This year it is the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest rock shows ever to have taken place – Live Aid. On the 13th July 1985 the world’s most successful rock musicians performed in London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium in aid of people affected by famine in Ethiopia, Africa.
Tickets for the Wembley concert were £25 – a lot of money back in 1985! Despite this, the 72,000 places available were quickly sold out. Some people wanted to attend for the charity, some for the music, and some for both reasons. Also, as one woman said in a short news report, Band Aid Rock Show, “It’s making history”. It certainly did!
There are many great images from Live Aid found in Jisc MediaHub, which really capture how special the event was. Tens of thousands attended the two concerts, with millions more watching on TV, making it the biggest benefit concert in history.
It was a ground-breaking event in a number of ways. An estimated 1.9 billion people from 150 countries watched both concerts live, so it is one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time. The 16 hour pop marathon began at midday on the 13th July in Wembley Stadium, with the London finale taking place just before 10pm, while the Philadelphia concert continued until 4am (British time).
Live Aid saw top musicians and recording artists come together for one cause. The image below shows, left to right, George Michael, event organiser Bob Geldof, Bono, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Jody Watley, Andrew Ridgeley and Howard Jones.
There are several really informative radio reports on the famine in Ethiopia, the organising of Live Aid, the event itself and the impact it had. Some examples are reports on Bob Geldof after Ethiopia Trip, Live Aid concert plans, Live Aid Concert, and Bob Geldof on Live Aid. These are all part of London Broadcasting Company/Independent Radio News Audio Archive Collection. The archive consists of 7,000 reel-to-reel tapes in a collection that runs from 1973 to the mid-1990s, and is the most important commercial radio archive in the UK.
Reports on the famine in Africa
The landmark Live Aid concerts were inspired by the need to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. There are several news reports in MediaHub on the 1984 famine. The report below, from a relief camp in Korem in Ethiopia, shows the desperate situation facing the Ethiopian people. Thanks to the raising of awareness and funds, some aid was being provided, but the distribution of food and clothing was being hampered by the lack of transport.
Another report on the Ethiopian famine shows that there were many more thousands of people who were not even able to get into the relief centres.
A year after Live Aid there was a famine in Western Sudan, and within these ITN Sudan famine rushes there is an interview with Bob Geldof on this desperate situation and what he intended to do to help.
Band Aid charity single “Do They Know it’s Christmas?”
The actual famine relief fund and awareness-raising effort started a year before Live Aid in 1984 when Bob Geldof saw images on television of the starving in Ethiopia. He called up Midge Ure, singer of the group Ultravox, and as a result co-wrote the song ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas?’. The single was recorded by a “super group” of fellow musicians under the name of Band Aid. The news report below shows some of the stars recording the song and the accompanying photo shoot.
Proceeds from the sale of the single (tens of millions of pounds, huge amounts in 1984) went to pay for shipping costs for all aid sent to drought stricken areas of Ethiopia, provided money saved by charities was used on further supplies for famine victims, as this Band Aid Relief News at Ten report details.
Honouring Bob Geldof
In 1986 Bob Geldof was given an Honorary Knighthood for his humanitarian work. He also received a Man of Peace award in 2005, which was presented at a ceremony in Rome’ s Capitoline Hill by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni. This award was in recognition of Geldof’s dedication to African issues, calling for debt cancellation and fair trade. As well as helping to organise Live Aid, Geldof organised the Live 8 concerts on 2nd July 2005 in cities around the world, including London and Rome, to raise awareness about Third World poverty.
Live 8 consisted of 10 concerts featuring over 1000 musicians from across the globe and asked people not for their money, but for their voice. These concerts were very deliberately scheduled to coincide with a high profile G8 conference and summit which was being held in Scotland, with Live8 publicising the Make Poverty History campaign which also held protests and marches across the UK around the G8 talks, including a protest in London addressed by Nelson mandela.
Other charity concerts
Since Live Aid there have been a number of other charity concerts that show similar ambition and scale. Here are some examples which are found in MediaHub.
As well as charity concerts in aid of famine and poverty, there have also been concerts (at all scales) to raise awareness of AIDS. MediaHub coverage of these include radio reports on the Concert of Hope held on World AIDS Day and organised by the National AIDS Trust (World AIDS Day Charity Concert), and the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS awareness organised by the three remaining members of Queen in memory of their lead singer who died of AIDS in 1991 (Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert; Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness; Roger Taylor and Brian May on Freddie Tribute).
Closer to home
There have also been a number of concerts and other events for the Prince’s Trust, a charity that supports 13 to 30 year-olds in the UK who are unemployed or who are struggling at school and at risk of exclusion. The charity was started by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, back in 1976. Below is a news report on a rock concert to celebrate 10 years of the Prince’s Trust and to raise money for the charity.
Other supporters of the charity included Michael Jackson, who presented Princess Diana and Prince Charles with a ‘Bad’ tour jacket and framed CDs at a Prince’s Trust charity event in London, and Barry Manilow, who became a goodwill ambassador for the charity.
Live AID setting the precedent
There has been some significant and fair criticism of the Band Aid, particularly evident around the 30th anniversary re-recording in aid of Ebola relief efforts – see for example Bim Adewunmi’s November 2014 Guardian article – ranging from the peculiarity of a Christmas lyrics for a country with a substantial Muslim population, the allegation that the lyrics promote a helpless and inaccurate image of both Ethiopia and Africa, to concerns about the absence of African performers in any of the Band Aid line ups, particularly the most recent release. However, there is no doubt that many of these criticisms partly reflect the huge success and enduring cultural memory of Live Aid and Band Aid in raising awareness and publicity – as well as a substantial amount of money (estimated at around £150 million to date) – that was genuinely beneficial for Ethiopia and the other African nations that the Band Aid Trust has continued to support since its inception.
Although there have been many benefit concerts around the world, Live Aid remains the greatest, due to its ground-breaking nature. If you were lucky enough to be at Live Aid or have vivid memories of the day it took place thirty years ago do let us know by leaving a comment. Hopefully, this post will bring back lots of wonderful memories. If you were not there, I hope you enjoy finding out about it and other charity concerts which are covered in Jisc MediaHub.