BFI accused of stealing concept of Thirst Aid Kit podcast

The British Film Institute has been accused of “erasing” a popular podcast series after the launch of a forthcoming film season that shares part of its title, covers the same themes and has similar artwork.

Thirst: Female Desire on Screen was announced last week, with the BFI being accused of stealing the concept of Thirst Aid Kit, which was launched by the former Guardian columnist Bim Adewunmi and the US writer Nichole Perkins in October 2017.

Thirst Aid Kit promises to “dig deep into the various ways women express their thirst”, while the BFI season is billed as a series that will “flip the switch on a century of the male gaze and find space for women’s own lust and sexual expression in film”.

The BFI, which says it is trying to get in touch with the Thirst Aid Kit team, was accused of erasing the impact of the podcast by its hosts, who said it was “disappointing to see a lack of acknowledgment”.

A spokesperson for the BFI said: “We are giving this our full attention and taking it very seriously. We have approached Thirst Aid Kit and would like to speak with them before we comment more fully on this matter.”

Thirst Aid Kit

Wow! This sounds great. Hope our invitation arrives soon! @BFI @christinalefou

February 15, 2020

The author and journalist Musa Okwonga called the “omission” of Adewunmi and Perkins awful, while others said the BFI was appropriating culture and “stealing concepts” from black women. The hosts of Thirst Aid Kit, which has been praised for its normalising of female desire, said they had been called “deluded narcissists” for pointing out the similarities between the season and the podcast.

“If people prefer to be obtuse and accuse us of claiming we are the first people in the history of the world to discuss female desire, if that makes them feel better about denying our place in this discourse, have at it,” they tweeted. “We deserve more than a footnote.”

Christina Newland, who programmed the BFI season and has edited a new book of essays about female desire and cinema called She Found It at the Movies, said she began writing about the subject in October 2017 and did not become aware of the podcast until early 2019, after she had started work on the book.

“I always admired what they’ve done but it was something that has existed side by side,” Newland told the Guardian. “We are people who have likeminded interests, but I’m in no way inspired by them. Female desire is such a wide-ranging subject and we were having different conversations about it at the same time.”

She said she had approached Perkins twice last year about being involved in the book. Newland said she thought there was “something going on with the optics” when asked about aesthetic similarities but that as a freelancer she had no say on the final design. She also tweeted that the design of the season was partly inspired by a 1977 issue of Playgirl.

Christina Newland

The inspiration for the THIRST season artwork courtesy of a 1977 issue of Playgirl 😎

February 14, 2020

Similar accusations of plagiarism were levelled against the BBC last year when the Guardian columnist Yomi Adegoke said the corporation had “ripped off” the phrase “slay in your lane”, which featured in an ad campaign and was also the title of a book she co-authored.

Adegoke wrote about the experience for the Guardian, saying: “White men and women co-opting a phrase trademarked by two black women for a campaign, then fronting it with a black woman to feign some form of affiliation is shocking.”

In July 2019, the publisher of a book about racism in the UK was accused of plagiarising Reni Eddo-Lodge’s bestselling polemic Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race after releasing a book with a similar cover design and title.

Ben Lindsay, the author of We Need To Talk About Race, and its publisher, SPCK, said the book’s design was inspired by the posters used in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, adding: “Reni’s book, along with numerous other titles, focused on race relations, share this same inspiration.” Writing at the time, Adegoke said the approach taken by SPCK showed the “copy and paste” attitude publishers had towards minority authors.


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