Comic Relief hits back at Labour MP David Lammy over his criticism of its ‘poverty porn’

Stacey Dooley's social media posts that caused contention

Comic Relief has hit back at Labour MP David Lammy after he criticised it of ‘poverty porn’ in celebrity-led appeal films it had claimed to rethink last year.

The public row began after Lammy criticised the documentary maker Stacey Dooley for social posts she made while she filmed a Comic Relief documentary in Uganda. “The world does not need any more white saviours,” tweeted Lammy. He also said: “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.”

His tweet picked up a lot of engagement on Twitter, with many joining Lammy in criticising Comic Relief for distorting images of Africa.

Following this, Comic Relief released a public statement, claiming: “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.” Lammy then hit back at Comic Relief to say he was "not prepared to become part of a PR exercise,” and called them out on the claim, tweeting “we had two meetings in my office. I had hoped – and still hope – your coverage would improve.”

After Comic Relief challenged the MP again to "make a film or visit our funded projects,” Lammy declined the offer as felt it wasn’t his place. He instead urged the charity to “invite an African filmmaker, celebrity, farmer, teacher or businessperson.”

This isn’t the first time the MP has contested the charity over its appeal films. Last year, Lammy penned an article in the Guardian criticising it for “blurring Africa’s 54 separate nations.”

After an aid watchdog described Comic Relief as poverty tourism, it decided to rethink its celebrity-led appeal films and subsequently dropped them from last year’s Sport Relief.

Despite deciding to include celebrity-led appeal films this year, executive brand and creative director Bill Griffin openly acknowledged to The Drum that there is a problem around using British personalities in these appeals.

"We don't put celebrities into all of them because sometimes you want the beneficiaries of the work to be able to speak for themselves and not condescendingly talk over them," he explained, adding: "they are capable of articulating what their struggle is."

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