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Published: August 8th 2008
‘Freeeeeee Nelson Mandela’ … I remember back 20ish years (geez that makes me sound all aged!) when the song was a battle cry for the release of Mandela and the end to Apartheid in South Africa. I never imagined that years later I would be singing along with a star studded crowd ( … well on the stage!) to celebrate the 90th birthday of the man himself in Hyde Park, London.
A friend of mine, Sally, rang me the day before the concert to say she had won a couple of tickets and decided I should be the lucky recipient. Naturally it took me about 0.0005 seconds to decide it would be a great idea.
The concert was to raise funds for Mandela’s 46664 Foundation to support victims of HIV AIDS. 46664 particularly poignant as it represents Mandela’s prison number from his 27 years of incarceration, 18 of which were on Robben Island.
It was a relaxed wander from Victoria to Hyde Park to find a piece of lawn and settle in for the pre-concert wait. The lineup was fantastic with Queen + Paul Rodgers headlining, Wino, Annie Lennox and the Children of Agape (choir of Aids orphans),
Eddy Grant, Razorlite, Leona Lewis, Soweto Gospel Choir, Johnny Clegg plus a host of excellent African artists including Sipho Mabuse, Loyiso, Papa Wemba and Emmanuel Jal.
Hosted by Will Smith, who did get Jiggy with it, the highlight of the concert was of course Mandela himself. Understandably considering he is 90 he was looking pretty frail, but he walked out and spoke to the 46000 odd crowd. My strongest memory of the night is the silence of the crowd when he spoke and the amount of love that poured out of the crowd towards the man on stage. An experience of a lifetime. "AIDS is no longer just a disease, it's a human rights issue"
- Nelson Mandela
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