Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Mandela's 100th birthday - time for Wembley to remember his 70th birthday concert

As the world celebrates Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday and contrasts his qualities with those of our present leaders, perhaps it is time for us to recognise the importance of the 1988 concert held at Wembley Stadium to mark his 70th birthday.

The concert watched by over 600 million people world-wide  did an enormous amount to communicate the struggle against apartheid. Quintain have mounted an exhibition of key events in the history of Wembley Stadium and Wembley Park along Olympic Way and elsewhere in their development, but the concert is not included.

The video above gives just a glimpse of the energy and enthusiasm of the occasion. It is time to correct this oversight which is part of our local history remembered by many.


Philip Grant said...

Although I did not attend this Concert for Nelson Mandela, I do remember what an important impact it made, raising the profile of Mandela, and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Within just a few years of the concert, Mandela had been released from prison, and was President of a multiracial country no longer dominated by the power of people of one colour.

This concert is one of a number of Wembley events which form part of our rich local history. I do not know whether one of the scenes from a concert at Wembley Stadium included in the tile murals on the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge represents the Mandela Concert, and as those murals have been covered up since 2013 I have no way of checking this at the moment.

I wrote a guest blog about the cover-up of the murals at the end of April, after Wembley History Society had written to Brent Council and Quintain, calling on them to put the murals back on public display.

The Society finally received a reply from Brent's Chief Executive last week (a copy of which was circulated to WHS members for information). The letter refers to a contract allowing Quintain to advertise on the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge until August 2021, with the familiar statement:
'The council receives valuable income for this contract which is helping to protect frontline services in an era of sustained austerity where direct funding from the Government has been cut by more than 50% since 2010.'

Unfortunately, the cultural and heritage value of this public artwork, a Brent asset party paid for by OUR Council Tax, does not appear to be so highly regarded:
'As you rightly mention the tiled murals were installed in the 1990s to welcome visitors and reflect events at the old stadium. The council does understand this style of work could be of interest to some people.'

I understand from WHS's chairman (a former Brent Councillor himself) that he will be pursuing this matter with Ms Downs and the Leader of the Council, to try to get Brent and Quintain to agree to at least some uncovering of the murals, particularly during 2020 (Brent's year as London Borough of Culture).

Philip Grant said...

For anyone interested, here is a link to my April 2018 article about the tile murals:-