Clarissa Dickson Wright's Controversial Time in The Spotlight
Delightfully acerbic she was, but her more forthright reviews shouldn't be forgotten
As family, friends and fans of the late Clarissa Dickson Wright mourn her death, memories of her on-screen work as a TV chef and off-screen endeavours as a political activist are remembered.
Clarissa Dickson Wright died at a hospital in Edinburgh having been ill for a while
But, like the current mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Dickson-Wright’s effervescent persona and comically posh accent distracted from her more controversial moments. “Loved dearly by her friends and many fans all over the world, Clarissa was utterly non-PC and fought for what she believed in, always, with no thought to her own personal cost,” read a statement announcing her death.
The “utterly non-PC” part of her character so blatantly eulogised by that statement wasn’t as jovial as her agent - Heather Holden-Brown – makes out. While she was an important advocate for sobriety having overcome alcoholism herself, and a valuable addition to the fight for environmental issues, Dickson-Wright certainly had her time in the spotlight for some less savoury outward opinions.
In November 2012, she detailed her experiences in Leicestershire in her book. With her comments, she passed judgement on an entire culture, race and religion of people through one encounter – an encounter that comprised mainly of being near some Muslim people.
"I found myself in an area where all the men were wearing Islamic clothing and all the women were wearing burkas and walking slightly behind them," she wrote. She said the men would not talk to her "because I was an English female and they don't talk to females they don't know".
She added: "Here I was, in the heart of a city in the middle of my own country, a complete outcast and pariah. If multiculturalism works, which I have always been rather dubious of, surely it must be multicultural and not monocultural. I can only hope that in generations to come there will be a merging of the cultures and not the exclusion zone that is the ghetto."
Never hiding away from the contentious issues, Dickson-Wright at least remained consistent with her convictions. On fox hunting, she once said: “I can understand why people don’t like fox hunting and they’re entitled to their views but that doesn’t give them the right to stop other people doing it.”
Of course her acerbic wit was funny to watch; she was fully complicit in a show in which she was one of two “fat ladies,” so to suggest she was unaware of herself in relation to the rest of society would be unfair. Equally, though, the increasing joviality attached to the right wing, upper class and their frankly backward attitudes isn’t something to be dismissed because of a funny accent and a quick-fire conversational backhand.