The last time Annie Lennox met Hozier, they were rehearsing a duet together in a Los Angeles hotel room — without yet realising that their shared vision for the world around them stretched further than music.
Years later, the two are in a recording studio across central London, relaxing into a dark leather sofa. They’re talking about how art has often defined activism throughout history — in conversation for the first episode of the Cry Power podcast in partnership with Global Citizen.
“Music defines change,” Lennox says, later pointing to Childish Gambino’s This Is America as a music video that truly woke people up, a moment Hozier agrees is an “arresting piece of work.” He suggests that music can tell the truest stories about human experience: “It’s a real vehicle for the zeitgeist."
Lennox and Hozier, now close friends, talk for over an hour. The topic: global feminism, pertaining to the fifth of the UN’s Global Goals — achieving gender equality to empower all women and girls. They touch on everything from education and HIV/AIDS, to #MeToo and gender violence.
Born in 1954, Lennox’s personal history in activism is rooted in family. Her parents fought facism “at the factory gates” in Aberdeen, and she grew up through the inception of the civil rights movement and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
That was long before Lennox won eight BRIT Awards, four Grammys, and a Golden Globe — both as a solo artist and as half of the Eurythmics. Her passionate activism is a consistent thread throughout her entire career: she performed at Nelson Mandela’s inaugural 46664 concert against HIV/AIDS, later earning an OBE for her dedication to the issue; has worked with Comic Relief in Uganda; and founded a gender equality organisation called The Circle.
Lennox went on to win the George Harrison Global Citizen Award in 2017 in recognition of her contribution to music and activism.
It was when she visited Robben Island with Nelson Mandela over a decade ago that she first realised how the voices of women and girls were marginalised by poverty around the world.
Lennox was angry — and from that outrage, an idea was born. That feeling grew into an informed resistance, and four years ago, she founded The Circle.
It’s an organisation that hinges on women supporting women, amplifying vulnerable voices, producing advocacy tools for local communities, and putting on high-profile events to fundraise the fight against gender inequality. It works to connect and inspire women to act and change the injustices and challenges faced by the most disempowered women and girls around the globe.
Global feminism is an idea close to Lennox’s heart. For her, it means a feminism inclusive of men. It means understanding that gender inequality is an international issue — and that the fight is far from over.
“Poverty impacts everything,” she tells Hozier on the podcast. “And it impacts the lack of everything.”
“The picture — and the threads of the picture — are so utterly complex,” Lennox adds later. “The solutions are not straightforward. But there are solutions.”
The Circle has now raised over £1.8 million, making a vital difference to over 100,000 women and girls in more than 13 developing countries. It was also the driving force behind the #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist campaign, a movement that first caught Hozier’s eye in November 2018. (You can get involved with the organisation’s work here.)
We’re *so* excited to announce that we’ve been working with @Hozier on a brand new podcast about how to change the world! ✊— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) October 1, 2019
The first episode of #CryPower is out now with @AnnieLennox. Listen and subscribe at https://t.co/kRgd05oEYb and #PowerTheMovement to end extreme poverty! pic.twitter.com/b4PKJDHt9Y
It’s not really about talking, Hozier says, it’s about making change happen. Towards the end of their conversation, the two artists agree that the challenges can sometimes feel overwhelming — but what’s important is that people know they can join a movement where every individual action matters.
“You can be told about very harrowing statistics and facts and be persuaded to do something — and I guess listeners are thinking: what can I do as an individual?” Lennox says. “That’s the challenge for most people, even if they’re persuaded — they don’t actually know what to do.”
“That’s why an organisation like Global Citizen is so important because … [you] take a small action that can contribute to a larger body of change that’s the tipping point towards transformation.”
The second episode of the Cry Power podcast will be released on Oct. 8. Head to GlobalCitizen.org/CryPower to check out the latest episodes, take action on the vital issues discussed in the podcast, and to #PowerTheMovement to end extreme poverty