What UK comedy critic Kate Copstick did when she wore a burka last week

Kate Copstick in Kenya last week

Kate Copstick at work in Kenya last week

The annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards have been given since 2007 and will run until at least 2017. As usual, there will be a Malcolm Hardee Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The show is free which, in Edinburgh, means audience members can donate money when they leave the venue if they want to.

Once again this year, 100% of all donations will go to the Mama Biashara charity run by Kate Copstick, doyenne of British comedy critics.

Copstick (as she likes to be known) is currently in Kenya.

Mama Biashara helps poor people in Kenya (mostly women) set up their own small businesses by giving small grants – sometimes as little as £5.00 – to individuals to set up businesses which will give them a life – Copstick looks on it as a hand up not just a hand out.

No-one involved with Mama Biashara (including Copstick) receives any salary. No-one receives any travel, accommodation or any other reimbursement of costs. 100% of all money raised goes to the people for whom it can do most.

As well as giving small start-up grants to small businesses, Mama Biashara holds local medical clinics. The extract below from Copstick’s diary describes one such clinic she held last week and perhaps puts the self-obsessions of British comedians struggling to build their careers into a wider context…


Doris calls to say we have a venue and a crowd of illnesses. She tells us to drive past the posho mill and she will find us. We do. She does. And announces another change of plan.

The local Mosque, late but to great effect, have, along with the call to noon prayers, broadcast a call to the sick to come to the Mosque to be healed. So we are diverted into the Mosque. As luck would have it, I have my new Sudese with me and am able to burka-up. Wouldn’t want a fatwa.

We are shown into a sort of side storage room and ‘bang!’ the doctor is in. We have a list of thirty. And a crowd of about fifty. At odds with the written list, the boss man outside seems to be sending in the men first. As the sounds of screaming babies rises, I poke my head out and query this. The men have to go work, he says. I suggest in the nicest possible way that our medical workshops are really focussed on women and children who are really sick. He nods and smiles. And ushers in yet another of Allah’s more ancient male followers.

This gentleman is 110 years old, he tells us. He has some aches and pains and has a little difficulty going to the loo. He is followed by a relative youngster (82). He is obviously unwell. He is shaking and is suffering pains that suggest he has a urinary tract infection that has reached his kidneys. I ask if he is having trouble going to the loo. “I have a pipe” he says. Five minutes later I am in the toilet with the old man and he is fumbling with his nether garments. I am expecting to be shown a catheter in his penis and steel myself for a wrinkly old willy.

Imagine my shock when he exposes a lower abdomen with a plastic tube sticking out of it, like an overflow pipe in a wall. As the inside of his undies does not exactly smell of roses, it is no stretch of anyone’s imagination as to how he might have got this infection. I need to see him again and talk to the doctor who did this. Meanwhile he is improving on antibiotic bombs and a strict regime of disinfecting the end of the pipe.

We manage to smuggle in a girl from another workshop who is HIV+ with a CD4 count of 4. We will see what the marvellous multivitamins and cod liver oil provided by HTC can do for her. This could be their best advert yet !!

She is followed by a child with hideous eruptions on her arms. The eruptions do go all over her body and come and go for no discernible reason. Big scabby lumps which in some cases are extruding pink pus (presumably because it has blood in it). I get Doris to add her to the Hospital list. There are wheezes and swellings and the usual pains in the usual places.

There is also a younger man who also has waterwork trouble. He passes water all the time. And confides (amazingly for an African man) that he suffers from premature ejaculation. Adding that his wife is not happy. Then there is a beautiful girl with two sick children – one of whom sounds like the proverbial old cab horse – who, once they have been attended to, says she has problems with ulcers in her vagina. I ask what they look like and she obligingly (with the kids out of the room and Doris guarding the door) whips off her nether garments and shows me.

I realise that it is probably wholly inappropriate to notice things like this but, small ulcers aside, she has a truly beautiful vagina. It is like a dusky rose.

We don’t leave until well after seven and notice, as we do, that the waiting crowd is bigger than it was when we started. ‘Tis ever so. We agree to come back the following week. I shall have to rinse through the burka. It is amazing how you get used to living in something between a small tent and a big onesie, but it is a fairly sweaty business.

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Filed under Charity, Comedy, Kenya, Medical

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