David Lammy hails Comic Relief move away from celebrity-fronted appeals

By Kerri-Ann Roper, Press Association Entertainment Editor

Labour MP David Lammy has praised Comic Relief for its pledge to move away from using celebrities to front charitable efforts in Africa.

His comments come after Stacey Dooley appeared to address and dismiss his criticism of her when she spoke on stage at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest.

Earlier this year, Mr Lammy took aim at Comic Relief after TV presenter Dooley travelled to Africa to make a documentary for the charity.

In March he tweeted: “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.”

Comic Relief’s founder, film-maker Richard Curtis, told MPs on Tuesday that future fundraising would not be dependent on “celebrities going abroad”.

Mr Lammy responded to the news on Twitter, writing: “Looks like Comic Relief are finally ready to listen to hundreds of thousands of my constituents and others who support aid but want to move on from the tired, harmful stereotypes and tropes that surround it and prevent genuine equity and partnership.”

Love Actually director Curtis, who was giving evidence in front of the International Development Committee, acknowledged that, at the time of Mr Lammy’s criticism, the charity had not “reacted robustly”, but said it was because they were “trying to get on with the fundraiser”.

He told MPs: “I think we are at a very interesting moment in terms of raising money online and raising money as a result of the television programme. We’re on a big journey to work out how a lot of the most successful fundraising initiatives at the moment don’t have television exposure. We’re not strong on that yet.

“I imagine, as we go into this new future, that will not be based on celebrities going abroad. I suspect we will start that new initiative not going that way.

‘About Time’ Premiere – London
Comic Relief founder Richard Curtis spoke to MPs on Tuesday (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“On TV, I think it will be heading in the direction of not using (them), and particularly being very careful to give voices to people abroad.

“It is a really complicated issue because we feel this desperate passionate need to raise as much money as we can, but if we’re doing harm as well then that won’t do.”

Of the criticism, he said: “Well, we took it very seriously and it’s clearly a part of a journey that we’re on. In fact we, our films this year were very different – there were only two films from Africa which featured celebrities. One with Stacey, because she has got a great reputation as a journalist and also because we’re increasingly trying to appeal to the young.

“And then from the people who climbed up Kilimanjaro, because our judgment was to send people just to climb Kilimanjaro and then show no interest in the projects they were going to be giving money to would be a worse thing than the slight dangers of these issues, but they are complex issues.”

Here filming with Comic Relief. ❤️

A post shared by Stacey Dooley (@sjdooley) on Feb 23, 2019 at 9:52am PST

In a video posted on Twitter, asked about Mr Lammy’s “white saviour” comment, Dooley can be heard saying: “I can only speculate in terms of what he was trying to say, what kind of conversation he was trying to have, because he never picked up the phone to me.

“So it all felt quite hysterical and quite divisive, and then he went on lots of television programmes and was shouting and trying to get his point of view across.

“I think, you know, as someone who knows my work, he’ll know that I’ve have been going to Africa, lots of different countries, for the last 12 years. It’s never about me, it’s about making sure that these people are heard…”

She later said: “And ultimately, I don’t really care what David Lammy thinks of me, I don’t care what people on Twitter think of me … So I’m very happy with my behaviour.”

This year’s Red Nose Day appeal raised nearly £64 million.