I first met Brian Eno 21 years ago. War Child, the charity that I had co-founded, was supporting music projects during the Bosnian war in Sarajevo and Mostar. One day Brian's wife and manager, Anthea, walked into our office in Camden Town with a cheque to support this work. The Enos became our link to the music world. They set about bringing in tens of thousands of pounds with three fundraisers, "Little Pieces from Big Stars", "Pagan Fun Wear" and "Milestones".
"Little Pieces" involved small art works made by music stars and ranged from Paul McCartney's driftwood carving to Charlie Watt's drawing of a telephone. "Pagan Fun Wear" was described by Brian as being one of the 'all-time weird events in London's recent cultural history'. The idea for this fund raiser was to have costumes designed by pop stars which would be modelled and then sold at auction to benefit War Child. David Bowie contributed "Victim Fashion" which consisted of a model wrapped up in bandages; Brian, his coat and pants. Dave Stewart, a bikini and mac. Iggy Pop designed penis sheaths, the designs for which were faxed to Eno's office and were somewhat undecipherable! "Milestones" involved pop stars paying homage to their musical heroes: Pavarotti sent a handkerchief on which he'd drawn Enrico Caruso, Paul McCartney did a drawing of Buddy Holly, aged 60. Bono's inspiration was Frank Sinatra; a music box containing a miniature bottle of Jack Daniels, shot glasses and a blue napkin. It was signed 'To Frank, Love, Bono.'
Brian was also the producer of the Help album which was recorded by more than 20 artists on one day, 4 September 1995, and sold in the shops five days later. They included Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, Massive Attack, the Stone Roses, Neneh Cherry, Sinéad O'Connor, Paul Weller, Paul McCartney and Portishead. Help raised more than £1.5million for War Child projects; artificial limbs for wounded children, food and clothing to orphanages, the purchase of a refrigerated truck to supply insulin, funding for school meals, support for a mobile medical clinic, the supply of incubators, as well as baby milk and funding for mine clearance programmes.
And his influence didn't stop there. Brian was in Dublin working with U2 when Luciano Pavarotti called to ask Bono to take part in that year's 'Pavarotti & Friends' concert in Modena, Italy. Bono turned the tenor down, but Brian persuaded him to call the Maestro back, accept the invitation and persuade him to do the gig for War Child.
The result of two "Pavarotti & Friends" concerts was the construction of the Pavarotti Music Centre in a bombed-out school in Mostar, Bosnia. I was its first director. Not only was Brian central to all this, but he travelled to Mostar to take part in workshops with local children and helped plan the future of the recording studio that was constructed in the basement to help fund the centre's future.
My professional relationship with Brian didn't end with War Child and the music centre. In the noughties I was press officer at the Stop the War Coalition. Brian spoke regularly at anti-war demonstrations and helped me and the publisher, Verso, put together two books for Stop the War: Not One More Death and War With No End. The first had contributions from Brian, alongside writings from Richard Dawkins, John le Carré, Michel Faber and Harold Pinter. The second included Naomi Klein, Hanif Kureshi, John Berger and the cartoons of Joe Sacco.
The most exciting thing he did with me for the anti-war movement was take part in a gig we organised at the Astoria, London (today buried under Cross Rail) with the Rachid Taha Band and Mick Jones of the Clash.
Brian has remained a friend and ally for all these years. Recently he invited me to his studio where he interviewed me about my memoir, Left Field to be published by Unbound. He's said, "This is an excellent and inspiring book. David's stubborn and yet self-effacing commitment to his ideals carried him through many daunting situations, and his sense of humour kept him able to see the funny side." His interview covered everything from our work together at War Child and Stop the War to my first sexual experience in Brazil. "Did that take up 14 chapters?" Eno asked.Suggest a correction