Scots plan Kosovo concert with big stars, bagpipes

PODUJEVO, May 8, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Scottish regiment in Kosovo has drawn up ambitious plans to organize a major concert, featuring international pop stars and bagpipe music, to foster optimism and peace in the province.

Officers from the Scots Dragoon Guards said they had already contacted agents of stars such as Robbie Williams and Geri Halliwell about the concert, which would take place on June 11, the eve of the first anniversary of NATO's arrival in Kosovo.

Colonel David Allfrey, the regiment's commanding officer in the Balkan territory, has codename the effort to stage the event "Operation Renaissance" and is proposing that the concert is held under the motto "Phoenix Over Kosovo".

Allfrey said he hoped the concert, which would take place in the provincial capital Pristina, would highlight the positive aspects of life in postwar Kosovo and draw attention to what international agencies and local people have accomplished.

"There are a lot of positive things happening here," Allfrey enthused at his headquarters in the northern Kosovo town of Podujevo. "They've achieved an enormous amount."

Major Ben Edwards, another senior officer in the regiment which forms part of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force, said the initial response from agents representing Halliwell and Williams had been "extremely positive".

Both stars are supporters of international good causes and their agents had indicated they were free on the proposed date and the concert was "the kind of thing they'd be interested in".

Allfrey has proposed the concert take place in Pristina's run-down sports stadium, against the backdrop of the ruins of Serb police headquarters, hit by NATO during last year's bombing. Between 10,000 and 14,000 people could attend free of charge.

The regiment's pipes and drums would feature strongly in the line-up, according to Allfrey's plans, which he said were backed by the commander of Kosovo's British-led military sector.

A lone piper would play a traditional lament, known as a pibroch, at the start of the concert for Kosovo's tragic past.

But the show would end with a rousing version of the tune "Going Home" by Dire Straits star Mark Knopfler featuring pipes, drums and guitar, said Allfrey, who gathered some of his musicians in his office to give Reuters a sneak preview.

"Normally the lone piper's at the end," he said. "We end with 'Going Home', which is the optimistic end to the concert."

Allfrey acknowledged he needed a concrete commitment from a major star to make his plans reality and that his troops would need some help in staging the concert. But said he was confident everything could be done within the tight timeframe.

"I think it's manageable in six weeks," he said. "There's a lot of energy... in KFOR and Kosovo."

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