27 JUNE 2008

The birthday concert to mark Nelson Mandela's 90th was shaping up into a very special occasion as top names in the music industry assembled in London on Thursday, ahead of the Friday night gig.

Among those jetting in from overseas were Hollywood star Will Smith and the Soweto Gospel Choir. Also joining Mr Mandela at the special photocall were former X Factor winner Leona Lewis, Eurhythmics singer Annie Lennox and girl band trio The Sugababes.

All will take to the stage in London's Hyde Park on Friday, with the three-and-a-half hour concert being broadcast in the UK that evening.

Despite her health problems Amy Winehouse apparently also has her sights set on singing for the elder statesman at the bash, which will raise funds for his AIDS charity.

Earlier in the day there was a more private engagement on Mr Mandela's agenda when he met with Formula One ace Lewis Hamilton and his family. It must have been a truly special moment for the 23-year-old race ace, as he's always described the charismatic statesman as being a key role model alongside his father Anthony Hamilton.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The former South African leader joined musicians due to take to the stage at a special London concert in honour on Friday. Leona Lewis (left), Annie Lennox (right) and the three Sugababes are just a handful of the artists due to perform, while Will Smith will introduce the event Photo: © Getty ImagesClick on photos for gallery
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Earlier in the day Mr Mandela met with Lewis Hamilton (second right) and his family. The occasion must have been especially meaningful for the race ace who describes the elder statesman, along with Mr Lewis senior, as a key role model in his life Photo: © Rex
Photo: © Alphapress.com
The Formula One driver had his hero in stitches as they shared a private word together on Thursday Photo: © Rex
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