July 02, 2005

One thought on Live8

Writing about web page http://www.live8live.com

Iíve been mildly sceptical about Geldof and Live8 in the last few weeks, just as I was sceptical about his Christmas release here

Iíve spent the afternoon watching the coverage, enjoying most of the acts, but my fears of celeb-ego massaging realised, especially with the pissy BBC coverage, flicking between Jo Whiley and Fearne Cotton mindlessly interviewing the performers like they were backstage at Glasto and not something with the intention of being more important.

When it comes down to it, Iím not against the idea. I wholeheartedly support 2 out of the 3 points being put forward to the G8 and have signed the petition. I donít want to do Geldof down for doing a brave and hard thing.

What I was worried about was the overall impression the day was giving of Africa. Even referring to ďAfricaĒ grossly generalises millions of diverse people into 1 solid lump. Unfortunately a lot of things that have been shown to us or said at the concerts today give this impression.

Yet there have also been several redeeming moments: Dido (no great political activist I know) brought Senegalese Yossou N'Dour on stage and performed. Miss Dynamite said some very well spoken words along the lines of the first world owing debt to the continent and not the other way round. And the BBC have brought on some good commentators as well: George Alagiah, famously brought up in Ghana himself, reminded us all Ė although briefly Ė that we mustnít take away the desperate image of ďAfricaĒ too be true.

And thatís the point. Whether the concerts will do anything in Gleneagles is debatable, but the Live8 phenomenon has at least sparked debate and introduced ideas of Ďtrade not aidí and the evil of agricultural subsidies around many dinner tables. The BBC also deserves credit for its excellent Africa Lives series which (with the exception of Geldofís over-poncy Geldof in Africa programme) took the topic seriously and tried to open it up to a wider audience. But we mustn't come away with the same black and white view that's stained our perception of Africa since Michael Buerk reported from Ethiopia in '84.

And so to make the point Ė hereís what I see when I think of ďAfricaĒ: itís a picture I took in the Ho Hoe region of Eastern Ghana about 2 years ago

Live8 is raising awareness, but donít let it fool you into thinking African people are helpless and hopeless.


- 7 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. I'm very wary of signs of cynicism about Live 8 because it's so easy to fall into but really beside the point – I think you've done well to stop short of that. One thing I will add is that I was working in a pub kitchen with it on the radio for the first hour – and the widespread ignorance about it all from the people I was with was startling but also eye-opening. (One girl had no idea what Live Aid was, another had simply heard that there was a "charity concert" on today- though those are extreme examples). It made me realise that perhaps through the superficiality of bits like the weak Fern Cotton showbiz interviews, an event like today is managing to educate the people who, without meaning to sound arrogant, simply don't have the grasp on the issues that others such as Warwick students have.

    02 Jul 2005, 22:14

  2. Awareness is certainly good no doubt; my point was more an inaccurate awareness, painting a false picture of the continent.

    Also, in addition to what you said, awareness of the situations is one thing, but we weren't told how what we can do (bar the petition) to change it.

    Admittedly, bringing Birhan Woldu on stage (just before Madonna) was a very powerful and moving statement: nothing can prove the effect of conciousness raising effects more than that did.

    Check link out for a good spectrum of people's pros and cons.

    03 Jul 2005, 00:13

  3. Colin Paterson

    Some excellent comment there Adam. I sat there watching it and had a feeling of, well not cynacism, but being uncomfortable with what I was watching.
    It was a feeling that with all this effort they had gone to, to put an event of this scale on, the best message they can put across is that of pop star 'glasto' interviews with messages of 'Isn't everyone and Saint Bob great". There were moments for sure but I want to know more about the problem and about what people can actually do. I don't want to walk to edinburgh because to be fair it's blinking miles away from gleneagles so what's that going to do. Is signing a petition really the best all these people can do to help? And on the 3 points the petition is about debt relief and aid are quite clear cut but I wanted to be told what exactly 'trade justice' means. I think trade justice should happen. But is my justice the same as Mr Bush's? Signing a petition to make it happen is like wanting a legal system but asking someone else to make it without saying exactly what ideals it should hold. You may get something completely different from what you wanted.
    It just left me fustrated. It certainly raised awareness of a kinda and raised the debate which is fantastic but I wanted a bit more inteligent comment.
    JUst out of curiosity Adam. Do you think there should have been more clips, information about the good side of Africa, the hope etc or would that have confused the message. Personally I think it would have made it a more human appeal rather than that of pity.

