Trident Ploughshares are organising a three day protest at the Faslane Naval Base, home to Britain’s nuclear submarines. Recognising the power of song as a weapon of protest and resistance, the programme for the weekend is centred around songs and singing-related activities.
The Alistair Hulett Memorial Trust is sponsoring a performance of Still Life: Tales from the West Bank, a 75 minute show performed by Karen Chalk and Penny Stone, based on their experiences as human rights observers with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) in the occupied Palestinian territories. The show will take place at Govanhill Baths, Glasgow on Saturday 9th June, doors open at 19:00. Entry is free, but there will be a collection, proceeds of which will go to EAPPI. Penny and Karen lived in the villages of Jayyous and Yanoun in the northern West Bank, witnessing and experiencing everyday life in the occupied Palestinian territories. The aim of the show is to enable people to engage with human stories of the occupation as well as learning more about the context. The show was originally devised for performance at the Edinburgh Festival Free Fringe 2011, where it played to a packed house nightly.
Giving Voice Workshops is committed to spreading an awareness of all varieties of political song and songs of social justice; so with that proviso and in that spirit, this news item covers Sing – a song created by Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber to be the official Diamond Jubilee song. I am pleased to report that as mentioned in a previous news item, the Sex Pistols’ punk anthem version of God Save the Queen is being re-released at the end of May, and it will be interesting to see how Sing and the Pistols compare in terms of play time – although with the BBC and the establishment very much on board with Sing, it appears to be a fairly uneven contest!
Sing features vocals from Barlow, as well as contributions from a number of artists from the UK and various countries across the Caribbean, Africa, the Pacific Islands and Australasia (so plenty of hints of ex-“Empire”), together with The Military Wives, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Band … and Prince Harry on tambourine (although I’m not sure why)! The lyrics repeatedly berate the listener to do things like “Sing it louder, sing it clearer / Knowing everyone will hear you / Make some noise, find your voice tonight / Sing it stronger, sing together” whilst giving very little indication of just what it is we are supposed to be singing about – at least you know where you are with the Sex Pistols!
The Sex Pistols have been in the news recently in connection with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and the Olympic Games. Plans are underway to re-release the Pistols’ God Save the Queen, originally released in 1977 during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee events.
The song caused huge controversy, both for the defaced image of the Queen on the cover, and for its lyrics, which include “God Save the Queen / A fascist regime”; despite a ban by the BBC, the record managed to get to number two in the charts. This time round the song is likely to be up against a special Jubillee song of celebration written by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and pop singer Gary Barlow, do to be released at the end of May; perhaps this time the Pistols will get to number one!
The Sex Pistols are also in the news after they declined to take part in the Olympic ceremonies, along with various other acts. The Olympic authorities wanted to censor Pretty Vacant by not allowing Johnny Rotten to sing the word “vacant” with his usual slight variation on the final syllable!
Following a very successful and enjoyable event on the 13th April at Partick Burgh Hall to celebrate the life of Janey Buchan, Edwin Moore has put some images of the event on his Blog, including some of the display about the Janey Buchan Political Song Collection, curated by me at the School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow. To check out Ian’s piece, go to his blog at
Please note – There will more news about the Collection, and accessing lists of materials held, over the next few weeks.
VAT Ditty, written and performed by Pamela Greener has been created to protest at the U.K. Government’s measure to charge VAT on renovation work being carried out on listed buildings, in this case Wakefield Cathedral where renovations have been ongoing for four years, but now have been halted because of lack of funds to take account of the VAT imposition, announced in the recent Budget. As the song makes clear this move is anti-community, ironic given that it is being pursued by a government which has made so much of its “Big Society” propaganda – to which it pays such huge lip service, but in fact acts against in so many ways.
The Anti-Capitalist Roadshow: Celebrating Subversion and Republicanism is touring various venues commencing 21st April. Each show features a host of top performers drawn from a pool of singer/songwriters renowned for their activism and campaigning – including Frankie Armstrong, Peggy Seeger, Leon Rosselson, Roy Bailey, Rob Johnson, Reem Kelani, Sandra Kerr, Ian Savile, Grace Petrie and Janet Russell.
By the way – Whilst checking out Reem Kelani’s website I came across what I think is one of the best summations of the power of song I have yet seen. Reem recalls a conversation she had with an Armenian man whose parents died in the Armenian Genocide. ‘He said: “You can burn a book, you can burn a piece of antique furniture, but our music, our songs, our poetry, you can’t burn; it travels, it goes everywhere”.’
Following up an earlier news item on this blog, I have now been sent a link to the completed satirical music and song video about Donald Trump (whose actions to establish a golf course near Aberdeen have been described by Brian May as ‘a horrible example of bullying the defenceless by a rich man who apparently can buy anyone or anything he wants’).
Following permission from Brian, the song adapts Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to great effect; as the introduction to the video puts it “This is a story of destruction and greed, a story of lies and treachery, of how one man has used power and money … in his [Trump] battle for The Great Dunes of Scotland”.
Plan B (Ben Drew) has released Ill Manors, a rap that many commentators are heralding as one of the greatest protest songs for years. The song deals with the riots in England last August, and with the underlying problems of social alienation, exclusion, and the hopelessness and anger felt by many young people in the sick manors (inner city areas and housing schemes). Plan B explains his thinking behind the song (and soon to be film of the same name) in an interview with BBC1Xtra. One of his comments seems particularly insightful:
I’m not trying to condone what happened during the riots. It disgusted me. It made me sick. It saddened me more than anything because those kids that was rioting and looting they’ve just made life 10 times harder for themselves. They’ve just played into the hands of what certain sectors of Middle England think about them.
The lyrics are a clever and effective mix of angry and violent rants, such as:
Truth is here, we’re all disturbed / We cheat and lie its so absurd / Feed the fear that’s what we’ve learned / Fuel the fire / Let it burn”, together with critiques of specific issues; the sarcasm of We got an eco friendly government / They preserve our natural habitat / Built an entire Olympic village / Around where we live without pulling down any flats
seems especially apt and timely, whilst other parts of the rap raises questions about government cut programmes being a significant part of the problem:
Who closed down the community centre? / I kill time there used to be a member / What will I do now until September? / Schools out, rules out / get your bloody tools out / London’s burning, I predict a riot / Fall in fall out / who knows what it’s all about / What did that chief say?
As debating in Parliament, campaigns by health care professional organisations, and protests on the streets continue, the governments NHS “reforms”, as advanced in the Health and Social Care Bill spearheaded by Health Minister Andrew Lansley, cause further turmoil and anguish. And of course campaigns generate campaign songs, such as “A Song For Andrew Lansley and His Pals”. The ConDem Coalition would do well to heed the message in the chorus :
“It has its faults our NHS, but still it’s up there with the best We didn’t vote you in for you to leave it such a mess In Europe and the poor U.S. they pay much more and get much less Your Bill will kill our public health and make us like the rest We’ll never re-elect you if you wreck our NHS.”