The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979)

The Secret Policeman's Ball was the third of the benefit shows staged by Amnesty International to raise funds for its research and campaign work in the human rights field. In later years, other Amnesty benefit shows also bore the Secret Policeman's title. They are informally referred to as The Secret Policeman's Balls.

The Secret Policeman's Ball took place over four consecutive nights in London on 27–30 June 1979. It was a successor to the 1976 show A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick) (the film of which was titled Pleasure At Her Majesty's) and the 1977 show The Mermaid Frolics.

The show was directed by Monty Python alumnus John Cleese and producers Martin Lewis and Peter Walker.[1] It subsequently yielded a one-hour TV special, a full-length film, and two record albums (one each of comedy and music performances).

One of the sketches in the show was Peter Cook's nine-minute parody of the biased judge's instructions to the jury in the recently concluded Jeremy Thorpe trial, titled "Entirely a Matter for You".[2] The sketch was, according to Freeman and Penrose, "actually not that different from the original".[3] It is considered to be one of the finest works of Cook's career. Cook and show producer Martin Lewis brought out an album on Virgin Records entitled Here Comes the Judge: Live of the live performance together with three studio tracks that further lampooned the Thorpe trial.[4]

Musicians-turned-activists such as Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof and Bono have attributed their participation in human rights issues to their exposure to Amnesty via The Secret Policeman's Ball show. Bono told Rolling Stone magazine in 1986, "I saw The Secret Policeman's Ball and it became a part of me. It sowed a seed..."


  1. "Movie News, Theaters, Reviews, Trailers & Photos -".
  2. "In His Own Time: The Trials Of Jeremy Thorpe - A Sketch Of The Past". 6 December 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  3. Freeman, Simon; Penrose, Barrie (1997). Rinkagate: The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Thorpe. London: Bloomsbury Publications. p. 365. ISBN 0-7475-3339-3.
  4. "Peter Cook". Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
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