Suffolk Ebola survivor Will Pooley says Band Aid single is cringeworthy and culturally ignorant

Will Pooley

Will Pooley - Credit: PA

The Suffolk nurse who survived Ebola has described the new Band Aid charity single as “cringeworthy”.

Midge Ure (left) and Bob Geldof arrives for the recording of the Band Aid 30 single at Sarm Studios

Midge Ure (left) and Bob Geldof arrives for the recording of the Band Aid 30 single at Sarm Studios in Notting Hill, London. - Credit: PA

William Pooley, from Eyke, went back to work at an isolation unit in Sierra Leone in West Africa, despite having been airlifted to London after catching the disease.

He urged people who want to help fight Ebola to donate money to charities working with patients directly.

Pooley criticised the lyrics in the reworked version of Do They Know It’s Christmas? featuring One Direction, Bono, Olly Murs and Ed Sheeran and put together by Bob Geldof.

“On the way into work I heard the first half of it. It’s definitely being talked about here among my colleagues,” he told Radio Times magazine.


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“But stuff about Do They Know It’s Christmas? – it’s just like, actually people live normal lives here and do normal things.

“It’s Africa, not another planet. That sort of cultural ignorance is a bit cringeworthy. There’s a lyric about ‘death in every tear’. It’s just a bit much.”

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Asked if he had a message for people back in Britain, he said: “I would say that it’s a good idea to read as much as you can about what’s going on in West Africa, and if you feel so inclined then donate some money to one of the charities, like King’s, that are working out here, directly caring for Ebola patients.”

His comments come after pop star Emeli Sande, who featured in Band Aid 30, said the song needed rewriting.

She apologised “if the lyrics of the song have caused offence” and said that new lyrics she and African artist Angelique Kidjo recorded did not make the final version.

Lily Allen said she turned down a request to sing on the record, saying “I prefer to do my charitable bit by donating actual money”.

The new recording – which became the fastest selling single of the year –marks the 30th anniversary of the song, which was originally put together to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. Mr Pooley became the first confirmed Briton to contract Ebola and was flown back to the UK in August.

He was treated with the experimental drug ZMapp and left hospital in September after making a full recovery. The nurse said that money coming in from governments was “filtering through at a glacial pace”.

“Governments pledged money months ago... I don’t know whether it’s working. I’m sure it’s better to donate than not, but it’s just a shame it gets tied up in lots of bureaucracy,” he said.

He added: “There are still people outside the front of the hospital dying of Ebola because there aren’t enough beds for them. I had hoped that by now that would have been over.”

Mr Pooley, who will be celebrating Christmas with a meal “and a few beers” after his shift ends at Freetown’s Connaught Hospital, dismissed the idea that he was a hero.

“I’m working with masses of local staff who are risking death,” he said.

“The big problem at the moment is they haven’t been paid for months –which sounds bad enough to English ears, but in Sierra Leone if you’re not getting paid, then you’re facing starvation. But they’re still coming to work. They are the heroes.”

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