In the latest edition of the BRIT Trust Diaries, Rich Clarke, head of War Child Records, War Child UK, looks ahead to the charity’s 30th anniversary year in 2023 as well as the coming BRITs Week in February…
War Child has always been a charity with music running through its veins, since its founding in 1993 by filmmakers David Wilson and Bill Leeson, who were horrified by the impact they witnessed war having on innocent children whilst on assignment in the former Yugoslavia.
When they returned to the UK, they were shocked to find that this massacre – very much like the tragic conflict unfolding in Ukraine today – was met with indifference and inaction from political leaders. They decided to do something about it – and War Child was born.
From day one the music industry got behind us. Figures like David Bowie, Brian Eno and Luciano Pavarotti rallied to support the cause. But it was 1995 that was a game-changing year for War Child. The good and great of the British music industry came together to record the seminal HELP album in a single day. The album was the brainchild of Tony Crean along with Terri Hall, Rob Partridge, Andy MacDonald and many others who came together to take action when others wouldn’t. It was put out by Go! Discs and raised a staggering £1.25 million, which changed the trajectory of a fledgling War Child, setting it on the proud path it follows today.
With those funds the charity was able to build a music centre in Mostar, which used music therapy to support even more children affected from all sides of the conflict.
This moment gave way to a shift in War Child’s approach from delivering not only physical support, but specialist psychological support too. It also built a legacy in the music industry that transformed War Child from a charity serving a single country, to one with a global ambition.
The organisation now works, alongside partners War Child Netherlands and War Child Canada, in 17 countries helping hundreds of thousands of children and families a year. This year we took the decision to expand our country programmes and respond to the war in Ukraine. We have since provided vital psychological support to children and families fleeing the conflict and ensuring that the most acute needs are being met.
The UK music industry continues to be vital in supporting War Child to reach children whose lives have been torn apart by war
The UK music industry has been and continues to be vital in supporting War Child to reach children whose lives have been torn apart by war. We have just announced our flagship live music series BRITs Week, which is put on each year in partnership with the BPI and AEG Presents. To date, it has raised well over £5 million and seen some of the biggest acts in the world perform in the smallest and most intimate venues.
We are delighted to be working with Years & Years, Kojey Radical, Rina Sawayama and many more for the coming BRITs Week to create more amazing moments for fans seeing their favourite artists up close and personal. So we can’t wait for that one, and there will be some more exciting announcements in the new year too.
We’re also thrilled to be the charity partner for National Album Day once more next year. We put on a brilliant show with National Album Day ambassador Sam Ryder and Parlophone at Lafayette London in September that went out live on TikTok. It was pretty special, especially when Ukrainian music student refugees joined Sam on stage for one of his songs. NAD will be back in October with a new theme and new set of ambassadors, so we are really looking forward to that too.
We also plan to mark our milestone 30th anniversary as charity in a number of ways in 2023 - reflecting on the bands and musicians who have contributed to albums, put on shows, and helped this organisation reach their fans as well as the wider industry that has always been so supportive. There will be some special one-off gigs, a third edition of our female-first series Day Of The Girl in October and a brand new album project to come in 2023. Last year War Child set up an independent record label, War Child Records, and next year will mark the first new music released for the organisation since 2009.
In summary, we have lots to do, but it’s an exciting and special time for all of us at War Child and wonderful to be part of the BRITs family. It goes without saying that none of this would be possible without our friends in music and we are grateful to our partners such as the BPI and The BRIT Trust, as well as all the incredible artists, managers, labels, promoters, agents, venues and people who come together to support us in our mission. It is with their help that we are able to help so many children and families when they need us most.
For more information on War Child please visit here – and donations will gratefully be accepted here.