Band Aid 30: Is The Backlash Right?

Band Aid 30: Is the Backlash Right?

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by Contributor |
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[Lily Allen and Emeli Sandé have both spoken out about Band Aid Images: Getty]

It's the fastest selling single of the year, and made number one this weekend, but with Lily Allen confession she ducked out of Band Aid 30 because she felt 'there was something a bit smug about it' and Emeli Sandé, who did sing on the record, revealing that her edits to the lyrics didn't make the cut, the debate around whether the song is a good thing rumbles on. We asked two writers, is the Band Aid backlash right?

YES says The Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon

Forgive me for sounding uncharitable, but I have a real problem with being told how to spend my money by a man worth £32 million, a man who, when asked by a reporter about his tax arrangements, flew in to a rage and replied: “My time? Is that not a tax?” Well no Saint Bob, it isn’t. Time won’t build hospitals or schools and it sure as hell won’t add anything to the government’s foreign aid budget. And this, I think, sums up my big problem with Band Aid 30: multimillionaire celebrities donate their time to a charitable cause, while imploring the rest of us to donate our money.

Between them, the Band Aid 30 artists have a net worth that almost tops £1billion. Bono - a man who avoids paying tax in Ireland while simultaneously telling off big oil companies for doing the same in Africa – flew in to the recording session on his private jet. Perhaps if he sold that and chucked the proceeds to say, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), or Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), those charities might be able to start to control Ebola in the affected areas. As it is, the nurses and doctors and aid workers on the front line in west Africa must listen to Bob bleat on as if he has single-handedly brought the issue to everyone’s attention. I don’t know how they stomach it.

Actually, many Africans don’t. The Liberian academic Robtel Pailey told Radio 4’s Today programme that the song was “incredibly patronising and problematic”, while Chitra Nagarajan, a human rights activist from Nigeria, told Al Jazeera that it “perpetuates stereotypes of conflict, poverty and disease as the single story of the continent.” Meanwhile, the British—Ghanaian rapper Fuse ODG revealed he had declined Geldof’s offer because of the negative way Africa is portrayed in the lyrics.

The argument against this is: “but it’s raising money for charity”. But the Band Aid Trust have not told us how they are exactly intending to distribute the money, and that’s a real issue to me given the endless debate about how effective the first Band Aid campaign was, with some aid experts now claiming that it may have done more harm than good to Ethiopia. If you want to help Ebola-stricken regions, there are plenty of brilliant charities out on the ground now who you can donate to: the DEC, MSF, Streetchild, or the brilliant Masanga Mentor Ebola Initiative, which is training up local health workers in Sierra Leone and Liberia so that they have the tools to deal with the crisis. They’re the people who need publicity, not a bunch of pampered singers playing at saving the world.

Bryony Gordon has asked that her fee be donated to the DEC. For more information on the charities discussed, or to donate, go to;;

NO says Evening Standard writer Phoebe Luckhurst

Another week, another celebrity call to arms. This week, it’s Band Aid 30: another Bono and Geldof double attack, sung by a glossy posse of contemporary (mainly) youngsters, including One Direction, Ellie Goulding, Olly Murs and Zoella, the ubiquitous vlogger who did not until now have a singing career, but has 6.5 million YouTube subscribers, so she’ll do.

Yes it is easy to be cynical: particularly about this song, which has been repurposed repeatedly and has at its helm an abrasive Boomtown Rat and a reported tax-evader. Indeed, it is even easier in a year of pervasive hashtag slactivism: celebrities imploring we #bringbackourgirls, chucking buckets of icy water of themselves, and snapping #nomakeupselfies from within the folds of sumptuous bedsheets. Truly, as the fuss dies down, many forget the causes altogether. This time, by the way, we’re fighting Ebola in west Africa.

Which, incidentally, is why it is wrong to be critical. Ebola is ravaging countries with limited existing infrastructure let alone the specialist equipment to treat the ill, contain the disease, and dispose of the dead in a safe (and dignified) manner. It is horribly contagious and unpleasant. Any means of raising money to fight Ebola and awareness of what is going on to as many audiences as possible has to be a good thing.

It is also easy to argue that (rich) celebrities should donate money not time. Except by spending an afternoon in west London recording the single, they rally the money and time of so many others - with 206,000 copies sold in its first 24 hours, it’s already the fastest selling single of the year and beat the first week’s sales of Band Aid 20. Ultimately it seems churlish at best and wildly contrary at worst to criticise them.

Undeniably, affected communities need trained people more than money. Except I’m not a doctor; even if you are, you’re unlikely to go out there. This fight requires money for a whole medical army to get to the front-line and a charity single is a conspicuous way of engaging people and by extension, securing their passage.

It is commendable that Adele donated privately - and if she didn’t want to be involved, that’s her prerogative entirely. But that doesn’t render those who did as self-serving and superficial. However much one objects to Geldof’s brash summons – objecting to his underlying motivation is uncharitable. The single is not.

To download the song and donate go to to DONATE £5 TEXT AID TO 70060

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