An Interview with Stacey Dooley
The new face of documentary film-making in the UK, Stacey Dooley’s down-to-earth approach helps her draw the truth out of people and has engaged a new generation of young viewers. Her BBC series saw her meeting arms dealers in the USA, talking to female suicide bombers in Nigeria, tackling Russia’s war on women and discussing paramilitary attacks in Northern Ireland. Last year her series Stacey Dooley: Face to Face with ISIS was nominated for two Grierson Awards.
Not averse to the bright lights either, the Strictly Come Dancing champion of 2018 will soon be stepping out on a nationwide tour. In ‘Conversations with Stacey Dooley’ she’ll be sharing stories from her career so far, as well as discussing the challenges of journalism in a polarised global political climate and a constantly shifting media landscape
Are you excited to be back on tour?
I am so genuinely excited to be back on tour. I’d never done anything like this prior to my previous tour with Fane in 2018. I didn’t really know what to expect or how it was going to play out or what the reaction was going to be, but it was just a room full of really interesting and really interested people. I also got to meet them afterwards at the book signing; it was brilliant, I loved it!
Do you think the world of documentary film making has changed much since you started out your career?
Yes, I suspect it probably has. I took part in a series called Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts when I had just turned 20 and I’m 33 in March. I think documentaries have come back into fashion, certainly over the past few years, everyone has a growing obsession with Louis Theroux, it’s at an all-time high. I think we are very curious, there is this insatiable appetite for information. And we are in a position now where we can find out what’s going on around the world. It’s very immediate, so I feel really lucky to be a part of that scene and documentaries always rate brilliantly and they always do really well.
“Never take for granted that people are on your side”
What would you say has been your career highlight to date?
Oh wow! I’ve made loads of films, but you’re proud of different films for different reasons. The films we made concerning the Yazidi community in Iraq are some of the ones perhaps I’m most proud of. Having said that, we have just made a really compelling documentary – I think it will be really important – about psychosis and mental health more broadly in South London, so much closer to home. I’m really proud of that.
If I told a very young Stacey Dooley that she’d be touring the country one day, what would she say?
I mean I would have probably believed it; my teachers might have told you otherwise. You know, I’ve said this a million times, you never take for granted that people are on your side and support you and are interested in what you have to say. It could have gone very differently for me, so I’m full of gratitude. Really very lucky.
What is your fondest memory of Strictly Come Dancing?
I shouldn’t say winning, should I? Because that’s too showy. Kev and I loved the Paso. I was never going to be the best dancer; I was against a Pussy Cat Doll (Ashley Roberts) and a girl from Steps (Faye Tozer) – both amazing dancers. So, it was just about us taking ownership of our own journey. The Paso was when I felt really proud actually of what we were able to achieve. It felt like a real story, there was narrative there and it was storytelling in a different way. I loved the Paso so much it was brilliant. Also, learning how to dance from one of the best dancers in the country was a real treat; it was amazing, the best time!
“I’m very, very low key”
You have met many people from different walks of life – who is the most interesting person you’ve met?
I’d be pushed to say one! That’s the highlight of the job you know, you go to the most unusual parts of the world, sometimes you are in hostile environments and sometimes you’re surrounded by extreme privilege – and you just meet people that you just wouldn’t cross paths with ordinarily and I love that. I met Barack Obama when he came over here, that was pretty cool. I have interviewed Theresa May, and lots of politicians around the world. I’m very, very fortunate in that sense. There is never a dull moment.
What do you do to relax?
My favourite thing of all time, well, one of my favourite things is just sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea watching Only Fools and Horses or The Royle Family. That’s my favourite pastime. Also scrolling through Instagram at Net-a-Porter looking at stuff I don’t need. I’m very, very low key, not particularly rock’n’roll. I’m a real homebody!
What else will you be working on before the tour starts?
It’s non-stop. I’m doing Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star at the minute which is a make-up show, and then when I finish that I’m going off to do a documentary on spy cameras, and then I’m going to a few places where we will be looking at new drug routes. After that I go to USA to spend some time with women serving life in prison, then in January and February I will be doing the Strictly tour, which I wrap on the 9th and then on the 10th I start my book tour in Glasgow, which is very exciting.
Top image: Matthew Shave