Canberra singer-songwriter, author and diplomat Fred Smith has used his talents to shine a light on everything from ordinary events to international issues but his charity concert on 17 February is aimed at welcoming Afghan evacuees to the ACT.
Known for his humorous and sometimes sad perspectives on the modern world delivered via folk music, Smith has been on a mission to help the people of Afghanistan for more than a decade.
In fact the kindness the Afghan people have shown him over many years inspired the idea for the Canberra concert.
“I’ve been working on Afghanistan [issues] since 2009 and, most recently, I was involved in August last year working on the evacuation of Afghans from Kabul International Airport,” Smith said.
“When I returned, I was involved in a ceremony in late September for Rotary … they were giving me the Rotary Peace Prize. After that, it came to my attention from the ABC that there were several hundred Afghan people who had been evacuated from Kabul, who actually moved to Canberra.
“Adrienne Francis, the ABC presenter, suggested we do a benefit concert to welcome them and I thought it was a good idea. So I talked to Rotary and Red Cross and we decided proceeds could go towards scholarships.
“The show will also be an opportunity to recognise the huge efforts of Canberra public servants and defence force members who were involved in that evacuation.”
While the Red Cross will help the Afghans with the practicalities of everything from finding accommodation to trauma counselling, Smith says the concert aims to ensure they feel welcome in Canberra.
Proceeds raised through the concert will go to purchasing educational supplies for local Afghan students, who are desperate to learn.
“We don’t need to plant the seeds, Afghans know the value of education, but we all know how expensive it is to get your kids through school these days,” he said.
“I think it’s a nice gesture and a good start to their school year.
“Canberrans seem to be responding to the opportunity to make the Afghans that came to Canberra feel welcome.”
Smith will be performing songs from his critically acclaimed Dust of Uruzgan album, which is based on his time in Afghanistan. He will also perform new material drawing on his experiences working on the evacuation.
The Canberra Theatre Centre is the venue for the evening, with tickets for the concert costing $49.95 at full price and $40.95 for students. The night is a collaboration between Smith, the Canberra Theatre Centre, Rotary Australia, Canberra Centre and Australian Red Cross.