It was the mother of all benefit gigs and it took place on this day in 1985. “The day the music changed the world” was what they called it and consequently stamped on the commemorative DVD.
It was one of the largest television broadcasts/satellite link-ups ever, reportedly viewed by more than 1.5 billion, in 60 countries, around the world.
As well as raising awareness of the plight of the starving in Africa, some say that a kitty holding somewhere in the region of £150 million was raised for famine relief as a direct result of the concerts, which saved between a million and two million lives.
David, of course, was at Wembley (with Bryan Ferry), but whose performances do you remember as being special? I thought U2 were excellent that day.
If you don’t already have it, there is an official four-disc set of the Live Aid concerts, which was released in November 2004. Proceeds go to the Band Aid Charitable Trust, which continues to support projects across Africa.
The spot where international focus was most firmly fixed following Michael Buerk’s harrowing news report, Ethiopia, today remains one of Africa’s poorest and most populous countries. Only 10 percent of its land is arable, its dry climate dictating that the cruel cycle of drought and famine does not come as a great shock. Ethiopian life expectancy, according to the UN, is a depressing 52-54 years, but that’s hardly surprising when you consider that 46% of the population are under-nourished, only 22% have access to safe drinking water, and there are three doctors per 100,000 potential patients.
23% of Ethiopians live on less than $1 a day and, even in an ‘average’ year, six million have to be fed by the outside world. Twice as many are hungry today than during the “biblical” famine of 1984/5 that spurred Bob Geldof to act.
Hold that thought.
I recently read a strongly-worded article by Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, entitled “Band Aid and ‘self-obsessed, angst-driven Western do-gooders'”.
You might care to do the same, but the following paragraph in particular made me stop and read again. If it has a similar effect on you, I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts, if you’ve got time to share them.
It has always intrigued me why the conscience of the West can only be pricked by degradation of other peoples. The process of getting westerners to part with their donations end up dehumanizing and degrading Africa. Instead of creating the much needed understanding and solidarity it creates an unequal power relation with psychological hang-ups about superior and inferior peoples; one is a permanent donor and the other is a permanent supplicant. That one-way street does not lead to understanding, rather it institutionalizes a ‘we know best’ attitude on the part of the humanitarian industry. It also makes the humanitarian agencies married to bad news from Africa, thereby becoming professional merchants of our misery.