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Reform Magazine | August 22, 2017

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Editorial: Live Aid 30 years on

steve_tomkinsOn Saturday 13 July, 30 years ago, I turned on the TV in the morning and stayed glued to it till sundown. That may not sound like much of an achievement, but in the days when Saturday afternoon TV was generally a choice between Grandstand and a black and white movie, it was a first for me. Live Aid, the concert organised by Bob Geldof, which raised £150m for the Ethiopian famine, combined two grand passions of my 16-year-old life: Music and caring about the third world.

I remember the whole thing vividly, which is partly a testimony to how avidly it gripped me, and partly a testimony to the fact that we had a video. There were the headline moments: Phil Collins helicoptering to Philadelphia for an encore; Queen’s medley; David Bowie playing footage of famine victims to “Drive” by the Cars. There were subtler moments: Elvis Costello performing a bitter solo of “All You Need Is Love”; Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones dressed as policemen delivering a complaint about the noise from a woman in Belgium.

The moment I loved most of all was when the irascible Geldof berated the TV audience for not giving enough. “You’ve got to get on the phone and take the money out of your pocket. Don’t go to the pub tonight. Please, stay in and give us the money. There are people dying NOW!” Then he swore at the music journalist who tried to give viewers an address to send money to – this was too urgent for anything but a phone call. How I loved his angry passion and his rightness.

I didn’t give a penny. I felt the importance of the cause – oh how deeply I felt it. I felt it so deeply that 18 months before I had raised a fair amount of money for Tearfund. I told anyone who would listen, and plenty who wouldn’t, why feeding the starving was the most important thing in the world. I got it, in a way other people didn’t, so suddenly when everyone else for one day got it too I couldn’t bring myself to join hoi polloi. I cared so much more genuinely than they did, I let them give £150m while I gave nothing.

I’d like to think I’ve changed. But I still think of myself as one of the good guys, and I still base that idea on how excellent the opinions are that I broadcast in pulpits, pubs and editorials, and how deeply I feel them. There is so much in this edition of Reform about what churches, Christians and charities are doing, the opportunities are endless. I need to take more of them – or just hope that stuff about the sheep and the goats was an exaggeration.

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This article was published in the July/August 2015 edition of  Reform.

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