The first ever pop concert on the East Lawn was organised to help raise funds and awareness of the challenges faced by young people affected by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. The fitting finale saw Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso, who founded Sentebale together in 2006, and a 12-strong choir from Lesotho, accompany Coldplay for their uplifting hit ‘Up&Up’.
Prince Harry introduced the British band for their 10-song set after a heartfelt speech to the crowd of 3,000 people. The Prince founded Sentebale – meaning ‘forget me not’ – in 2006 with Prince Seeiso after his 2004 gap year visit to Lesotho, where one in three children have lost a parent to AIDS related illness.
Earlier in the day Kensington Palace announced that Prince Harry will begin a new series of engagements and meetings designed to shine a spotlight on the ongoing need for action in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Building on his decade of experience in supporting young people with HIV in Lesotho through his charity Sentebale, The Prince is now determined to help his generation understand that the battle against the disease has not yet been won and still needs fighting. In July, Prince Harry will travel as Sentebale Patron to Durban, South Africa for the 2016 International AIDS Conference to meet leaders in the field and to speak to the assembled delegates.
Progress has been made in the last 20 years to reduce the number of new HIV infections globally and ensure people living with HIV access the treatment they deserve. But stigma, discrimination and a lack of education means HIV is still the number one cause of death in 10-19 year olds in Africa. Prince Seeiso had earlier explained how important the work of Sentebale is in his own country.
Prince Seeiso said: “Lesotho’s rolling mountains and plains foster within them the rich culture of the Basotho people – and an unbreakable spirit that inspires all those who encounter it. But Lesotho also faces profound challenges – and its children, one in three of whom are orphaned, suffer deeply as a result. Since my own childhood, our small nation has been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Now 21,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 19 are living with HIV. Only 30 per cent of those have access to any treatment.”
British journalist and novelist Tom Bradby, as MC, welcomed the crowd to the Sentebale concert which started at 8pm tonight. African-Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz, who have worked with UNAIDS on the ProTESTHIV initiative encouraging people in southern Africa to know their HIV status, then performed a trio of up-tempo tracks: ‘Our Love’, ‘I Wanna Know’ and 2014 chart-topper ‘Am I Wrong’.
Next on stage was Grammy and BRIT Award singer Joss Stone. The Sentebale ambassador was accompanied by the Basotho Youth Choir, supported by Avios travel rewards. Prince Harry had invited the six boys and six girls aged 7-19 to London to be a part of the event and yesterday surprised them during their rehearsals at The BRIT School in Croydon. Among them was 16-year-old Relebohile ‘Mutsu’ Potsane who was four when he first met Prince Harry. Footage of Stone’s own visit to Lesotho played on the screen during two Lesotho songs ‘Basotho ba batle’ and ‘Sentebale ke palesa entle’ and Stone’s ‘The Answer’.
British soul singer songwriter Laura Mvula, who is an ambassador for MTV’s The Staying Alive Foundation and works with young girls to raise awareness as part of the HIV prevention initiative, then wowed the audience with ‘Let Me Fall’, ‘Bread’, ‘Kiss My Feet’ and ‘Phenomenal Woman’. BRIT Award-nominated spoken word artist and Sentebale ambassador George Mpanga – aka George the Poet – later told Tom Bradby why he backed the charity before performing ‘Search Party’ and ‘We Can Fight’, written for the November 2015 opening of the ‘Mamohato Children’s Centre where some of the money raised will fund Sentebale’s monthly Saturday Clubs and residential weeklong camps.
Sentebale delivers psychosocial support to adolescents living with HIV in Lesotho as well as providing care and education to orphans, children living with disabilities and young shepherds known as ‘herd boys’ whose cultural obligation of tending livestock prevents them accessing education. Just £5 could send a child living with HIV to a local club to learn how to live positively. Argentine high-goal polo player Nacho Figueras, Sentebale’s first ever ambassador, appeared on the balcony overlooking the crowd to encourage everyone to text 70800 to donate.
Cathy Ferrier, CEO of Sentebale, thanked the audience for showing their support, saying: “The world has committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 but ignorance and misunderstanding continues to undermine those efforts. Together we have an opportunity to end an epidemic that has defined public health for a generation but it won’t go away unless we act now.”
The Sentebale concert was sponsored and supported by The Handa Foundation, Quintessentially Foundation, Huntswood, Avios, Getty Images, The&Partnership and The BRIT School. For more information visit www.sentebale.org.