Colalife: MOO friends in high places

17th July 2009 by Lucie

If you happen to be in London this afternoon (Friday!), why not join some of the MOO crew down at Trafalgar Square? Not only will it be an opportunity to hang out with Nelson on his column, cool down with the pigeons in the fountain and perhaps have a wander around the National Gallery – but you’ll also be able to cheer on MOO customer and friend Simon Berry, of ingenious charity Colalife. For one hour he’ll have pride of place on the famously unadorned 4th plinth – as part of Anthony Gormley’s latest project, ‘One and Other’.

Colalife is a campaign to encourage Coca-Cola to share it’s distribution network in developing countries. With the purpose of getting much needed medicines and other ‘social products’ such as condoms, rehydration salts and vitamin A tablets to the people that really need them.

A recent post on the Colalife blog sums it up nicely:
“You can buy a Coca-Cola virtually anywhere in developing countries and yet 1 in 5 children die before the age of 5 from largely preventable causes like dehydration from diarrhoea.”

Determined to do something about this, Simon has invented the ‘aidpod’. A simple yet innovative, wedge-shaped pod that fits in the unused space between the necks of the bottles in a Coca-Cola crate. The aidpod will be filled with whatever is urgently required locally. Since he first came up with the idea nearly 20 years ago, it’s only recently that the campaign has taken off in a big way – largely due to the internet.

After blogging about it back in May 2008, a huge community has developed around the idea. Simon’s Facebook group and appearances on Radio 4’s iPM programme have created real interest. Bob Geldof has wished them good luck and on Tuesday this week Sarah Brown (wife of the Prime Minister, for anyone who knows another Sarah Brown!) tweeted about them.

All of this has resulted in the opening of the first discussions with Coca-Cola – which is fantastic news!

But let’s get back to this Friday. If you’re thinking, ‘this is a bit strange, what’s a charity doing standing about in Trafalgar Square where a statue should be?’ Well, allow me to elaborate…

The 4th plinth, empty since 1841, is now used as a stage for contemporary artworks, commissioned especially from leading artists. You’ll probably remember one fo the first commissions – Marc Quinn‘s sculpture, Alison Lapper Pregnant, (shown below, in a shot by Loz Flowers) which was on the plinth from 2005-2007.

Alison, an artist herself, was born with no arms and legs. She was also 7 months pregnant at the time she sat for the sculpture. Quinn wanted to make a sculpture of someone born with no limbs, to see if it’s beauty would receive the same unconditional acceptance as that of ancient sculptures where the limbs had fallen off through the wear and tear of time. The sculpture was globally recognized and also drew great attention to the plinth itself.

Currently on show is project ‘One and Other’ by British sculptor Anthony Gormley. For 100 days, a different person, 24 hours a day, will be given free reign to entertain, inform or just sit and contemplate their navel in front of the people of London. (We feel sorry for the girl who happened to be up there during the almighty storm last week, and we’re crossing our fingers for dry weather this afternoon…) Gormley’s aim is to elevate every day life to a position normally occupied by monumental art.

One UK exhibitionist and general good egg, Russell Tanner happened to be picked at random from the thousands of applicants. Continuing the theme of collaboration and the internet providing, it was via Twitter that Simon and Russell made contact. Simon had for a long time, been eager to get a giant aidpod onto the 4th plinth and Russell was in possession of an hour on the plinth with no firm ideas on how to use it. The rest as they say, is Twitter history!

So, how did we find out about all of this? Well, Simon uses MOO Business Cards as promotional material to spread the word about Colalife. You can read his blog post about them here.

The story behind the pictures on the cards is another example of the collaborative nature of Colalife. While Simon was running the Facebook group, someone else (Kate Andrews) set up a ColaLife Flickr Group. The photos on the cards come from various people but the large majority come from Tielman Nieuwoudta, a logistics consultant in Vietnam. He and Simon have never met, but have since become friends via conversations on Skype. His partner, a public health expert, has also assisted with the ColaLife Business Plan.

Simon, his friends and collaborators, will be handing out their Colalife Business Cards and answering questions, at Trafalgar Square, this Friday 3-4pm. So if you’re free, please do come along and show your support. (Be there or be uncharitably square :)

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