Bill Shipsey

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Bill Shipsey (22 June 1958, Waterford, Ireland) is a human rights activist, artist event promoter, producer and consultant, Barrister, and the founder of Art for AmnestyAmnesty International's global artist engagement programme.[1]

Bill Shipsey (2013)

Art for Amnesty - Music Projects[edit]

Shipsey joined Amnesty in the late 1970s, inspired in part by the activism of entertainers, who performed at the Monty-Python-esque ‘Secret Policeman's Ball’ benefit show. As founder of Art for Amnesty, Shipsey has brought together a number of world-renowned artists for music, literary, visual art and other artist lead projects that benefit Amnesty:

  1. Shipsey was co-executive producer of ‘Instant Karma,’ Amnesty's multi-star benefit album of John Lennon compositions. So far the album has raised over $5m in royalties for Amnesty. The album hit number one on iTunes stores around the world, and was nominated for several Grammies. Shipsey said the idea was “to allow Amnesty to engage with the iPod-listening, music-downloading, 16-to-26 year-olds. [The album] enabled us to reach out and engage young kids in a way we hadn’t for years.” [2]
  2. He devised and produced the Small Places Tour, a 2008 music concert project which partnered with over 800 concerts in some 40 countries worldwide.[3]
  3. From 2009-2017 Shipsey oversaw the participation of Amnesty on U2’s global tours.
  4. In October 2010, he partnered with German entrepreneur Jochen Wilms and their mutual musician friend Carl Carlton to create a commemorative song for Amnesty’s 50th Anniversary. This led to the groundbreaking Art for Amnesty Band ‘Toast to Freedom’ song with contributions from nearly 50 singers from all over the world. ‘Toast To Freedom’ was launched worldwide on 3 May 2012. [4]
  5. Shipsey also promoted and produced 'Electric Burma' a concert held on 18 June 2012 in honour of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi featuring Bono, Damien Rice, Lupe Fiasco, Bob Geldof, Angelique Kidjo and many others. [5]
  6. He co-executive produced 'Bringing Human Rights Home' a concert held on 5 February 2014, benefitting Amnesty International in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. [6]
  7. In May 2015 he produced and directed two concerts and several other artist events in Mexico City for Amnesty entitled 'Desde Aqui' to mark the opening of the Amnesty International regional hub for the Americas in Mexico City. One of the concerts featured renowned Venezuelan pianist Gabriella Montero and the other Saul Hernandez, Caifanes and Lila Downs]]. [7]
  8. In 2017 he launched "Eleanor's Dream" a one year artist lead project to mark the 70th Anniversary of the UDHR and to celebrate the achievement of Eleanor Roosevelt in its creation and adoption. Internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter Damien Rice performed a sell out acoustic concert in the Olympia in Paris on December 11th. [8]

Art for Amnesty - Awards, Tapestries and More[edit]

Shipsey initiated and produced Amnesty's Ambassador of Conscience Award from 2003 to 2015, an accolade that has been bestowed on such diverse activists as Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Harry Belafonte, Václav Havel, Joan Baez, Ai Wei Wei, Peter Gabriel and U2. [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] The Ambassador of Conscience Award was inspired by Irish poet Seamus Heaney, a great Amnesty supporter for over 30 years. Heaney dedicated a poem to Amnesty titled "From the Republic of Conscience" in 1985.

Since 2012 Shipsey conceived and commissioned thirteen monumental memorial tapestries (funded in the main by artist supporters of Amnesty International including Bono and Edge of U2, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Yoko Ono, Paul Simon and John Legend) honouring, among others Vaclav Havel, Seamus Heaney, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon and the people of Colombia & Greece. [14] [15] [16] [17] These tapestries are to be found at various airport and museum locations around the world. Most of the tapestries were designed by New-York-based Czech artist Peter Sis. The tapestry for Colombia was designed by Fernando Botero. [18] The most recent tapestry was designed by Greek artist Sophia Vari. It is called 'I love GreecyAll were woven by master weavers at Ateliers Pinton in Felletin-Aubusson, France.[19]

In November 2017 three Peter Sis designed tapestries honouring Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. will be unveiled in the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham Alabama.

Shipsey has also been instrumental in promoting and placing several 'Havel's Place' memorial benches, honouring the late Czech President, Playwright and Dissident Vaclav Havel. in Dublin, Barcelona, Venice, The Hague and Lisbon. [20]

As a Barrister Shipsey appeared for Amnesty International before the Court of Justice of the European Union. He has consulted widely with other human rights organisations around the world seeking to partner with artists in the promotion of human rights campaigns.

Professional Memberships[edit]

  • Bar of England & Wales 1987[21]
  • Bar of Northern Ireland 1989[22]

Professional Experience[edit]

  • Senior Counsel Irish Bar, January 1994 – 2018
  • Junior Counsel Irish Bar, 1980 - 1994


  • Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran - Board member & Chair
  • The Václav Havel Library Foundation[23] - Board member
  • Art for Amnesty - Founder. Chair, May 2002 to May 2016
  • Irish Hospice Foundation - Board Member & Chair, March 2001 to July 2004
  • Amnesty International - Board Member International Executive Committee, November 1987 to August 1989
  • Amnesty International Irish Section - Board Member & Chair, May 1984 to November 1987
  • Free Legal Advice Centres - Board Member & Chair, October 1978 to May 1980
  • Rights Watch (U.K.) - Patron
  • Poetry Ireland - Board Member
  • The Estate of Seamus Heaney - Board Member


After attending National School in Dunmore East, Co. Waterford Shipsey's secondary education was at Castleknock College in Dublin. He gained his Bachelor of Civil Law degree at University College Dublin (1976-79), and Barrister at Law degree from King's Inns Dublin (1979–80).


  1. ^ Cogan, Višnja (1 March 2008). U2: An Irish Phenomenon. Pegasus Books. pp. 118–. ISBN 9781933648712. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
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