On Sunday evening, London’s 02 arena was packed, ‘sold out’, in aid of Stephen Lawrence, the 18-year-old murdered twenty years ago in an aggressive racial attack, in south-east London. Since the attack, Stephen’s mother has actively campaigned for justice for her son’s killers. For the past eighteen years Doreen Lawrence has battled the courts, legal system, police and the media before reaching a conviction, whereby Gary Dobson and David Norris were given life sentences in January 2012.
The “Unity” concert, however, was not completely about the past. It was about the future; striving for equality, and giving those in need a future, a future like that which was so cruelly snatched away from Stephen. The Stephen Lawrence Trust work to transform the ‘lives young people, achieving real social change’ and if the cries of support in the 02 were anything to go by, I’d say that the evening was a huge success.
The audience was looked after by hosts Reggie Yates and Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw, who ensured that the 02 was packed with applause, cheers, and shouts of support for a cause that after 20 years after Stephen’s death, is still actively working towards equality to date.
Crowds enjoyed live music from Plan B, kicking off the evening with Ill Manors and Stay Too Long, Rizzle Kicks, Rudamental, Jamie Cullum, whose jazzy, piano-vocal version of Rihanna’s ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’ will forever be on my playlist. Ed Sheeran performed back on his home turf for the first time since accompanying Taylor Swift on her ‘Red’ tour, for the past year, and received a warm welcome from an arena filled with fans that have long waited for his return.
Guest appearances from Jermaine Defoe, a hilarious stand up from Omid Djalili, and film maker Danny Boyle who introduced Doreen Lawrence to the stage before final act, Emeli Sande, left the crowd filled with applause (Tottenham fans, or not), before coming to remember the reason why we were all there.
Jessie J’s performance of Amazing Grace showcased her impeccable vocal range and talent, before Labrynth had the entire arena bellowing ‘Earthquake’, which packed a heavy-bass punch due to the healthy 02 tech equipment. Tinie Tempah, Rita Ora (new favourite), and Ellie Goulding also took to the stage, simultaneously showing just how talented this country’s singers are. A guest appearance from Dizzee Rascal left the audience crying for a holiday, before Beverly Knight performed her classic ‘Piece Of My Heart’. Last, but by no means least, the London Community Gospel Choir put on an impressive performance, whose soloists left me with goosebumps. It will definitely be a night to remember.
The beauty of this concert was not simply the message it was in aid of, and in memory of Stephen, but the incredible atmosphere that was ejected into the 02. The evening combined music with memory, change with hope, and most importantly, enjoyment with equality.
Don’t want to take my word for it? If you want to see the highlights from Sunday, you can do so tonight on BBC one and on BBC three on Thursday 3 October.
Music is universal, equality should be universal.
Image source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/24330000