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Beyonce headlines sell-out UK gig to promote gender equality

Singer Beyonce performs at "The Sound of Change" concert at Twickenham Stadium in London June 1, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Singer Beyonce performs at "The Sound of Change" concert at Twickenham Stadium in London June 1, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall

By Dasha Afanasieva

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. singer Beyonce performed a set full of female anthems on Saturday at a London concert to raise funds for women's health, education and justice.

The concert, which organizers hoped would reach a billion viewers, was staged by Chime For Change, a charity started by Italian fashion house Gucci which crowdfunds donations for projects to advance gender equality in more than 70 countries.

The "If I Were A Boy" singer was joined on stage by husband and rapper Jay-Z for "Crazy In Love", but sang stirring anthems of female empowerment for which she is best known alone.

She told the audience that the charity gig had already raised $4 million dollars, and urged them to go online and do more during a set lasting 40 minutes that also included short films about women's issues starring Beyonce.

Performances from Florence + The Machine, John Legend and Jennifer Lopez with a surprise duet with Mary J Blige, entertained the audience of more than 50,000 at Twickenham stadium, west London.

Beyonce walked on stage wearing a black leather body suit with sequin shoulders as the crowds chanted her name, and an all-female troupe of violinists played the opening chords of "A Change Is Gonna Come".

Tearful but smiling, she then sang "At Last", originally by Etta James, and pleased a dancing crowd with an energetic performance of "Run The World (Girls)".

The Song For Change concert was broadcast live to 150 countries, and on primetime TV in the United States the following day, organizers said.

Promoting gender equality and empowering women is one of the eight goals set out by the United Nations at the turn of the millennium, yet inequality remains with just 21 percent of seats in national parliaments held by women, according to the Chime For Change website.

Leading human rights activist and anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu appeared in a video message and called for men to stand up for girls and women.

"This is the time for a revolution for women and girls," the 81-year-old said. "And we each must play a part. Empowering girls and women is the challenge of our time."

Artists including Jessie J, HAIM, Iggy Azalea, Legend, Rita Ora and Timbaland all performed, but Beyonce was the big attraction for performers and fans alike.

"She's the perfect role model for anyone: she's got a business mind, her body's amazing!" said 26-year-old Sophie Kalaichakis, who was wearing a T-shirt from the singer's last tour.

Gucci is underwriting the event to allow all ticket sales to go to the charity, after taxes and transaction fees.

Each one of the 52,000 tickets sold at prices ranging from 55-95 British pounds each ($85-$150) entitle the buyer to choose which cause their ticket will fund in what organizers said was a first for such a venture.

"They want people not just to enjoy the concert but also follow it through," Harvey Goldsmith, producer of the 1985 Live Aid concert staged to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief, told Reuters before the gig.

"The idea is to get the audience more engaged in what's going on so that they can actually see and feel where the money is going."

Projects include helping provide 50 Haitian girls with a safe space to learn and lead in their communities and fighting female genital mutilation in Mali.

(Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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