Ten years after

This week sees the 10th anniversary of Sir Bob Geldof's Live Aid concert, not just a charity gig but a global television event of staggering success. Serena Mackesy meets one of the men who made it work

Where were you the day Kennedy was shot? Unborn? Okay, then: when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, whose telly were you glued to? Too young? This week sees the 10th aniversary of another of those "I remember where I was" events: the Live Aid concert. I was, for the record, in a field near Tackley in Oxfordshire at a hen night. Everyone had brought a radio. By the time George Michael sang "Don't Let the Sun go Down on Me", we had reached that stage of girly drunkenness where you fling your arm round total strangers and say things like "I've always laaaahved you". It was wonderful. It was a wonderful day.

There can be few people in the developed world over 17 and under 55 who didn't witness a bit of those extraordinary events at Wembley. In fact, it reached 1.4bn people worldwide. Tomorrow night, BBC2 will be screening a boiled-down version between the hours of 6pm and 1.35am.

Interspersed with documentary slots and interviews will be sets by everyone who took part. This will already be looking a bit like a rock archive, but you'll want to see it anyway, even if it's just to remind yourself of who was big in your youth. Everyone who was anyone in pop at the time took to the stage at Wembley or in Philadelphia-- except Julian Lennon, who pulled out at the last minute, and Boy George, veteran of the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" single, who reputedly had a falling-out with Saint Bob. There has never been a gig like it. It could make you think that pop stars are - gulp - nice people.

Mike Appleton remembers what he was doing on the day all too well, as he was the man who produced it, and has been a cousultant on the current show. He was a producer on that most influential of rock programmes, The Old Grey Whistle Test, at the time and was "standing in the way" when the job came up. "It was a very small snowball we picked up and it became an avalanche."

He had just six weeks to get everything ready from the moment the concert was confirmed. "On comparable projects you can get over a year, but I think in many ways that the speed at which we had to operate helped, because it didn't give anyone time to think and say no."

And we're talking Herculean here: 352 microphones, 40 miles of cable and 100 tons of stage equipment, 200 BBC staff and another 200 roadies. Because the concert was going out live worldwide, the six weeks involved all-night working a lot of the time to allow for the time differences. Appleton's team worked closely with CBS, but the BBC ended up taking the dominant role in the proceedings because "it was more difficult for them [CBS]. The BBC, as it was then, had everything in-house. You pretty much called extensions and everything was there... the outside broadcast units, the make-up team, stage managers, sound engineers."

The biggest technical nightmare, though, was beaming a live event to 170 countries at once. Even a few selected Soviet citizens got to see it. The load on the satellites was tremendous: "It was asking those that existed at the time to do massively more than they'd ever done before. It was a fingers-crossed situation. I think God was looking down and balancing the satellites for us." In the end, all went off remarkably smoothly, apart from a power blackout at Wembley which cut short the Who's last ever performance - and no doubt relieved the neighbours.

Not surprisingly, Appleton remembers few actual details of the day. "When you're working on a live programme like that, you're working in advance of what is happening at that moment, because you're having to make sure that the next thing in line is ready to come on." He had never actually seen the product of his efforts until he was going over the tapes for tomorrow's programme. "But I'll tell you what, it's incredibly entertaining still. Even with a 10-year passage, the atmosphere comes over."

This weekend, you can see some of what the pounds 40m raised by 1,600 volunteers in 200,000 telephone calls (one woman in Tyneside donated pounds 500,000 in one lump), and distributed by 93 relief and development agencies, went on. As well as helping to relieve the Ethiopian famine which sparked Bob Geldof into action the previous November, money went on agriculture, medical care, orphanages and education in Mozambique, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and the Sudan. More is still needed, though. Christian Aid projects that Ethiopia may attain self-sufficiency in 10 years' time, but "until then they need all the help we can give".

Donating or not, watching will be required prep tomorrow. If you were there, you can bask in that warm glow of memory and how silly we all looked. If you were in a shack in the Andes at the time, you should see what you missed. As Appleton says, "It wasn't just a television event... it was something everybody got wound up in and wanted to be part of. It was like your best friend's party and everybody wanted to come to it."

'Live Aid 10th Anniversary', tomorrow 6pm-8.30pm & 9.30pm-1.35am BBC2

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence