On Band Aid 30’s release the “Bregudgery Culture” as I call it went into full swing. From complaints that the song wasn’t as good as the original (we’re not talking about any intention to write Imagine or Stairway To Heaven here guys!) to Geldof is ruining Africa (because a few people who can raise a few million pounds for a good cause through what they do is a seriously demonic evil and every newspaper columnist needs to damn them!!!) the initial response said more about our twenty first century culture than it did about a charity single to raise money to help a virus that has immobilised a chunk of west Africa. For what it’s worth by the way I actually agree with The Telegraph’s rock critic Neil McCormick who says that it is technically better than the original. I like it… but we never were talking Imagine or Stairway To Heaven.
Anyway, that is not the point of this blog. Beyond the song and beyond the charity there is something else that Band Aid type events do. It is something that the charities need to not diminish as they start pondering whether the big event is still the way forward. Band Aid and Live Aid were for me life changing events. At a recent Tearfund event we were time lining world events, alongside Tearfund events and also personal events. On all three for me was Band Aid and Live Aid. Do They Know It’s Christmas was never intended to be Imagine or Stairway to Heaven but, in even in its rushed and at time clumsy lyrics, it did more to change my life than most of my favourite songs did.
Band Aid gave me bug and a vision that has never left me. Yes, I bought the single and yes I recorded almost every song played at Live Aid. I enjoyed the music but from underneath and around and somewhere in that music I got a passion for compassion and my life was never the same again. I went back to my Bible and discovered that the Church should have been responding the way a scruffy punk from Dublin whose first single screamed “Don’t give me love thy neighbour/ Don’t give me charity” responded. I discovered swathes of Scriptures to that time dormant within the evangelical Christianity I was nurtured in.
Today, I sense that there is some thinking going on within the NGO world that the big event has had its day and that there needs to be a longer term campaign strategy. It would be wrong, however, to see the big event as a rocket glowing brightly for a moment before bursting and disappearing. For me and so many other people, big events never disappear.
The impact of a vinyl single released thirty years ago should not be limited to the money raised and what was done with it in statistical terms. It is impossible to quantify the knock on effects of that effort of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. I think of what I did with my students, when I was a Chaplain at Queens University Belfast, and how many of them are now involved in development not only as campaigners but some of them in their every day vocations. I also know of some people living in brick houses with a roof in Cape Town that wouldn't be had we as a Chapliancy not gone and built them. Columnists and begrudgers is that a sin! No, we didn't change world economics, the greed of the west or the corruption in Africa but those families are dry in the morning after a night of rain. It was maybe not a cure for the disease but at least it was a band aid (OH! It's in the title... Duh!).
That is just me. Bono would claim that his own passion for development was birthed through the Band Aid project. So many of my generation can pin point that moment for paradigm shift. So, if all the Band Aid 30 single does is cause a few hundred thousand One Direction fans to find a cause it might have done more than enough to change the world in small and seismic ways. NGOs please don’t dismiss the hyped big campaign because they never disappear after the big bright burst. And you begrudgers… shut up and feed the world... 99p on iTunes! Come on!