The Band Aid 30 single is “cringeworthy” and its lyrics display “cultural ignorance”, according to the British nurse who survived Ebola.
Will Pooley, who has returned to Sierra Leone to treat victims of the disease, told Radio Times that he and other relief workers in the West African nation think the words to the fundraising single are “a bit much”.
Pooley, who made a full recovery after being treated in London with the experimental drug ZMapp, said he heard the first half of the song on the way to work, at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
“It’s definitely being talked about here among my colleagues,” he says in the Christmas edition of Radio Times.
“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.”
A number of artists have criticised Band Aid as patronising. Emeli Sande said that “a whole new song is required”, while rapper Fuse ODG refused to take part, saying that he was “shocked and appalled” by the lyrics.
Bob Geldof (pictured), however, told critics of the song to “f*** off”. Asked by the Daily Telegraph about Pooley’s comments, he said: “Please. It’s a pop song. Relax.”
In stark contrast to the rhetorical question asked by the song, Pooley said that even the majority Muslim population in Sierra Leone’s capital will celebrate Christmas.
“The amazing thing about Sierra Leone is that it’s slightly more Muslim here, but all of the religious holidays are celebrated by everyone. Muslims will celebrate Christmas here. This year will be a bit subdued, obviously.
“Normally at Christmas in Sierra Leone everyone disappears from Freetown and goes off to spend a few weeks with family, having big parties. That won’t be the case this year. Public gatherings are not allowed.”
Pooley, who is volunteering with the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership, is hoping to go “somewhere nice to eat and have a few beers” after his shift on Christmas Day.
Asked if he would be able to find anywhere serving turkey, he said: “God, no. There might be some goat.”
The nurse urged people to give money to charities “that are setting up treatment centres, that have isolation units and are working directly with patient care”.
Had the West acted earlier, he said, many lives could have been saved. “With an injection of will and resources six months ago, this whole thing could have been avoided and thousands of deaths with it.
“But of more interest back home is the risk of a perpetual threat of viral haemorrhagic fever to the UK. If it rumbles on here for years, then that constant threat, that’s going to have economic costs back home.”
Pooley, who comes from Eyke in Suffolk, said he wanted some “nice coffee” for Christmas, but that postal constraints made it difficult for his parents to send him gifts.
“Otherwise, there’s nothing I need. I don’t have a lot of possessions – they were all incinerated after I caught Ebola. You don’t really need much, providing you have the basics.”
Will Pooley is volunteering with the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership. Donate at kslp.org.uk/donate or to give £10 text FightEbola to 70111
Read the full interview in the Christmas issue of Radio Times, on sale now