Entertaining Australian troops at war in Afghanistan and Iraq

Richard Gehrmann

Abstract


This article examines the Australian forces concert tours during the War on Terror in the Middle East area of operations. From 2001 members of the Australian Defence Force were deployed to the Middle East for service in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. Following on the tradition established in earlier conflicts both by Australian and American performers, the troops were entertained by Australian artists in a series of live concert performances. Despite the prevalence of alternatives such as easily accessible online forms of entertainment and DVDs, the practice of military concert tour entertainment has survived and appears to show little sign of becoming redundant. For the troops, the experience could provide a break from routine, stress and boredom as well as an opportunity to reconnect with the world they had left behind. However, these tours were far more significant for the civilian entertainers. Performing in the Middle East could be an exhilarating and in some cases even a life changing event. Apart from being physically dangerous, it could potentially harm (or enhance) an entertainer's reputation in what was a highly politicised conflict. Most significantly, touring entertainers gained a brief experience of something unfamiliar to most in contemporary developed societies – the experience of being in a war.


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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303