How did you make #helpiscoming happen?
I was watching the news late at night about nine days ago, and the footage of Syrian families alighting overcrowded boats in Kos, without any clear idea of what would be happening to them next. At some point throughout all of this, a song faded up in my head that I hadn't heard for years and years. It had appeared on a Crowded House anthology of previously unreleased songs back in 1999, and the song itself was recorded in 1995. Help Is Coming seemed to uncannily evoke the howling uncertainty that these hundreds of thousands of families must be going through. Help Is Coming is a song about people placing their faith in people and institutions they have yet to encounter. The following morning as ever more harrowing headlines appeared in the papers, the song was still in my head. I contacted Crowded House's Neil Finn to ask him if he would hypothetically be up for waiving his royalties if I could secure a limited vinyl release for the song. I then called The Vinyl Factory, a label in London that has its own pressing plant, and asked them if they would press up 1000 copies for free, with the money going to Save The Children.
Since then, everything just exploded. Director Mat Whitecross offered to work over the weekend in order to make the astonishing and hearbreaking accompanying film. When I went to see Universal Records on Monday morning, with a view to having them waive their cut from sales of the song, I showed them the video and they threw all their departments into effecting a Friday release straight away. With their unbelievable commitment, we were able to coax iTunes into releasing the song at, what for them, is an unprecedented turnaround time. Somewhere along the way, thanks to my wife Caitlin emailing him, Benedict Cumberbatch got involved and filmed a beautiful intro to the song, just half an hour before going on stage at The Barbican. Lovely lovely man. Everyone basically said yes. And it all started with that song.
Why did you choose to do a charity record?
It doesn't feel like there was a moment when I "chose" – the song chose itself. It's perfectly suited to this appalling situation, and therefore perfectly suited to draw attention to it. But hardly anyone knew it, so Caitlin and I had to get to work on it, along with a wonderful band of positive, energetic, talented, beautiful people: Mat Whitecross, Save The Children, Universal and so many others, too numerous to mention here.
What's the response been like, what do you think of it?
Well, as we edge towards the first day of release, it's absolutely off the scale. Tweets and Facebook posts from Coldplay, Yoko Ono, James Corden, Alan Carr, Gary Lineker, Rob Delaney and others, who have helped the message circulate. We're think the Government is about to drop the VAT from sales of the record [DONE!]. The song will be played at the Emirates stadium tomorrow, ahead of the Arsenal match, with £1 being donated by Arsenal for every ticket sale, and it's been all over the papers and TV news. I'm astonished. Human beings have a duty to vindicate the faith they show in each other. That's what Help Is Coming is about. That's what this campaign is about.
The song is available to download on iTunes for just 79p Save The Children. You can also text GIVE to 61144 to donate £5 to Save The Children. And if you're not already, go follow Pete and Caitlin on Twitter and be sure to have a good scroll through the #helpiscoming hashtag.
As Benedict puts it "nobody puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land." Please give what you can.