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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Did Live 8 make a difference?
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News website

This weekend is the first anniversary of Live 8, when the world's biggest pop stars performed at 10 concerts around the world to raise awareness of poverty in Africa.

Madonna with Ethiopian Birhan Woldu at Live 8 in London
Madonna famously embraced Ethiopian Birhan Woldu at Live 8
On 2 July 2005, U2 joined forces with Sir Paul McCartney in London, Madonna embraced a survivor of the 1984 Ethiopian famine and crowds enjoyed the gig of a lifetime while saving the world in the process.

Organisers said three billion people watched on TV, an estimated 1.5 million attended the concerts in person and more than 30 million signed up to the text and web petition, the Live 8 List.

Six days later, the world's richest nations - who the concerts were designed to influence - announced measures including $50bn (28.8bn) extra aid for Africa plus measures on debt, trade and health.

Mass media attention

But now, Bob Geldof says the G8 countries are "all off track" in their progress to meet the commitments.

So did Live 8 really make a difference? Or did the public enjoy the music but soon forget the message, allowing politicians to do likewise?

Bob Geldof

"Did Live 8 work?" Geldof asks. "Yes it did.

"Are more people being fed today because of Live 8? Are they less hungry because of what we did last year? Yes they are.

"Are more children in school because of what we did last year? Are more people being treated for diseases across the board? Yes they are.

"That's good for me. But it isn't enough because the full promises must be implemented and nothing less will do."

Midge Ure, Geldof's sidekick in organising both Live 8 and the original Live Aid concert 21 years ago, says last year's event succeeded in raising awareness about the cause.

Live 8, Philadelphia
Up to a million people attended the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia
"Getting mass media to focus on a particular problem is a very, very difficult thing to do and I think that was done amazingly," he says.

'Change in attitude'

But public attention was quickly diverted by the London bombings on 7 July, he says.

"That just left the whole thing dangling, which means for a year no-one's been quite sure whether it was a political success or not.

"Changes were made, which is great, but it all went terribly quiet straight afterwards."

The public are still passionate about changing the world, he believes. That feeling is "still immense and very intense".

"It hasn't gone away - it just doesn't have the huge media circus that revolved around the whole build-up to the Live 8 concerts and G8 summit last year."

Live 8 made people realise that they could do something about poverty, according to Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam GB, one of the main partners in the Make Poverty History coalition.

Sir Paul McCartney at Live 8, London
Sir Paul McCartney was one of the star attractions in London
"I think that was the difference," she says. "I don't pretend that everybody's remembered that, but I think there was a change in attitude."

"Moving on from there, for people like us, the issue is - how do you keep that sense of commitment and involvement going? Because things wear off after the great event."

Global activists

Celebrity extravaganzas are valuable because they attract more attention than charities could on their own, she says.

There is now "a lot more interest" in poverty and other global issues as a result, she says.

But she adds: "Keeping the public really engaged and interested to such an extent that the politicians feel moved to keep on is still quite hard."

Live 8 has not been without his critics. Radiohead singer Thom Yorke recently said his band did not take part because he "didn't agree with the idea".

It was a "form of distraction" to the real business of the G8, he said.

Crowd at Live 8, Hyde Park, London
Geldof says the crowd remembered the message as well as the music
"Holding a big rock concert and reducing the issues to bare essential levels, I think, ultimately, was to the detriment of the campaign."

But Geldof says Live 8 had "political and social reverberations" as well as influencing G8 leaders.

It inspired the One campaign in the US, which has educated a generation of young Americans about global poverty and is on course to become the world's largest lobby group, according to the Irish singer.

"To dismiss any of these things as being meaningless is ridiculous," he says. "Twenty years ago a bunch of us jumped on a stage and wanted some money to stop people dying of hunger.

"It is now the debated topic at the highest level of global politics and it is pursued by the global activist movement that constantly grows in exponential numbers.

"And this is something that is part of the end tally of Live 8."


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