Thursday, July 18The Voice of London

“An all-white Christmas”: comedy gig sparks debate over lack of diversity

A benefit gig arranged by British comedian Harry Hill for the muscular dystrophy charity, Action Duchenne, prompted a conversation on Twitter about diversity and tokenism on comedy bills.

The Christmas musical special show is set to feature stars; Alan Carr, Al Murray, Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Jason Manford, Rob Brydon, John Bishop, Sara Pascoe, Joe Lycett and others, on 4th December.

Comedian, Lolly Adefope drew attention to the fact that the lineup of 24 acts lacked diversity with a tweet saying “someone’s dreaming of a white Christmas.”

Her tweet attracted a lot of support. But for some, it touched a nerve. One of the acts, Joe Lycett, unfollowed Adefope on Twitter. While, in a series of tweets that now appear to be deleted, Jason Manford responded to the claims that the gig wasn’t deliberately all-white.

“In fairness to Harry I know for a fact he asked a lot of his pals of all different heritage, but people said no, and these are the folks who said yes and didn’t cancel. For example, I know @omid9 (Omid Djalili) was scheduled but now isn’t able to. I take your point but does seem a little harsh,” he tweeted.

“What’s harsh?” she commented.

Manford responded: “I think it’s harsh using this particular example on social media (knowing how Twitter works) to make what is at most other times, a very valid and worthwhile point.

“I agree with you, I’m on your side, you only need to see my lineups for Manford’s comedy clubs & the acts I get to support me on tour.”

Writer, Otegha Uwagba added to the conversation with a string of tweets: “And to those who’ve implied that it just happened to end up being all-white, and it wasn’t through design (hi @JasonManford).. that is bullshit.

Programming an all-white lineup of this scale is 100% an indicator of your unconscious bias, whether you admit it or not.”

 

Lolly Adefope has since posted: “I think a gig can support a charity, and be diverse, and have a great lineup – it’s called multitasking.

And if diversity isn’t important to you, then that’s fine, that’s absolutely your prerogative. But I’m still going to call it out when I see it. Good intentions shouldn’t close you off to conversation.”

In a statement issued through Harry Hill’s publicist, organised vow to ‘address the issue’ and ‘apologise ‘for any offence caused’.  

They said: “The event is being organised by Harry Hill in aid of a charity he has supported for a number of years as patron. Harry has enlisted comedians who are giving up their time for free to support the cause at Christmas” – acts who weren’t aware of the full line-up.

Harry asked a diverse range of comedians if they were available, with conversations with others still ongoing, and the line-up reflects who could perform on the day at the time of the event going on sale.

We fully acknowledge in hindsight that the lineup and marketing doesn’t represent the diversity of the comedy industry and should have been addressed prior to being released.

We apologise for any offence caused; it was never the intention of the organisers to present a non-diverse line-up, and we’re sorry that Action Duchenne have found themselves in the middle of the discussion around it.

We are looking at how best to address the issue, and we remain hopeful that the event raises money and awareness for an important cause. We welcome contact from any acts that would like to take part on what we’re sure will be a brilliant night, and once again apologise for any offence caused.” (source: Chortle.co.uk)

Words: Lauren Coppin Campbell | Subbing: Lucija Duzel

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