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Female talent remains top secret at Amnesty’s Policeman’s Ball

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Russell Brand part of the all-male line up for the Secret Policeman's Ball

Polly Trenow
WVoN co-editor 

Amnesty International has come under fire after announcing the line-up for its popular annual event, the Secret Policeman’s Ball.

Critics have expressed their concern that the line-up of comedians and musicians for this important annual event is all male and virtually all white.

The event, which is being held in New York for Amnesty’s fiftieth anniversary year, will feature comedians Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Russell Brand. Comedy duo Armstrong and Miller have also voiced an animation to promote the event.

Two all-white and all male bands, Coldplay and Mumford and Sons are also set to headline.

Reggie Watts is the only non-white performer set to appear.

Prominent feminist bloggers Bidisha and Cath Elliot raised their concern about the lack of diversity in the line-up when it was announced at the end of last month.

Bidisha claims she has been contacted by a high up “charity world insider” who expressed concern at Amnesty’s lack of cultural diversity.

The anonymous source is quoted on Bidisha’s blog as saying “[Amnesty] don’t learn from their mistakes – or perhaps they don’t think it was a mistake – they have been known to rely on such sayings as ‘it’s not about political correctness it’s about quality.’

“It’s a shame but basically Amnesty is not standing up for everyone.”

Apparently without irony, the press release announcing the line-up for the event quotes Amnesty International Spokesperson, Andy Hackman, as saying,“This year’s Secret Policeman’s Ball brings together an incredible representation of the best comedians and musicians in the world.”

Amnesty International say their vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

The Secret Policeman’s Ball is an event dedicated to free speech which was started in 1976 by John Cleese.

Examining the history of poor representation of women at the Secret Policeman’s Ball, prominent feminist writer and blogger Bidisha says,

“Amnesty are demonstrating with typical conviction and more than 30 years’ countable commitment to cultural femicide that when putting together an event in support of global human rights and free speech, you must get as many white men to perform as humanly, globally, rightfully possible.”

In 2008, Amnesty international came under fire when the newly launched Amnesty TV was led by an all white and all male team.

The news of the line-up came in the same week the BBC released a report criticising  panel shows including Mock the Week and QI for their lack of female representation.

  1. Heather Kennedy says:

    Thanks for this Polly. Have Amnesty said anything in response?

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