Cut down doing the job he loved

Published by The Mail on Sunday (15th November, 2015)

It is hard to think of anyone further removed from the fanaticism and hatred of Islamist killers than Nick Alexander, who was working at the Bataclan theatre when the gunmen slaughtered scores of music fans.

The 36-year-old was selling merchandise for the band playing at the venue, just as he sold merchandise for Africa Express – the music project I founded with Blur’s Damon Albarn – on our train tour across Britain as part of the 2012 London Olympics.

Nick was a sweet-natured guy, a rock music fan with a ready grin whose relaxed and chatty nature won over pretty much all of the 90-odd artists from Africa, America and Europe who joined us on the trip.

We spent a week together trundling on an old train around the country, playing pop-up shows in schools and community centres during the day and then four-hour collaborative concerts in Middlesbrough, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol and London.

Nick threw himself into the venture with a big smile on his face as artists rehearsed in the on-board studio. He then ensured the merchandising of T-shirts, mugs, posters and bags passed off each night without fuss.

One after another, musicians wandered over to his stall before returning clutching a T-shirt and saying what a nice chat they had just had with ‘the lovely merch man’.

In Bristol, where we played in a packed big top, he let the eight-year-old niece of another crew member stand throughout the show on his table – typical of his generosity.

At the end of the tour, after a five-hour concert in King’s Cross featuring the likes of Baaba Maal and Paul McCartney, Nick came over to say thanks for letting him join a joyful event. Yet he played a key role in ensuring its good spirits.

Last night, Damon Albarn told me he was shocked by the news: ‘Nick’s death is immensely sad. The fact that he seems to have given his life to save another will be a lasting testament to what a lovely guy he was.’

This is the second time I have lost someone in my world to Islamist terrorists; the last being in the 2005 London bombings.

Driven by hatred of modernity, these zealots seek to frighten society and sow divisions. Africa Express – which played in front of Paris city hall for 25,000 fans – was founded to do the precise opposite: to foster a spirit of collaboration and unity.

These were the things challenged by the killers when they attacked people – from all faiths and none – enjoying a Friday night out with food, drink, music and laughter.

For the sake of Nick and all the other victims, we must not lose our humanity in fighting back.

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