Stacey Dooley

What: Stacey Dooley talks to Imogen Walford
When: Thursday 23 May 2019, 5.30pm
Where: Hay Festival, Hay On Wye, Herefordshire

We’ve previously reviewed Stacey Dooley’s book here at Force Mujer, and it’s safe to say we’re big fans of one of Britain’s most loved investigative reporters. In May, we took this appreciation one step further, joining the sold-out crowd at Hay Festival, to see Stacey on stage at her only personal appearance.

At just 21, fashion lover Stacey’s life left the perfume department of Luton Airport, to travel to India for the BBC3 series ‘Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts’. Here, she explored the Indian fashion industry making clothes for the UK High Street and highlight to the British public, just where their clothes come from. This was 2007, long before our current consumer outcry at waste and worker exploitation, and Stacey has been at the forefront of this movement ever since.

After returning home, Stacey began campaigning against child labour, organising charity events and raising awareness. Here at Hay Festival, Stacey reveals that the BBC approached her, having seen how natural she was in front of the camera- curious and interested- and offered her a series of her own.

Stacey has gone on to produce a substantial number of documentaries, all terrifyingly dangerous and in-depth, covering topics, from sex trafficking in Cambodia to Yazidi women fighting back in Syria. Stacey finds the women in these situations, Russian sex workers, Filipino paedophiles, and victims of domestic violence in Honduras. Stacey talked the audience through some of the most significant documentaries, notably, her time in Syria. There, she explains, she met with Syrian women who were beaten, saw their families killed, and was present as these women armed themselves and fought back on the front line. In one clip, she explains, she was truly terrified, unprepared for an explosion. She ducks, anticipating an attack, but her companions laugh. She was offered the opporunity to cut this out of her show, but she refused, believing this to be an important truth that was needed in her film. It is this honesty and bravery that makes Stacey’s documentaries so successful.

Stacey also discussed the drama she found herself embroiled in with MP David Lammy. The MP accused Stacey of being a “white saviour”, criticising celebrities who visited African countries on the behalf of charities and post photos of themselves with black people.

Stacey explains,
“I never really had a conversation with David Lammy. He never picked up the phone. He never came to me and said: ‘Can I have 20 minutes of your time? I’d love to tell you what my concerns are.’ I’m a reasonable, rational woman. I would have sat down and listened to what he had to say. I wonder, and I’m speculating because he hasn’t come to me, I wonder if he thought I had just done Strictly and thought: ‘Right, I’m going to go and help all these countries in Africa now,’ show that I’m this holier-than-thou do-gooder.”

It is likely that this is true of some celebrities, but Stacey states that she has been posting these photos of herself with children on Instagram on the sites of many of her documentaries. The child at the centre of this episode was a Ugandan boy, whose grandfather Stacey’s team were working with and spending time with. She clarifies that she got permission to take and post the photo from the family. “The idea that she would walk up to a child with no existing relationship for a picture was “farcical … I know how to conduct myself. I know how to behave.”

This was a fantastic event. Stacey is strong, interesting and honest, which makes her a fantastic guest for speaking events, which are also qualities that make her documentaries so gripping.

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