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A celeb-fest with a distinctly dodgy line-up? Or a fitting memorial to a great British woman? Ros Dodd finds the Concert For Diana stirs up some unexpected emotions.

For me, yesterday’s Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium elicited mixed emotions. Firstly, it took me back to the day she died, when I enjoyed one of the best days of my professional life - writing screeds of copy for a special edition of The Birmingham Post where I was then the Women’s Editor.

The concert reminded me, too, of how, over the past ten years, I’ve become cynically hardened to Diana and her “good works”. Once she was dead, it was easy to dismiss her charitable contributions, criticise her manipulation of the press and denounce her as a slightly unhinged woman whose tragic death reflected her sad life.

The Concert for Diana brought other memories to the surface. It reminded me of my enduring fascination with a coy teenager who became the most famous woman in the world - a woman I initially loved and, later, a woman I loved to hate.

Although I’d become critical of her by the time she died, I watched every minute of her funeral and the journalist in me melted away as I succumbed, sobbingly, to the national mood of mourning.

While I am tempted to wince at my reaction a decade ago, the Concert for Diana - peppered with tributes from people whose lives she touched - reminded me forcefully why I was so moved at the time: that people loved her.

They loved her because she was a stunningly beautiful princess and because she’d had her heart broken by her husband, but also because of what she did. This was the first publicly-spotlighted woman to shake the hand or hug an Aids sufferer, which was pretty brave back then and, I have no doubt, did much to ease prejudice towards homosexuality.

She championed many causes that weren’t sexy or safe and she did so with grace and a quirky sense of humour.

You could argue her charity work was merely a way to assuage her unhappiness, yet everyone has their selfish reasons for throwing themselves into good works - there is no such thing as pure altruism.

You could argue, too, that real charity doesn’t involve priming the press each time you slip into a hospital at night to watch an operation. Yes, Diana loved publicity for herself, but she also understood it was a crucial tool to raise the profile of unfashionable charities she supported.

What moved me most of all last night (and had so moved me on the day of her funeral) was fact that Diana was a much-loved mother whose sons have been deprived of her support, comfort and influence for the past decade.

To see William and Harry yesterday - two brave, proud, mature young men who had pulled off a stunning celebration for what would have been their Mum’s 46th birthday - was to remember that of the myriad people whose lives she touched or influenced, the two princes were the ones she touched and influenced the most.

That, in itself, was a cause for celebration.


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