As many of you will have seen, this week marked the 25th anniversary of the Live Aid concerts. 25 years! Can you believe that? Time really does fly. There was a documentary on BBC3 this week, which was actually made for the 20th anniversary, and that brought the memories flooding back. As somebody said in the documentary, Live Aid was one of those seminal moments in cultural history that everybody remembers, and knows where they were, what they were doing and how they were feeling at the time. It was a day never to be forgotten.
So, what was I doing on that day? Well, as it happens, it was always going to be a day that I will remember for the rest of my life even before Live Aid was first mooted. Every year at our school the Lower 6th form (ie 16 and 17 year olds) would do a charity challenge, and back in those days it usually involved pushing a vehicle of some description around the school grounds. I remember before our year there had been a milkfloat push, a Mini push, a boat on wheels,... all manner of different craft. So when it came to our turn we were a little stuck for ideas, and eventually landed on the idea of pushing an aeroplane! Now, obviously, pushing an actual plane around our school would have been more than a little problematic, so what we did was to adapt an old DAF car to look aeroplane-like! It had wings and everything.
The preparation for the charity challenge lasted the whole of the school year, and the event itself would always take place on the penultimate weekend of the year. So, we knew months ahead that our charity challenge – or marathon as it was colloquially known – would be taking place from Friday July 12th to Monday July 15th 1985. So imagine how excited and then gutted we all were when Live Aid was first announced. The greatest concert ever – but on one of the days that we were doing the marathon! Why didn’t Bob Geldof consult us first?!
So last minute arrangements had to be made to bring in somebody’s portable TV, and a host of radios. The 6th Form Marathon was organized so that teams of 5 or 6 students would push the “plane” around the grounds for an hour at a time, over the course of the 78 hour duration of the challenge. So, we had about 8 teams who worked in a rotating shift system. The challenge started at 9:30 on the Friday morning and went on to 3:30 on the Monday afternoon. When we weren’t actually pushing the plane, we would eat, sleep and hang out in the 6th Form common room and adjoining classrooms.
The portable TV, with its grossly poor reception, was set up in the lecture room so that as many people as possible could see the concert when they weren’t either running or sleeping. A small transistor radio was also fixed onto the plane so that those doing the running could also hear what was going on. So, contrary to most people of my generation, Live Aid Day wasn’t spent camped out in front of a TV, but in a much different way. But we all got to see some of the concert, and heard the great majority of it. Most people’s highlight of the Wembley concert was Queen’s amazing performance, and most of that I listened to whilst running around our school pushing a car disguised as a plane!! Our team were lucky enough to have our extended break from running (each team had one) on the Saturday evening, and I was able to go home and see the end of the Wembley concert there.
So, yes I do remember exactly what I was doing, where I was and how I was feeling when Live Aid occurred!! I have never been so sore or tired in my life than I was after we had finished on the Monday afternoon. But, they are memories that I hold and will treasure for the rest of my life. We may not have been quite on the level of Live Aid, but we did our own small bit for a local charity and raised a few thousand pounds for a Special School, which caters for students with learning difficulties, physical disabilities or behavioural problems. And we all have an extra story to tell when the subject of Live Aid comes around! :-)