It is a poignant demonstration of advancing years to be able to remember ‘Liveaid’ in vivid detail. It happened in 1985. As far as I can tell it was the first of the big, blockbusting, heart-wrenching, celebrity-wridden charity-thons that have now become as much embedded in the fabric of our TV viewing as the weather forecast.
Liveaid was a thrilling event for me at the time. Incarcerated as I was, with two tiny tots and no prospect of a night out, it was the closest I was likely to get to a rock, or pop concert or indeed any kind of live entertainment [with the exception of ‘Postman Pat’ on stage at our local provincial theatre]. It was an iconic, riveting, humdinger of a concert, gluing us all to our screens so that we were hardly able to leave the room to put the kettle on, let alone make dinner or put children to bed, lest we miss Freddy Mercury strutting and cavorting or U2 belting out ‘In the Name….’ or The Who [whose set was disrupted by a few technical hitches, I seem to remember].
Nowadays charity fundraising events are part of the calendar, like Halloween or Mothers Day. Of course they are commendable, valuable exercises in drumming up cash for worthy causes, but am I alone in feeling fatigued by them? Yes, the likes of Lenny Henry, Dawn French etc have worked hard and no doubt selflessly every year to top previous the year’s total and are to be admired and thanked, and I am in no way criticising the ethic behind charity and the giving, but isn’t it time we approached national and world poverty in a different way?
A cynic would say that the ‘slebs’ are not all wholly in it for altruistic reasons. I’m sure it does nothing to harm Claudia Winkelman’s career to be out there, yet again, ‘presenting’. [Why is she on almost every TV programme?]. But you have to wonder what the poor, sick people of Africa have done to deserve to be visited by the likes of ‘One Direction’. Isn’t their predicament desperate enough already? And these ‘slebs’ are not short of a bob or two themselves. They are asking recession-hit Brits to dig deep into almost empty pockets. Why not simply forget about the dodgy comedy and donate a big wodge themselves?
Watching Jessie Jay have her head shaved, or Simon Cowell pretending to be a comedian does not provoke me into getting my cheque book out. What does affect me though, is to see and hear stories about struggling peoples’ lives. Back in 1985 it was Michael Burke’s tragic and moving account of the starvation and dying children in Ethiopia that brought tears to the eyes. Surely some sympathetic journalism, together with taxation and a consistent, philanthropic approach by governments in wealthier nations makes more sense than this tired circus that comes round with relentless regularity?
…or am I too much of a party pooper?