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NEWS: Live 8 Announced

Bob Geldof

Nick Wallis, Radio 1 Newsbeat

Two weeks before the announcement, we decided the genie was out of the bottle. Despite Bob Geldof's flat denials, the grapevine was buzzing. Live 8 was going to happen. The tipping point for us was the Princes Trust decision to cancel their Party in the Park on 2 July for a "major event" and U2's representatives admitting the band had made themselves available to play in London on the same date. This was a long way from official confirmation, but it gave us something to go on. We kept pushing. Tabloid certainty is all very well, but people only tend to believe something is true when they hear it on the BBC and we have an absolute responsibility to get it right.

More phone calls put us in a worrying position. Two very senior sources, one inside the BBC, and one very close to the Band Aid Trust, told us that media reporting of an as-yet non-existent event was putting it in jeopardy. Apparently some artists didn't like seeing their name in the press and had threatened to pull out. Calls to Bob Geldof's office continued to produce angry and vehement denials.

But as our contacts had sworn to us (albeit off-the-record) that Live 8 was a going concern, we decided it was time to share what we had with our listeners. After our reports more and more details started spilling out until it became obvious there was going to be an official announcement very soon.

Six days later the invite to the official launch came through.

Although I'd been excited by the prospect of another Live Aid for weeks, I couldn't quite believe it was actually going to happen. Walking into the plush ballroom of the Grovesnor House Hotel on Park Lane in London made it significantly more real. Hundreds of journalists from all over the world had gathered to hear what Bob Geldof was going to say.

There were four plasma screens facing the audience, and on the stage, five chairs. At 2pm Bob Geldof marched into the room followed by Midge Ure, the Live 8 promoter Harvey Goldsmith, the Blackadder writer Richard Curtis, and a member of the Band Aid Trust. There was also a very tanned-looking Frenchman, and was that Sir Elton John? Yes, it was.

"More chairs!" shouted Bob. "We need two more chairs!"

And so began the most complicated and chaotic press conference I've ever been to. The tanned man turned out to be a bemused-looking ex-French minister of culture, who'd popped over to shore up some last-minute negotiations over the Paris leg of Live 8. He'd obviously been dragged on stage at the last minute, as had Elton John, who looked like he was there because Bob realised he needed a world famous megastar there in person or people wouldn't really believe what he was about to say was true.

After the briefest of introductions, Bob announced that despite all his initial misgivings Live 8 was going to happen. He explained it was being put together specifically to lean on the leaders of the world's richest nations to solve the problems of Debt, Aid and Trade in the third world. He then played the video which set the ball rolling 20 years ago - a film of a starving African boy trying to stand up, set to the tune of The Cars' "Who's going to drive you home?".

Bob left it to Harvey Goldsmith to announce how it was all going to work. We already knew there would be concerts in London, Philadelphia, Paris, Rome and Berlin, but who was going to play? Tell us!

"They're in alphabetical order" he said, "because we've got so many stars it's hard to work out who goes where."

And he began...

"Mariah Carey, Coldplay, Dido, Keane, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Muse, Razorlight, REM, Scissor Sisters, Stereophonics, Snoop, Sting, Joss Stone, Robbie Williams and U2."

There was a spontaneous round of applause. And that was just the London list!

After all the speculation, they'd managed to do it again.

Harvey then announced a preliminary list for the rest of the world.

"Will Smith, Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Puff Daddy..."

It went on and on. But not long enough for Bob Geldof who had a go at Harvey for missing out too many of the acts. In fact, Bob was on something of a roll this afternoon. His comprehensive, but sometimes rambling, statements meant that a satellite link up with Bono in Italy had to be ditched because they overran their slot.

In fact, my question to Bob got the shortest answer I think he's ever given. Who, I wanted to know, signed up first, and when did he know he had an event?

"Bono." barked Bob "Once we got him, everyone came on board."

Eventually the conference drew to a close and we dived into the BBC's radio car to pass on everything to the listeners.

I'm old enough to remember the original Live Aid. I was too young to understand its importance or what a monumental achievement it was, but I do remember being incredibly excited by it all. Strangely, although I hadn't done anything more than watch it, I also remember feeling so proud that the pop stars I loved were trying to do something to make the world a better place.

This time round the world is older and more cynical, and the stakes are higher, but I don't think there's any doubt that on 2 July, the world will once again witness the Greatest Show On Earth.



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