Comic Relief will stop sending celebrities abroad in wake of ‘white saviour’ racism row, Richard Curtis tells MPs

Written by on June 12, 2019

Comic Relief will stop sending celebrities abroad in the wake of its ‘white saviour’ racism row, the charity’s founder Richard Curtis has told MPs.  The organisation came under fire earlier this year after Labour MP David Lammy said it was “perpetuating tired and unhelpful stereotypes” by using “white saviours” to raise awareness of the poverty facing some Africans.  After the comments were made, the show suffered an £8m fall in donations and lost some 600,000 viewers compared to 2017.  Now, the film director and humanitarian says that he imagines that the future of the fundraising efforts “will not be based on celebrities going abroad.”  Taking questions from the International Development Select Committee, Mr Curtis said that Comic Relief didn’t act “robustly” to the criticism because it was just focused on raising money.  He added that “if people who live in this country with African backgrounds feel as though they’re sort of in some way demeaned or negatively affected by Comic Relief, then we really have to listen to that.”The row was sparked in February after BBC presenter Stacey Dooley posted a picture on Instagram with a young Ugandan child, along with the caption “OB.SESSSSSSSSSSED” and a picture of a broken heart.

She was in the country on behalf of Comic Relief.  Mr Lammy, MP for Tottenham 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.”  He added: “The history of colonialism in Africa means race is important. Stacey’s Instagram posts continue a very long established trope of white female heroine with orphan black child with little or no agency or parents in sight. Comic relief do this because it makes people give money.”  In the wake of the controversy, the charity raised £63.5m, compared with £71.3m in 2017.



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