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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 09:40 GMT
Performers unite for peace
Anti-war protestors in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the US
Anti-war protests are growing around the world

British artists and entertainers are uniting en masse to oppose the prospect of a US-led war against Iraq.

Many are expected to turn out in London on Saturday to join a planned huge demonstration opposing the UK's involvement in any conflict.

Actors, film-makers, musicians, writers and comedians are among hundreds of high-profile names, both in the UK and the US, who have signed up to a campaign against possible war.

But not all celebrities oppose possible military action: Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg gave their backing to President George Bush's policy last year.

The No War on Iraq liaison group, headed by Labour MP Alice Mahon, is urging the government to withold support for military action against Baghdad.

Alexei Sayle
Alexei Sayle is joining the march on Saturday
On Thursday the group took out a full-page advertisement in The Guardian newspaper setting out its case.

Its signatories include actors Jim Broadbent, Richard E Grant, John Hurt, Sheila Hancock, Andrew Lincoln and Emma Thompson.

Musicians Craig David, Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox, Phil Collins, Robert Wyatt and rock band Travis are also involved.

Writers Will Self, Iain Banks and Nick Hornby, directors Mike Hodges and Richard Eyre and comics Victoria Wood and Jeremy Hardy have added their support.

Comedian Alexei Sayle told BBC News Online he was horrified at the prospect of war.

He said: "Being the son of political activists has given me a horror of demonstrations which I will nevertheless be overcoming on Saturday to march for the first time in nearly 35 years.

"It's clear to virtually everyone apart from our vain, deluded, pontificating prime minister that the issue of weapons of mass destruction is merely a pretext for the United States to project its power around the world."

Annie Lennox
Singer Annie Lennox has signed up to the campaign
Sayle added: "I'm ashamed of our government. That the party we elected in 1997 with such high hopes has come to this, openly telling such lies, is sickening. I've never said this before but I wish I was French."

Director Mike Leigh - who like his contemporary Ken Loach is opposed to any conflict - was similarly outspoken.

"I am totally opposed to this lunacy, which will undoubtedly escalate into an unimaginable disaster," he said.

Musician and producer Brian Eno described war as "the bluntest of all instruments".

"To actually choose it in the absence of an attack on us is a failure of imagination, intelligence and, in the end, civilization," he said.

"Hand in hand with America, we're running backwards."

Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn has led UK anti-war protests
The No War on Iraq group says it is seeking political and diplomatic alternatives to a military assault on Iraq.

It brings the artists together with trade unions, CND, the Green Party, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Muslim Parliament and Stop the War Coalition.

Last month, celebrities including Bianca Jagger, singer Damon Albarn and actor Corin Redgrave took their protest to the House of Commons to lobby MPs.

In the US, stars of stage and screen have also used their public platforms to speak out against a potential war.

Speaking at the Berlin Film Festival, director Spike Lee attacked President Bush's policy on Iraq and praised France and Germany for their stance.

Other major Hollywood names opposing war include Dustin Hoffman, Martin Scorsese, Martin Sheen, Sean Penn and Robert Redford.

Spike Lee
Hollywood director Spike Lee has called for peace
The famous have a long association with political activism stretching back to the 1960s civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements in the US.

John Lennon performed at peace concerts, and Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown for refusing to be drafted.

More recently, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK was supported by many musicians and actors at its height during the 1980s.

In the 1990s artists such as rock band U2 spoke out against the conflict in the Balkans.

Some commentators have suggested that celebrities take part in popular causes in order to attract media attention and further their own careers.

But one expert in human behaviour says they are more likely to be motivated for genuine reasons.

Dr Donald Laming, of Cambridge University's department of experimental psychology, said: "Some minor celebrities may do it for the publicity, but most of them passionately believe in the cause."

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14 Feb 03 | Showbiz
13 Feb 03 | Film
20 Sep 01 | Showbiz
21 Jan 03 | Politics
31 Jan 03 | Politics
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