What to expect from the Live Aid musical ‘Just For One Day’

The new musical based on the events of Live Aid starts performances at the Old Vic in 2024. Discover the real story behind the musical with our guide.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

We can be heroes next spring with the exciting new show Just for One Day about the day that music brought the world together. Yes, it’s the Live Aid musical, written by John O’Farrell and directed by Luke Sheppard, which will have its world premiere at London’s Old Vic in January 2024.

The Live Aid concert in July 1985 was a landmark event, featuring music from megastars like David Bowie, The Who, U2, Bob Dylan, Queen, Elton John and more. So, how will it be re-created on stage, and what can we expect from this new show? Read on for our guide to Just for One Day.

What is Live Aid?

Live Aid was created in response to the terrible famine in Ethiopia. BBC News was one of the first to report on it in October 1984, with Michael Buerk describing it as “the closest thing to hell on Earth". It caused a massive response in the UK and around the world.

After watching the report, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure quickly wrote a charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” and recorded it with industry colleagues like U2, Sting, Duran Duran, George Michael and Spandau Ballet under the joint name Band Aid. The single went to number one and raised a massive £8 million for famine relief.

Boy George then suggested staging a charity concert to continue the fundraising. Geldof was immediately keen, and set his sights on a major joint international effort – rather than just one performance in one UK venue.

Plans began, with Wembley Stadium chosen in the UK, and the BBC broadcasting, and then the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia selected for the United States, plus a primetime slot on ABC. The concert was scheduled for 13 July 1985, beginning at noon in London and 7am in Philadelphia.

Who performed at the Live Aid concert?

Geldof pulled in an incredible company of musicians for this vital charity effort. Performers at the Wembley Stadium part of the concert included U2, Queen, David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Paul McCartney, The Who, Status Quo, Dire Straits, Adam Ant, the Boomtown Rats, Ultravox, Elvis Costello, Sting, Phil Collins, and Bryan Ferry. Prince Charles and Princess Diana also made an appearance.

In Philadelphia, the performers included Bob Dylan, Madonna, Billy Ocean, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Beach Boys, Bryan Adams, Joan Baez, the Four Tops, Black Sabbath, the Pretenders, Santana, Run-DMC, Judas Priest, Simple Minds, Kenny Loggins, and Hall & Oates. Jack Nicholson and Bette Midler were among the presenters.

Who watched Live Aid?

The whole world, basically! Wembley had a crowd of about 72,000, and there were 89,484 in the Philadelphia stadium audience. But that was just the beginning.

Multiple other concerts were held in other countries, inspired by Live Aid, such as West Germany, Canada, the Soviet Union, Japan and Australia. It was also one of the biggest satellite link-ups and TV broadcasts ever, with around 1.9 billion people in 150 nations tuning into the live broadcast – or around 40% of the world’s population.

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How much money did Live Aid raise?

Thanks to messages throughout the concerts urging viewers to give generously, and the BBC operating 300 phone lines, an incredible number of donations resulted from the Live Aid event. The day after the broadcast, it was reported that around £50 million had been raised – but it’s now estimated that the amount raised in total because of the concerts is an incredible £150 million.

What can we expect from the Live Aid musical Just for One Day?

This is an amazing subject for a stage show. There’s a background of social unrest and revolution, a humanitarian crisis that speaks to our moral obligations as a wider society, and then, at the centre, an electrifying live concert teeming with famous names.

We know that John O’Farrell is writing the show. He contributed a brilliant book to the Mrs Doubtfire musical, which is currently playing in the West End, as well as to the Broadway show Something Rotten!. He has also written for satirical current affairs programmes like Have I Got News For You and Spitting Image, so we can expect a combination of political savvy and humorous musical theatre from him.

At the helm is the busy director Luke Sheppard, whose work includes big musicals like In the Heights and & Juliet, as well as the more intimate @sohoplace premiere The Little Big Things. We definitely know that Sheppard can supply a thrilling, contemporary production with vocal fireworks and exciting movement, and The Little Big Things showed he could handle a true story too.

It will definitely be an ambitious project. There will be a cast of 26 performers, playing the people who attended Live Aid and their experiences at the once-in-a-lifetime event. And it will be full of the iconic music of the artists who performed – like David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and Queen – and their songs, including "Radio GaGa."

The musical also continues those all-important fundraising efforts: 10% of ticket sales will be donated to The Band Aid Charitable Trust.

Just For One Day will run at London’s Old Vic from 26 January to 30 March 2024. Although with some big producers backing the show, like Sonia Friedman and Kenny Wax, the team is likely hoping that it will have a further life too – West End, Broadway and beyond.

Just for One Day tickets are available now. Book tickets for Just for One Day on London theatre.

Originally published on

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