The Guardian JANUARY 10, 2001 - by David Hencke


Brian Eno, the rock musician, broke a year's silence to tell The Guardian and Channel 4 News about his concerns over the War Child charity's handling of the millions of pounds raised for the Pavarotti music centre in Mostar.

He said he became involved - and persuaded fellow musicians to give long-term aid to the centre - as a cultural mission with the aim of leaving a permanent presence in Bosnia. Like a lot of people, I felt that we ought to be in some way involved. There were a lot of civilians and children being hurt and - whichever side was right or wrong or deserved one's sympathies - certainly the women and children, the non-combatants, who were really the target, did.

What wasn't being done, I felt, was putting in place a sort of cultural infrastructure that would flower after the war had finished.

He said he received a lot of goodwill from his millionaire rock friends once the idea of the music centre had taken root.

A lot of people responded to that idea. Like me, they felt we couldn't be impotent in the face of a local war and a particularly brutal one. They also responded to the idea that used what we do as artists as part of the solution.

We made a lot of people think there was something we could do there and it's not that difficult to do something. In fact, it was embarrassingly easy to make a good difference there. One of the big outcomes is that we built this place called the Pavarotti Music Centre, which exists and is still flourishing.

He said he first became disillusioned when the two co-founders fell out and the money started going to new projects - and not all of it was getting to Mostar. Some of it was being used for other projects.

What happened was the money didn't end up going to those projects. Events that had been staged to raise money for particular projects never got to those projects. I'm not saying it was corruptly spent or anything like that, but it didn't go where we felt it ought to have gone. PMC was somewhat abandoned and to abandon it, apart from anything else, I thought would be terrible PR.

He is particularly critical of the failure to send money from the proceeds of the Miss Sarajevo record to the centre. It was done specifically for the music centre and everyone knew that. The money from that was spent on a lot of things including expenses for keeping a big office going.

We were given the explanation that 'we're the charity and should be free to determine how we spend the money'. It seemed close to deceitful that our money hadn't gone where we felt it ought to have gone.

He went on: There was a breakdown in communication. People felt that their contribution wasn't being received with any gratitude any longer. They were being treated as petulant celebrities who had to be kind of kept out of things. A lot of the people had strong feelings about these issues. They were not just people who blindly walk into any charity and start doing things like this. Bono, Bob Geldof, myself - there are a lot of people who have some kind of history of being involved in charitable work and in somehow using whatever power they have to change the world and they feel insulated when they are told their views don't count.

Stars who gave support:

David Bowie - Rock musician and businessman with a personal fortune estimated at £500m. Born in Brixton, Bowie became a rock superstar in the 1970s. Now known as much as a big Wall Street player as a rock star, he was introduced to War Child through Brian Eno.

Juliet Stevenson - Royal Shakespeare and film actress who was recently awarded a CBE. Now 44, she juggles her acting career with a family. She saw herself more as a sleeping patron but backed the other patrons over the issues which led to her resignation from her role at War Child

Sir Tom Stoppard - The renowned playwright was a strong patron of War Child from the start - he even dipped into his own pocket to help David Wilson and Bill Leeson survive in Mostar. He quit the charity with Brian Eno after the ill-fated trustee meeting in 1999

Brent Hanson - The head of the 24-hour MTV Europe music channel is not a traditional TV executive. He left TV New Zealand in 1986 because he was pissed off that it was getting so corporation-minded and still describes himself as pretty hip. He was encouraged to join War Child by Brian Eno and quit at same time

The Patron who stayed:

Neil Morrissey - An actor who still strongly supports War Child. Morrissey was a tear-away who spent much of his teens in care. The 38-year-old actor admits his feelings of anger have subsided an awful lot since he began working as a goodwill ambassador for the charity War Child: Before this job started, I was in Rwanda and Sudan, and before that Kosovo. When you come back you don't have road rage, believe me.