Comic Relief will no longer send celebrities to Africa - here’s why

Charity Comic Relief has been called out in the past for its portrayal of ‘white saviours’ - criticism prompted by sending celebrities to visit African countries in order to film appeals for its annual fundraising television event.

However, Comic Relief has announced that it will now stop the practice, with the fundraising appeals to instead be made by filmmakers local to each area, who have a “more authentic perspective.”

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Comic Relief to make numerous changes

The charity has said it will also stop using images of critically ill children, or people who are starving.

Actor and comedian Lenny Henry, who co-founded Comic Relief, said the changes were a big move for the charity and that it was “about time.”

Henry explained, “It's not to say that the films that have been made in the past weren't extraordinary and didn't have a huge effect.

"But it's time for young black and brown filmmakers to take charge and say, 'I want to tell you my story.’

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"There are other ways to elicit sympathy - and maybe we'd been pushing on the same button for too long.”

Labour MP David Lammy, who is of Guyanese descent, previously criticised a Comic Relief appeal which saw documentary maker Stacey Dooley travel to Uganda to visit a neonatal clinic that the charity supported.

The MP said the images of Dooley holding a young Ugandan boy perpetuated "tired and unhelpful stereotypes," portraying "a colonial image of a white, beautiful heroine holding a black child, with no agency, no parents in sight.”

Mr Lammy added,"The world does not need any more white saviours.”

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In the past, a host of other celebrities - including Gary Barlow and Kimberley Walsh - have headed to Africa to film appeals for Comic Relief.

What is a ‘white saviour’?

The term ‘white saviour’ refers to a white person who acts to help non-white people, but who does so in a context which can be perceived as self-serving.

Some believe that when white celebrities pose for a photo with an African child or say that those who are in unfortunate and vulnerable situations are “brave,” it shows an element of privilege.

What will Comic Relief focus on instead?

Comic Relief said it was finalising new storytelling guidelines, and will work with media organisations across Africa in order to raise "awareness of wider narratives across the continent.”

The charity also promised to make all aspects of its production "more diverse and inclusive.”

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