|name: Chris Martin|
type of activity: musician (guitar, piano, voice), supporting the Oxfam campaign Make Trade Fair
What follows is an interview with Coldplay singer Chris Martin, who has supported Make Trade Fair since the campaign was launched in April 2002. This interview was first published in The Big Issue Magazine (UK).
The Big Issue is now an international movement, providing opportunities for people facing homelessness to help themselves. At the centre of this work is the magazine - a news & current affairs publication written by professional journalists and sold on the streets by vendors looking to overcome the crises surrounding homelessness.
Why did you get involved in the Make Trade Fair campaign? Oxfam approached us while we were recording A Rush of Blood to the Head and asked us to get involved in a campaign to improve trade laws and work conditions in the world. I think that at that time we had properly had enough of just talking about the band the whole time and we were feeling like we should get involved in something positive and important, so it was perfect.
Do you think Coldplay fans are more interested in fair trade issues then other people? I have no idea. Sometimes when we play I see t-shirts and banners, but then you see some other pretty weird stuff on t-shirts and banners. We try to mention it a lot, probably to the point where some people would rather we shut up. So I think most Coldplay fans have heard about it, and I secretly think they care about it as much as we do, because everybody knows Coldplay fans are the coolest people in the world.
Is there a reason why Coldplay lyrics don't really reflect your political beliefs? Do you like to keep music and politics separate? There's no conscious reason, that's just how they come out. One day, that might change, but we really can't tell. I think we often take the easy route of singing about girls.
What effect do you hope the Big Noise petition will have? Hopefully it will appeal to the conscience, and also the business sense, of some big business leaders and trade policy makers. Economically, unfair trade will benefit nobody in the long run, as poorer countries will be bled totally dry, and will become unable to produce anything. Similarly, it would be nice to think that companies like Nestlé will raise their standards if they think their customer base is questioning them about workers' rights and profit-sharing.
How do you hope the global trade situation will change over the next 20 years? I hope that Western companies with manufacturing bases abroad are forced to raise their standards and conditions of employment - everybody has heard about sweatshops - and I hope that they start to pay fairer prices for the raw produce they buy. The differences between the prices that we pay in the shops for things like sugar, coffee and cocoa, and the amount that the people who grow them receive, are pretty shocking.
It would be great it there were laws introduced to stop produce dumping, whereby local producers in poorer counties with open markets are forced out of business by unrealistically cheap Western imports. In Haiti, for example, the rice growers struggle to compete with imported American rice that undercuts their prices. This only happens because American farmers with subsidies overproduce, then have to pay no import duty when selling to Haiti. Haitian farmers, on the other hand, have to pay huge tariffs to export to the West.
Do you and the band intend to extend your involvement to other campaigns? We agree with loads of other things, but we like to focus on fair trade; firstly because we feel very strongly about it, and secondly because we don't want to dilute our commitment to it by spreading ourselves too thin. [The Big Issue, 11-17 August 2003]