South Africa’s first post-apartheid president – and, to my mind, one of the most inspiring figures of the 20th century – doesn’t actually turn 90 until July 18.
But that didn’t stop London from throwing a huge fundraising concert bash in his honour last night, to an audience 46,664 strong.
(46664 was Mandela’s prison number at Robben Island, the infamous prison where he spent much of his 27 years behind bars.)
20 years ago, London celebrated Mandela’s 70th birthday while he remained imprisoned, and that 1988 concert was important in raising awareness around the world. As he said last night: “Your voices carried across the water to inspire us in our prison cells far away.”
The 2008 concert included heavyweights like Queen, Amy Winehouse, Razorlight, Leona Lewis, Annie Lennox, and the Sugababes, along with the Soweto Gospel Choir and a range of popular African acts.
Said one musician who played both concerts, twenty years apart: “I was angry the last time. It was very much a protest concert. This is a joyful occasion.”