Fresh from her stint hosting the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour, popular journalist Stacey Dooley has undertaken a tour of her own, hosting a series of ‘Conversations With’ across the country.
Last Friday, she arrived at St David’s Hall in Cardiff with close friend and singer Jessie Ware on hand to ask the all important questions.
Appearing on stage to the Spice Girls track ‘Spice Up Your Life’, as the evening unfolded, it soon became apparent that Stacey has certainly got plenty of incredible stories to share.
Coupled with short video clips from her earliest ventures into broadcasting (which she now admits make her cringe) through to her most recent work spending time exploring mental health issues on a psychiatric ward at Springfield Hospital in London, the evening provided a fascinating insight into not only her career, but the wide range of people she has encountered when making her shows.
It is interesting to hear that far from being a polished professional, Stacey’s journalistic career started when she spotted an advert as a teenager. Her first foray into documentary making came when she was whisked away from her job selling perfume at Luton airport to film inside an Indian clothes factory where she uncovered illegal child labour. But it was her refreshing reporting style and the fact that she didn’t conform to the normal ideals that persuaded the BBC Three producers to offer her further projects.
Fast forward ten years and Stacey has established herself as one of Britain’s most celebrated broadcasters. Addressing challenging issues and placing herself at the heart of conflicts around the world, Stacey offers a human perspective on the topics she tackles.
During the evening, she recalls with fondness the strong bonds she made with some of the subjects of her films. One in particular, clearly left a lasting impression as she reveals that Shireen, who was kidnapped and imprisoned in Mosul and who later, alongside Stacey confronted a captured ISIS commander, still keeps in contact via text message. It was through this communication that Stacey learnt that some time after the documentary was aired, Shireen and her sister, were reunited.
It is these human moments that set Stacey apart. On stage, she chats easily and freely, cup of tea in hand. There are no airs and graces, everything comes naturally. At the start of the show, Jessie announces that they will try their best not to swear but the resolution lasts only a matter of minutes. Yet it is not gratuitous, it is simply her style and the evening flows as naturally as if we were all friends sitting around reminiscing on the sofa at home.
After the interval, it was the audience’s turn to ask the questions via the #askstacey hashtag on Twitter. This revealed some more lighthearted moments, with a couple of cute references to boyfriend Kevin Clifton, who she met during her time on Strictly, thrown in for good measure.
As the show finished, Stacey announced she would be signing copies of her book, ‘On the Front Line With the Women Who Fight Back’ in the foyer. Such is the extent of her popularity, the queue snaked around the building, so much so that an hour later, she was still autographing books and posing for photographs, thanking everyone in turn for coming to see the show.
This is the Dooley effect. Natural, down to earth and brilliant at her craft. An evening that will live long in the memory.
Watch Stacey’s latest documentary about mental health via BBC iPlayer here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p082bxzn