Legendary “Secret Policeman’s Ball” Concerts to be Celebrated in NYC & LA

Written by on June 11, 2009

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Some of the most alt-star-studded concert/performance events of the 1980s were the legendary Secret Policeman’s Ball shows. Amnesty International started them in 1979 to raise funds for the group’s human rights work. The concert movies featured acts such as The Police, Bob Geldof, Midge Ure, Kate Bush, Rowan Atkinson, High Laurie, Stephen Fry, and John Cleese.

A 30th Anniversary Secret Policeman’s Ball Film Festival will pay tribute to these performances June 26th-July 31 held by the Film Society at Lincoln Center at the Walter Reade Theater. The celebration also runs through July 11 at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles.

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Several documentaries will be shown, as well as each of the classic Secret Policeman’s Balls. There will also be a showing during the festival of the famous 1986 Amnesty International Hope concert at Giants Stadium in real time. A full schedule can be found here. Celebrities appearing include Cleese, Atkinson, Fry, Dawn French, Bono, Sting, Lou Reed, Morrissey and Sinead O’Connor

Amnesty International received a load of coverage from MTV thanks to these concerts, exposing their work to a generation of young Americans. The 1980s were, in many cases, the organization’s heyday, as they used their new influence to expose human rights violations by the world’s evil dictators who regularly tortured their people for their own purposes. While they were a force for good back then, it would seem that they are more of a conventional political activism group these days as more recent leaders in control of the institution have seemed to chase their own agendas.

I still have my vinyl copy of The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball, which features a brilliant performance of “I Don’t Like Mondays” by Geldof and Johnny Fingers as well as Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” with David Gilmour (the man who discovered her) on guitar.

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