Every day five jumbo jets worth of people are trafficked. Samantha Morton fell over some wires on stage and scuffed her knees trying to get out of the way of Razorlight. Rhys Ifans told a hugely inappropriate joke about paedophilia to fill in time between technical glitches. Some 27 million people today are still enslaved, more than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade. Host and compere Daniel Bedingfield used any opportunity to show off his irksome beat boxing skills. In between the celebrities, the egos and the music, the message was getting lost.
Today marked the bicentenary of the British parliamentary act to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. If the purpose of the Voice of Slavery benefit gig for Anti-Slavery International at the Kentish Town Forum this evening was purely to raise money for the charity’s lobbying work rather than raise awareness and politicise the crowd, then it succeeded.
Razorlight where the main pull of the evening, rather than the warm glow of philanthropy, and so people generally felt miffed at parting with their 25 to hear five songs, even though the sylph-like Johnny Borrell gave a flawless rendering of In The Morning.
Supergrass also took the roof off with their short set which included the priceless Caught By The Fuzz and Strange Ones and whipped the crowd up from zero to hero worship in a matter of seconds. People trafficking is the second fastest growing illegal trade in the world.
Folkster Ed Harcourt was suitably mesmerising but as the number of artistes wanting to play at this charity bash pushed into double figures he only got to play three tracks as did the incredible Nerina Pallot, leaving the punters feeling fleeced again. A rare appearance also came from one time hell raiser Finley Quaye, who gave a dignified and somber reworking of The Animals‘ House of the Rising Sun which proved to be the most moving tribute of the entire evening.
Former Sudanese child soldier and now rapper and activist Emmanuel Jal was also an incredible on stage force, bringing a love of life and a deeply political message; that Africa will no longer be shackled to the needs and wants of the rest of the world, her natural resources are her own and her people have suffered enough. Did you know that one person is trafficked every minute?
This gig worked if it was all about moving the charity’s bottom line and there is also a charity album in the pipeline, with bands queuing up to record slave songs for posterity. But how many revelers as a result of the celebs’ on-stage bravura were moved to sign the UN petition circulating the room?
And who was taking care of the bigger picture? Why was the us and them dichotomy maintained by sectioning off an exclusive VIP area when the night was a movement to eradicate man made distinctions between people. And why was there an African woman, working for minimum wage, sat stationed in the ladies loo next to a hand written note asking for “tips please” as she handed out lollipops, hand towels and deodorant to gig goers. Someone somewhere should have been hanging their head in shame.