They say that Thursday evenings are the new Fridays, particularly in the nerve-centre of the UK’s vibrant metropolis of London. But on Tuesday, 6th October 2009, many broke this tacit rule by venturing out into the vibrant Covent Garden to experience what might be ‘just another charity event’
The aptly-named gig entitled, “Best of British in Support of The Sickle Cell Society”, part of a series of events marking the annual Black History Month, was the brainchild of event management company Cellar Door. Since 2007 performers gracing the stage at ‘Best of British’ include the likes of Nate James, Bashy, Ty, The Thirst, Natalie Williams, Ny, DaVinChe, Steelo, Alex Mills, Travis Blaque to name but a few. The worthy beneficiary of this event was The Sickle Cell Society, a registered charity based in London, whose mandate is to provide support and information to sufferers and those wanting to inquire about the disease.
For a crippling genetic disease that affects as many as 15,000 British people, sickle cell anaemia is massively underrepresented in the media and through this live music event Cellar Door leverage their experience in order to raise the awareness of this illness. 2009 represents the 30th anniversary of the Sickle Cell Society. Coupled with this, ‘Best of British 2009’ follows the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly recognizing that sickle cell disease is a GLOBAL public health issue. It was one of a number of events being held worldwide to celebrate progress in developing screening and care and to highlight the work that still needs to be done.
Smack in the middle of Covent Garden is Guanabara, boasting a large arena, lined with bars on its periphery and a stage that provided the perfect setting to capture the dulcet tones of the finest British performers. Since forming in 2005, Cellar Door has built up a repertoire of contacts that enabled them to assemble such a strong line up. Indeed with the three main protagonists being DJs, it was this love of music, which meant that the line-up was an eclectic fusion of sounds. Opening the evening and slipping in almost unnoticed, Ashebar set the tenor with artistic flair and rhythmic beats. Spoken word poet James Massiah then took to the stage for the first of his two scheduled slots where he captured the audience attention and the essence of the occasion.
Most would be familiar with Sewuese, who has featured with BET award winning Sway and electronica band Bugz in The Attic. With a rousing performance alongside her two backing vocalists she set the stage for Donaeo who brought the expected energy and charisma to get the audience of their feet as he performed his hit smash Party Hard. Lady of the moment Mpho wasted no time in firmly establishing her presence at the event, performing a beautiful acoustic set with her guitarist and thereby reminding the audience why she is one of the solo success stories of 2009.
Not to be outdone, hip-hop/grime poet Tinie Tempah wowed the crowd with his thought provoking lyrics and their appreciation was evident as they joined him in a chorus of “If you know you’ve come here to support a good cause, make some noise”!
Midway through the evening Zeeshan Asghar from The National Blood Service, echoed the thoughts of the artists by addressing all present and explaining the purpose of the event. It was staggering to learn that under 3% of blood donations in the UK are from the black African/Caribbean and South Asian communities. Events like this and also the VIP blood recruitment drive does a lot to try and address this imbalance (www.blood.co.uk/vip).
As the performances continued, the unmistakable XO Man who stands at an impressive 6ft 10 kept the momentum going bringing his unique and amiable vibe to the night. Princess Nyah full of smiles exuded a certain coolness as she continued the musical extravaganza and by the end of her set, she again had everyone applauding. The passion she has for her music shone through in abundance as did her energy, confirming why she is one of the rising stars of the UK music scene.
In eager anticipation many were now ready for the headline act – double BRIT and Mercury prize winning Ms Dynamite. By the time she came to perform the audience were sufficiently warmed up but nevertheless unprepared for the extensive range of sounds that she brought to her set. As a UK icon she further demonstrated the depth of British talent and had the crowd pressed up against the front of the stage as they were drawn to her captivating voice where alongside DJ Manny Norte she performed tracks past and present including ‘Boo’ through to the ragga-tinged stylings of ‘Bad Gyal’. She has a tremendous presence on stage and this was definitely evident as the night was brought to an end.
DJ Kayper (BBC Asian Networks) kept the crowd on their toes in between performances and the smooth running of the show was compared by the witty ‘Simply Andy’ alongside the lovely Annaliese Dayes.
So was this ‘just another charity event’? Far from it – the venue and line up kept those present sufficiently entertained whilst the active recruitment of potential blood donors that was being coordinated by the National Blood Service through their VIP campaign ensured we also received a reality check on the importance of giving blood and the benefits this brings to Sickle Cell sufferers.
For more information about the Sickle Cell Society please visit www.sicklecellsociety.org or visit www.cellardoorgroup.com for news of the next ‘Best of British in support of…’ and other upcoming events.
Words: Emma Kings