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Comic Relief to stop sending ‘white saviour’ celebrities to Africa in wake of criticism

It will hire African crews for next year

Comic Relief has responded to ‘white saviour’ criticism by saying they will no longer send celebrities to Africa in their fundraising efforts.

They also say they will now hire African filmmakers and crew to create fundraising content.

Last year Labour MP David Lammy accused Strictly star Stacey Dooley of encouraging ‘unhelpful stereotypes’ when she shared a photo of herself with a black child while in Africa on behalf of the charity.

He also said: “The world does not need any more white saviours.”

labour mp david lammy
Labour MP David Lammy criticised Comic Relief last year (Credit: SplashNews)

What was said about Comic Relief and white saviours?

Now Comic Relief says it will only use African filmmakers to create a “more authentic perspective”.

However, they added that celebrities won’t be completely absent from future campaigns.

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Big-name stars have proven “highly successful” with their fundraising efforts in the past.

But now they will only appear in the British-based television presenting aspects of the appeals.

Sir Lenny Henry, who co-founded Comic Relief with Richard Curtis in 1985, says he is proud of the changes.

celine dion for comic relief 2008
Celine Dion campaigning on behalf of Comic Relief in 2008 (Credit: SplashNews)

How has Sir Lenny Henry reacted?

Speaking in an online Q&A, Sir Lenny said: “There are so many filmmakers coming out of the third world.

“Why aren’t we — and we are — working with them to tell this new generation of stories? That is what is happening next. I am proud to be involved in it.”

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He also said: “I think on certain issues right now, like representation, amplifying black voices and diversity, there’s a real sense of reflection and looking inwards, and asking ourselves what can we do to learn and grow too.

Before adding: “African people don’t want us to tell their stories for them, what they need is more agency, a platform and partnership.”

sir lenny henry
Sir Lenny Henry says he is ‘proud’ of Comic Relief’s changes (Credit: SplashNews)

Meanwhile the charity’s chief executive, Ruth Davison, says the organisation has taken last year’s criticism strongly into consideration.

She said: “Times have changed, audiences have changed, Africa has changed.

“There is a formula for how fundraising has been done but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“What prompts people to give is an emotional connection – that doesn’t have to be pity.

“It can be joy, it can be anger, it can be a sense of positivity and hope.”

The next Red Nose Day will be held in March 2021, when the new changes are set to take place.

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