their mezzanines with their valuable family possessions. I asked them to hold the item they selected first. We are now applying this idea to British celebrities and explaining why we are doing this because of the ever increasing dangers of flooding due to climate change.”


Parr’s touching and revealing shots from Vietnam and the UK will be displayed in an exhibition ‘What Would You Save’ held at the Proud Gallery, London from 17th -24th May. For more information about Oxfam’s work on climate change visit



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