Entertainment & Arts

Sport Relief and Red Nose Day make changes to foreign appeal films

Ed Sheeran Image copyright Comic Relief
Image caption Ed Sheeran made a Comic Relief film in Liberia last year

Sport Relief isn't using appeal films showing stars visiting developing countries after complaints that they were akin to "poverty tourism".

Sport Relief, which is on TV on the BBC on Friday, takes place every other year, alternating with Red Nose Day.

The Comic Relief charity runs both events and said most of its films would just feature people who live in those countries speaking for themselves.

MP David Lammy had said they portrayed Africans as "victims to be pitied".

The Sport Relief and Red Nose Day telethons usually feature clips of well-known personalities meeting people in places where the charity works, including Africa.

'Local heroes'

But Comic Relief chief executive Liz Warner said: "This year, we are putting people at the heart of the films.

"We haven't sent celebrities, for the night of TV, to Africa. People are telling their stories in their own voices, and we are using local heroes."

A 2017 Red Nose Day film fronted by Ed Sheeran, about street children in Liberia, was named the "most offensive" campaign last year by a fundraising pressure group.

In it, the singer was seen meeting a young boy before offering to pay for a hotel for him and his friends. The Radi-Aid awards said it was almost "poverty tourism".

Warner told Radio 4's World at One they were continuing to work with celebrities - just in a different way.

"It's in our DNA," she said of having stars at the centre of their campaigns. "But we're continuing to evolve how we make our films."

Asked about the Sheeran film, she added: "We're very proud of what Ed did. The celebrities give of their time and they do amazing things for us. We're just trying to work out how we work with them."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ball cycled more than 350 miles from her home town to where she lives now

The charity plans to enlist more celebrities to speak about issues that are close to their hearts - such as with Zoe Ball's cycling challenge to raise awareness of male mental health.

Friday's Sport Relief will include a film about street children in Uganda. It will be introduced by Rio Ferdinand, but he will not appear in the clip himself. Instead, it will feature the children and a charity worker.

Stars will appear in films about the UK, though, with John Bishop fronting a clip about a project near his home in the north-west of England.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDavid Lammy says African people are "equals to be respected, not as victims to be pitied".

Sport Relief, which aims to raise millions for disadvantaged people in the UK and around the world, is a week-long event this year, culminating in the live broadcast on Friday night.

The move comes after David Lammy made a film for BBC Two's Daily Politics, saying Comic Relief had "tattooed images of poverty in Africa to our national psyche" - and was not showing the full reality of life on the continent.

"Sports Relief should be helping to establish the people of Africa as equals to be respected, not as victims to be pitied," he said.

"So, rather than getting celebrities to act as tour guides, why not get Africans to talk for themselves about the continent and the problems that they know?"

'Step in the right direction'

Lammy has agreed to talk to Comic Relief - and has been invited to make a film for them himself.

He said on Friday: "I am pleased that Comic Relief has listened to concerns that I have raised and will be making changes to their output.

"I hope that the films they make will respect and empower African people and amplify their voices instead of patronising them. This represents a step in the right direction and some progress."

Sport Relief is on BBC One from 19:00 on Friday.

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