Tinie Tempah And Sol Campbell 'Turn White' To Encourage Minority Voters

By Stuart Black Last edited 36 months ago
Tinie Tempah And Sol Campbell 'Turn White' To Encourage Minority Voters

A bold and provocative new campaign by Operation Black Vote features black celebrities — including Tinie Tempah and Sol Campbell — painted white to encourage minority ethnic group voters to participate in the upcoming general election — and crucially to register to vote by the 20 April deadline.

Headlined ‘Don’t take the colour out of Britain’, the poster campaign aims to shake up complacency with startling images that invert the bygone but still offensive practice of ‘minstrelling’ — something that was also cleverly lampooned in the recent London stage hit The Scottsboro Boys.

In the posters, music star Tinie Tempah is painted white from the neck down, while former England football captain Sol Cambell is white from the neck up. Other celebrities to take part are Homeland actor David Harewood and Paralympic basketball champion Ade Adepitan.

Campaign director Simon Woolley told Londonist: "The campaign has received a huge amount of publicity already because of the controversy caused by black celebrities 'whiting up', a metaphor now understood by a large audience in London and beyond."

"That metaphor is that this country's public life and political institutions lose their colour, diversity, energy and dynamism without the active participation of our black and minority ethnic population. This message is particularly important in the run up to the May 7 general election."

"The deadline to register to vote is Monday, April 20, and the OBV campaign is designed to increase the number of BME people who are registered to vote as currently they are under-represented. As a consequence their voice is not heard and the issues that are important to them are not addressed."

According to OBV, “black and minority ethnic groups could affect the outcome in 168 marginal seats.” Along with raising awareness, the group has also developed a handy smartphone app that allows you to register your entire family and local neighbourhood to vote on your phone — for more info click here.

The photos were taken by Rankin with Saatchi & Saatchi producing the campaign.

Last Updated 16 April 2015

Mark Wilson

Playing devil's advocate here with some fairly challenging questions;
Why is this okay when the opposite is so toxic?
How do mixed race voters feel about being told their views don't count?
When it's a private ballot, as voting currently is, why should the race of the voter be the issue here?
Does being 'white' now have the same connotations in the 21st century as being 'British' in the 1980s; the assumption of colonialism/racism?
Is it right that white people now have to be those who are treated unequally to balance out previous generations wrongs and the imbalances in society?
Can you be a 'proud black man' but not a 'proud white man' (or other colours)?

These ads also could suggest that the reason there are less non-white MPs is because there are less non-white voters and, ipso facto, non-white voters will only vote for non-white MPs.

Crack on...


I might make myself up in 'black face' and as part of 'operation white vote' go out under the banner 'dont take the white of britain' with the aim of encouraging white voters to participate in the upcoming general election — and crucially to register to vote by the 20 April deadline.

Do you think I will be arrested?

Egg shoddy

Well whiteys you are a minority in your own capital city, so maybe you should think about your own campaign. Al Jolson forever!


The image of a black person being white in this case is a metaphor that accepts that, in David Harewood's phrase, 'people of colour' have qualities to offer our democracy which if they don't register to vote, our democracy loses. June Sarpong got it immediately when she was on Loose Women...she said diversity should be celebrated as it was positive, dynamic, exciting, energised. These are qualities this country needs and is clearly missing in our political institutions. This is a great campaign as it has people talking and hopefully understanding the message - register to vote and play your role in our democracy.

Jade smith

The idea that this campaign the other way round would be unacceptable is stupid because white people are more likely to vote therefore the campaign wouldn't exist in the first place. BUT I still find this sort of thing annoying because in my eyes it doesn't matter whether you are white, black, purple or green it is important to have your say and vote. In my opinion campaigns like this separate people even more and vilify white people for being white and voting.