    03 Jul 2005, 15:36

  4. Well said Colin. I was OK with the trade justice point – as I took it too be, which is removing agricultural subsidies etc and allowing African businesses and farmers to trade on an equal level with the rest of the world. It was the aid point I'm sometimes stuck on. The continent has receieved more aid than any other in the world, to the point where 50% of government funds come from donations – something of a saturation point in my opinion. I wonder if any more is given whether it will do more harm than good.

    You're right on the intelligent comment bit – Andy Marr and George Alagiah helped, but they were swamped by Jo Whiley's interviews in the rock garden.

    On your last question, I most certainly wanted to see a more rounded view of Africa instead of the persistently negative videos we were being shown (hence the picture above). I would have sacraficed the clarity of the message for that, as a false message is no better than a confused one. But it mustn't just come down to these bi-decadial events and odd serials on TV. News services, editors and correspondents must do more to make sure we don't just see a sad Africa on the 10 o'clock news. There are many stories of hope as everyone has seen, but they don't make it onto domestic bulletins.

    That's my personal aim if I ever get where I want to get in the world ;)

    03 Jul 2005, 16:15

  5. Heather Crawley

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who felt a bit cynical, or rather disappointed, with Live8. I'm still confused as to it's point – I felt it wasn't very effective at really getting across the problems in Africa, there was indeed much celebrity ego massage, and it wasn't raising any money (though please correct me if I'm wrong)... How does seeing a free concert in a park then going home again really change history (as the attendees think it did)? There could have been better methods of raising awareness I think, but at least it made an impact and should inspire further debate. Someone should tell Bob to stop polishing his halo though… and btw – anyone know where the proceeds of the box set DVD of LiveAid go? I'd be interested to know…

    03 Jul 2005, 21:07

  6. One of the real negatives of the BBC's coverage for me was the way that they continually cut away as the videos were being shown. I think there has to be a distiction made between the Live 8 concerts themselves and the coverage of the concerts because they are not the same thing. As a result what we got was Jo Whiley, Fern Cotton and Johnathan Ross interviewing somebody with, varying degrees of relevance, whilst the 200,000 people in Hyde Park were watching something that was 100% relevant. As Adam says it is almost guaranteed that these films probably painted a picture of Africa that is not representative of the reality, but it would have been nice to see them for ourselves. In the end it gave the impression that the event itself had a cause whilst the BBC coverage was merely an entertainment programme, coming across in a similar manner as comic relief without the donations or, rather more worryingly, like the Queen's Jubilee concert.

    I do believe that the event was completely justified and I do believe that it will have some effect but I also believe that maybe it could have been handled better.

    Of course this could all be to do with the fact that it was all orgnaised so hastily that Geldof and co hadn't actually thought about how the general public could actually help beyond the petition and the march in Edinburgh. But one thing that I thought was quite telling was the fact that so many people were there not for the music and not to see a whole line up of stars, but they were there for the event and because they knew how big a day it was and surely in terms of awareness that must show that at least to some extent the aims worked.

    03 Jul 2005, 23:55

  7. Also according to the MTV website for the Live Aid box set 'A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this release will be donated to the Band Aid Trust, which continues to fund hunger relief in the Third World'. No idea what portion but there we go.

    04 Jul 2005, 02:04


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Warwick graduate, slowly morphing into a broadcast journalist at City University in London. Expect articles about media and world affairs on this page, plus my futile attempts at get-rich-quick schemes.


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