It was one of those evenings when, despite the ongoing absurdity of the neverending mid-July downpours, you think London really is the best city in the world.
The Barbican was humming with excitement as Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel and Jon Snow took to the stage to introduce the stars of the show: three of The Elders – a group of legendary leaders who use their combined experience and moral authority to work for peace across the world.
The hum broke into rapturous applause as former President Mary Robinson, President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu took to the stage. There followed a two hour discussion and Q&A, ranging from how the group adapt their (as they confessed, rather large) egos when they work together, to their contributions in areas of terrible conflict and their hopes for the future. The audience, at all times respectful, did not hold back from asking difficult, penetrating questions. Their intelligence, and the Elders’ humble demeanor, kept the coversation energised and prevented the evening from turning into a session of sycophancy and hero-worship.
The particular highlight was the chemistry between Desmond Tutu and moderator Jon Snow. It’s impossible to count the number of times the Archbishop – this tiny little man at the epicentre of a vast auditorium – erupted into raucous, cackling laughter, sending ripples of delight throughout the whole audience. This was topped only by the spine-tingling ovation all three of them received at the end.
As we left, the hum was stronger than ever, with no chance of being dampenend by the frankly atrocious weather outside.