One World: Together at Home – the Irishman who helped get Lady Gaga to say yes

How Tipperary native Declan Kelly got Lady Gaga to lead coronavirus concert on April 18th

Lady Gaga:  opening doors for the concert to help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph:  Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Lady Gaga: opening doors for the concert to help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

 

It’s been called for the Live Aid of the digital age and its Bob Geldof figure is another Irishman. Unlike the sweary, in-your-face Geldof, Tipperary-born Declan Kelly, the low-profile executive producer of One World: Together at Home, is unlikely to be gesticulating at your television set telling viewers “give me your money. I want your f***in’ money now”.

Instead, he has been behind the scenes quietly soliciting donations from the corporate world for a concert which will raise money for the World Health Organisation Solidarity Response Fund to fight coronavirus.

The money will go toward funding global personal protection equipment (PPE), testing kits and laboratory capacity to process the tests.

One World: Together at Home will be broadcast on Saturday, April 18th, on all the major networks, including RTÉ, BBC and across the United States.

It has all come together with a dizzying speed given the usual constraints that surround assembling a bill of some of the biggest acts on the planet. And they don’t come much bigger than the diminutive, but hugely influential artist Lady Gaga.

It was an act of serendipity that brought her on board. The original idea for the concert came from Kelly and the chief executive of Global Citizen Hugh Evans. Global Citizen, a New-York based nongovernmental organisation that seeks to end extreme poverty in the 59 poorest countries in the world by 2030. Kelly is on the charity’s board and his company, Teneo, has partnered with Global Citizen on many previous initiatives.

Lady Gaga had been involved with fundraising for Global Citizen in the past. When Kelly and Evans called her to ask her advice on how such a concert should be held, they found her self-isolating at home as she suffers from fibromyalgia, a condition that affects the nervous system and causes chronic pain. It would have put her in a high-risk category for Covid-19.

The singer had also decided to postpone the launch of her new album Chromatica, which was due out on April 10th, because of the pandemic.

“She said yes readily,” a source told The Irish Times. “They [the three of them] haven’t been meeting for coffee. Obviously, they can’t, but they have been teleconferencing regularly.

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“Big artists get requests from charities all the time, but it takes a star as big as Lady Gaga and something as big as Covid-19 to get them on board.”

It will be a stay-at-home concert for a stay-at-home world. The line-up includes some of the elder statesmen of the rock, notably Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Elton John, but also some of the biggest contemporary acts in the world, Lizzo and Billie Eilish, to name but two. Others who have confirmed include arguably the most famous tenor in the world, Andrea Bocelli, the most famous pianist, Lang Lang, and the most famous ex-footballer David Beckham.

Most will play or perform from their own presumably luxurious homes. There will be a two-hour special broadcast live and a longer programme which will be broadcast on every major digital platform.

The initiative grew out of an even more ambitious series of concerts slated to happen in September also organised by Global Citizen.

Global Goal Live was to be a series of eight concerts on the five continents to raise money to fight global poverty. Those concerts were provisionally slated for September 26th with Dublin as a possible venue, but, like everything else, are on hold at present.

Declan Kelly of Teneo, a brother of new Labour Party leader Alan Kelly: “I’m proud to be involved in supporting this incredible initiative”
Declan Kelly of Teneo, a brother of new Labour Party leader Alan Kelly: “I’m proud to be involved in supporting this incredible initiative”

Kelly is a former journalist and the older brother of the newly elected Labour leader Alan Kelly. After quitting journalism, he went into business consultancy and cofounded Teneo in 2011 as a firm in New York with links to the Democratic Party. Last year The Irish Times reported he sold a majority stake to private equity group CVC Capital Partners for more than $350 million (€309 million). He remains as Teneo chief executive and chairman.

He is proud of his roots in Portroe, Co Tipperary and Teneo is the main sponsor of the reigning All-Ireland hurling champions.

He is also well known in philanthropic circles. This will be his most public fundraising effort to date. It helps that Lady Gaga is pushing at an open door with the calibre of artists already involved and uniquely at a time when none can tour and most are at a loose end.

What artist or business person could say no to Lady Gaga? Not the chief executive of Apple, Tim Cook, who promised live on The Tonight Show in the US to donate $10 million to One World: Together at Home.

By the time the global event was announced, the trio already had raised $35 million. “We hope that by the time it happens on April 18th, that will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” said a source involved in organising the event.

“We are focusing on the corporate side because they have the ability to give a lot more money than the public, but we will be asking the public to contribute as well. It’s all coming together very quickly.”

For his part Kelly said he was proud to be involved in something that would help fight the global pandemic of Covid-19.

“As the world comes together to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, Teneo is very along with so many other great partners,” he said.

“We have a long-standing partnership with Global Citizen and are deeply committed to doing our part to help rally private sector support for this critical effort.

“I am proud to once again be partnering with my great friend, Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, in his remarkable ongoing efforts to help humanity at times of crisis, such as those the entire world is experiencing right now.”

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