Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Twenty Five Years On.

It's the twenty fifth anniversary of Live Aid today. I remember it so clearly not just as a great concert but as a seminal and epic act of unity. For my generation I think July 13th 1985 marked a clear moment when the politics of compassion, in what was a fairly lean decade, rose to the top of the agenda and brought us all together.

I was fourteen and remember running home to record the whole sixteen hours on Betamax video. I still have them sitting with my DVDs. Useless, but sacred. It was a teenage right of passage. So many highlights. Elvis Costello singing All You Need is Love with the lyrics scrawled on his hand. Freddie Mercury controlling the crowd with Radio Gaga, Bono going walkabout, Bob Geldof stopping mid line on The Lesson Today is how to Die and then swearing live on the telly, The Cars video of Drive, Mick Jagger and Tina Turner... etc. etc. We'd heard of Woodstock, of protest songs, of guitars being set alight, we'd been impressed by the resistance. Live Aid was front foot, however. It was a different response to events.

We bought the records, T-shirts and donated our money, but beyond that began to realise that we had possibilities, that we could do things, that we could change the world. It was an amazing feeling. We'd seen the pictures of the Ethiopian famine - but hadn't understood the power we had to end it. I grew up a lot during that concert.

Live Aid gave us optimism. It celebrated being young and implicitly suggested that we concentrate our energy, loyalty, and compassion on global issues. It put my life on a fast forward and the euphoria and momentum of that day seemed to roll on and on, making the second half of the decade seem ripe for non violent revolutions, a brief period of exhilaration before the Gulf war brought us crashing back to earth. The Berlin Wall came down, Thatcher fell, Mandela was released and we felt part of it, influential, responsible, progressive. Sadly it couldn't last and the bullish belief that poverty could be conquered slipped slowly down the agenda. It flared again, albeit briefly, five years ago when huge swathes of developing world debt was cancelled - but is now, once again, losing currency in a world obsessed with the fight against terrorism and market vulnerability.

Live Aid has a living legacy, however. It raised everybodies consciousness and put international development centre stage in our political lives. Quite simply nothing was the same again and so much has been achieved on the back of it. It was the most significant and inspirational day of the nineteen eighties.

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