Comic Relief caught up in another ‘white saviour’ controversy

01 Mar 2019 News

Stacey Dooley filming with Comic Relief

Comic Relief has defended its latest fundraising campaign after a clip from it was criticised for promoting a “white saviour” narrative.

Last year Comic Relief vowed to ditch its “white saviour” stereotype appeals, but as part of this year's Red Nose Day campaign, celebrity documentary maker Stacey Dooley has been involved with a film for the charity.

Earlier this week, Dooley, who is white British, shared pictures on Instagram of herself with children in Uganda, where she was filming with Comic Relief.

Her posts initially led to criticism from supporters of the No White Saviours campain group and later the Labour MP David Lammy.

Lammy, who has criticised Comic Relief’s campaigns previously, said on Twitter: “The world does not need any more white saviours. As I've said before, this just perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes. Let's instead promote voices from across the continent of Africa and have serious debate.

“Hi Stacey Dooley. This isn't personal and I don't question your good motives. My problem with British celebrities being flown out by Comic Relief to make these films is that it sends a distorted image of Africa which perpetuates an old idea from the colonial era.

“Comic Relief has a huge platform and privilege and it is the first and major way children learn about Africa. If they only show Africans as helpless victims to be pitied, children miss the broader picture of huge progress in Africa.”

Lammy suggested it would be better for Comic Relief to feature people who live in Africa rather than British celebrities.

‘No apologies’

Comic Relief and Dooley defended the activity. 

The charity said in a statement: “We are really grateful that Stacey Dooley, an award winning and internationally acclaimed documentary maker, agreed to go to Uganda to discover more about projects the British people have generously funded there and make no apologies for this.

“She has filmed and reported on challenging issues all over that affect people’s lives daily. In her film, people working with or supported by Comic Relief projects tell their own stories in their own words.

“We have previously asked David Lammy if he would like to work with us to make a film in Africa and he has not responded. The offer is still open.”

Lammy disputed the Comic Relief’s assertion that he had not replied, saying he had two meetings with the charity, but he said his presenting a campaign for them was not the solution.

He said: “It’s not about me making a nice film, but about you giving some of your very privileged platform on the BBC to the hundreds of African comedians, filmmakers, celebrities and everyday people who live on the continent.

“My job as a politician is to raise the issue. The people of Africa do not need a British politician to make a film. I want African people to speak for themselves, not UK celebs acting as tour guides.”

Meanwhile, Dooley said on Twitter: “David, is the issue with me being white? (Genuine question) ...because if that’s the case, you could always go over there and try raise awareness? Comic Relief have raised over 1 billion pounds since they started. I saw projects that were saving lives with the money. Kids' lives.”

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