Yet again, Yoko Ono fails to stop a war

It was with dread that I arrived at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on 15 March for One Big No, a concert organised by Stop the War. The reason: Yoko Ono would be appearing at the gig via satellite link-up to offer her support. When people start waving lighters in the air and singing "Give peace a chance", pop's relationship with politics veers towards the wrong side of crass.

Thankfully, the concert, organised by Emily Eavis (daughter of Michael, the man behind the Glastonbury Festival), kept Yoko's role down to a few seconds. It also boasted similar satellite links to Elton John, Cat Stevens and Michael (Stupid White Men) Moore. The other stars were a curious mix of veteran pop activists and mainstream performers - Ronan Keating (clad in US army fatigues), Ian McCulloch, Paul Weller and others.

Also taking part were non-warblers such as Mark Thomas, Ken Loach, George Galloway MP and the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. All proceeds from the event were divided equally between the Stop the War Coalition and CND.

The 2,500 fans packing the venue came from a narrower section of society than had turned up for the anti-war march of 15 February - Camper-shoe-wearing young professional types mingled with ageing mods eagerly waiting to see their hero, Weller.

It took John Rees of the Stop the War Coalition to spell out the message - that the anti-war protests must continue. "Start the war - stop the country" was the rallying cry, with pleas for all participants to walk out from their workplaces and convene on Parliament Square on the day that the bombing started. Mark Thomas, the opening act at the sell-out event, urged everyone to try direct action: stop traffic, phone RAF Fairford (01285 714 000), tell the US military to get out of our country - basically to do anything that might cause disruption. He gleefully noted that if nothing else, the anti-war effort had already managed to age Tony Blair by ten years.

"Mixing pop with politics, he asked me what the use is," Billy Bragg once pondered. Very little, one could argue after Saturday's event: the protest songs did not dissuade the government from its intent to wage war. But when it comes to raising cash for worthy causes, the entertainment world remains a vital tool.

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