Stacey Dooley: Strictly is a form of “escapism” from my “harrowing” documentary work

The investigative journalist discusses her new Children in Need documentary, The Young and Homeless, and how she hopes Strictly will introduce a whole new audience to her films

Stacey Dooley: The Young and Homeless (BBC, EH)

Strictly Come Dancing star Stacey Dooley will be best known to BBC1’s Saturday night audience as a nimble dancer, moving and shaking her way across the ballroom clad in glitter and feathers. But to her documentary fans she is, in her own words, much more “straight and serious”.

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And we’ll be seeing more of that side of Stacey on Tuesday night, as Dooley returns with another insightful film, this time for Children in Need – Stacey Dooley: The Young and Homeless.

In the film, Dooley meets desperately vulnerable teenage boys and girls who are sleeping rough in the UK. Many of the youngsters have been kicked out by their families and find themselves on the streets when they no longer have access to the care system.

“There are over 100,000 young people who are homeless and actually experts believe the number to be much higher,” says Dooley, “because young people feel embarrassed so they don’t come and ask for help – it’s a huge problem…

“It’s difficult meeting 17, 18 year olds that are sleeping out on the streets – you can’t help but compare their lives to where you were at that age; they’re polar opposites: my concerns were going out and having enough money for the weekend, theirs are, ‘How am I going to eat? How am I going to get a bed tonight? How am I not going to get beaten up by someone who’s walking home drunk?’”

In contrast to her “sobering” investigative work, Strictly offers some light relief. “One of the main reasons why I said yes to Strictly is that work is so intense and so full on and harrowing and I have to be very straight and very serious – and rightly so,” says Dooley.

“But it’s nice to be able to enjoy the lighter side of life as well and the flamboyant, frivolous side of things. It’s escapism for me, I’m loving it.”

Dooley’s most hard-hitting work includes BBC3 shows such as Face to Face with ISIS, in which she went to Iraq to investigate how young women’s lives were irrevocably changed by Islamic State, and Shot by My Neighbour which looked at paramilitary-style attacks in Northern Ireland.

“It’s important that I’m very straight and serious in my documentaries because these people are having a really difficult time, but that’s not all of me,” says Dooley, “that’s not my whole persona, there are other sides.”

Dooley reveals she wants to take her Strictly professional partner Kevin Clifton with her to watch her filming documentaries, but “I just haven’t had the opportunity to bring him along yet”.

And she is hoping that her involvement in the competition will help to introduce a whole new audience to her films. “Our demographic before Strictly was probably the BBC3 crowd, a younger crowd and now Strictly has opened us up to a different audience, which is great. You want as many as people as possible to watch the documentaries and to be aware of what’s going on.”

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Stacey Dooley: The Young and Homeless airs on 13th November at 10:45pm on BBC1