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Jul 16

Two Songs From The National Street Choir Festival in Bury

I had a great time in Bury over the weekend, damaged finger and all!

For those who don’t know, I fell out of bed (really!) on Thursday morning and fell somehow on my forefinger.

It is now black and blue and swollen but I soldiered on and played the gig on Friday evening nonetheless. Yes, you’re right I am brave!

I believe that my song I Want Rosa To Stay was sung by hundreds in the massed sing on the Saturday. I missed that. If anyone has any video footage, can you tell me where to see it. I’d love to watch that.

Sunday morning was better still though. I had the privilege of leading two songwriting workshops with 25 marvellous people who created two fabulous songs.

I’m really proud of what each group did.

The overwhelming majority are not songwriters but the songs they came up with collectively are of a really high standard, and I expect choirs up and down the country will pick them up and start singing them.

Let me know when this happens!

Each song, astonishingly, was written in less than an hour!

Workshop 1 – Didn’t We Do Well

The first group wanted to recount their feelings of being moved on from Barclays Bank when trying to sing there – you know Barclays, the ones who offer the best fixed rates.

They felt that there was a stark difference between the welcome they got from the people of Bury and the welcome they got from the corporate menace that is Barclays.

(Edit: as Angela writes in the comments, it wasn’t the corporate menace of Barclays after all this time, but the privately owned shopping centre The Rock. So same issue, different corporate villain.)

This song tells the story of how proud they felt to be singing to the people of Bury, and taking a stand against the greed of the banks.

It’s really rousing, and a great story. Here it is. And yes, they did do well.

The songwriters are Maxine Beahan, Ann Attwell, Kathleen Litherland, Fiona Gell, Eleanor Hill, Sarah Lasenby, Neil Devlin, Mike Cox, Cee Martin, Frank Friedmann, Kirsty Martin, Alun Parry.

Didn’t We Do Well – Bury Workshop 1 by alunparry

Workshop 2 – Together We Are Free

This group were keen to explore the feeling of camaraderie and togetherness they had felt throughout the festival weekend.

They wanted to write about the inclusiveness of music, its power to bring people together, and how protest and unity is important, and the role music has to play in that.

One particularly lovely story was the choir who coincidentally began singing a Zimbabwean marriage ceremony song just as a Zimbabwean couple were walking past.

The couple did a double take and then joined in the festivities, singing along with the choir.

This is a lovely, symbolic moment about music’s power to bring people togther – and as the song says, together we are stronger, together we are free.

The songwriters are Julie Burgess, Mirjam Diamanti, Sheila McAnulty, Brian Butcher, Jane Dudman, Sue Bailey, Mary Cooper, Janet Swan, Malika Street, Don Ramage, Julie Burnage, Helen Everett, Sarah Westcott, Alun Parry.

Together We Are Free – Bury Workshop 2 by alunparry

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7 comments

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  1. Kerry and Chloe

    Kerry and I were in Bury all weekend and we really enjoyed ourselves!
    We were really impressed with these songs when they were showcased.
    :-)

  2. alunparry

    Hi Kerry and Chloe

    They did great didn’t they. I’ve got some audio clips of them singing in the workshop itself.

    Some of it is interrupted by discussion and trying to learn bits of it, but it sounds fab to hear all them voices so I might post that up later.

  3. Angela

    Hi Alun,

    As one of the organisers of the Bury Street Choirs Festival I feel that I must right an erroneous injustice that has been perpetrated against Barclays Bank in Bury!

    The people who moved the choirs away from busking outside of Barclays bank were not Barclays staff, the staff were happy to have the singers there.

    The area on which Barclays stands is part of The Rock shopping complex, a new privately owned development in Bury. It was the security and management of The Rock complex who moved the singers on; citing that we were a security risk!

    Earlier in 2012 the organisers of the Street Choir Festival asked if we could use the area outside Barclays bank as the area for our massed sing. The manager said yes and we were asked to submit our insurance documents nearer the time. On Friday 6th July at 5.15pm, I received a phone call from the owners of The Rock complex (in Manchester) refusing us permission to use the area outside Barclays for our massed sing citing that the area was only large enough to hold 200 people and as were to be 600 people, the space was too small
    .
    However, the area in question is a larger space than the space we ended up having our massed in and Bury Council had no objections to this.

    It is worth while knowing that the area outside Barclays is in fact divided in two and though there is no clear demarkation line; Bury Council own 50% of the area and The Rock Corporate ownership group own the other 50%. Bury Council gave us permission to use their 50% and IF The Rock Corporate Management Group had listened to what I told them and had taken stock of the situation as a whole, they would have seen that the combined Rock corporate area with Bury Council’s area was indeed large enough to hold 600 people. But they chose to refuse us permission to hold the massed sing there. They did not at any time however, tell me that we could not longer use it as a busking slot as had previously been granted to us.

    Whilst refusing us the use of the area for the massed sing, I was told that The Rock ownership fully supported the Festival and would like to advertise it and do anything else they could to help. Why they should then ‘remove’ a small choir of 20 singers from the area that we had been told we could use as a busking area is a total mystery to me.

    The song in your workshop was great, but alas it was The Rock Corporate Management at fault and not Barclays.

    Please be assured that I shall be addressing this issue with The Rock ownership as I feel that their security and manager on the day were totally unreasonable and wholly mean spirited towards our great, colourful community spirited song Festival; an attitude made all the worse after their telling me that they fully supported our Festival and wanted to do all they could to help promote it.

    It’s a shame I wasn’t made aware of the situation until after the incident as I would have told the choir to stand over the ‘invisible line’ that marks Council land from The Rock land and then from the council owned side of the line at Barclays and The Rock and be totally safe from corporate persecution!

  4. alunparry

    Hi Angela

    Thanks for clearing that up. I feel bad now for besmirching the otherwise excellent reputation of Barclays Bank ;-)

    I think many are facing this issue with privately owned streets like the one you have described.

    The song itself however doesn’t mention Barclays so I think the sentiments of the song still stand. It’s just that it now refers to The Rock rather than Britain’s favourite bank.

    As to being a security risk, I have to say that the songwriters in my workshop were so talented that it’s left me feeling a little insecure I can tell you!! ;-)

    Well done for helping put togeher such a wonderful gathering. And thanks for letting me be part of it too.

    Al 8-)

  5. Colleen Molloy

    I too was super impressed by these two songs written cooperatively in an hour – and very much enjoyed the songwriters’ performances that day. Many thanks to all organsers and participants and to you Alun for a great weekend of song and togetherness.

  6. Angela

    Re: BARCLAYS BANK
    Well it turns out that THEY ARE THE ONES who had the busking choirs moved on after all! I found out yesterday that they were ‘alarmed’ to see a group of singers outside their bank and they called security and had them ousted! Boo hiss!
    RBS and other banks in the town didn’t have a hissy fit over choirs singing outside their premises.
    If Barclays are so concerned about security then why are their new new premises are a glass house cum goldfish bowl?

  7. Don Ramage

    How’s the finger! Could you do me the favour of publishing the chords for “Together We Are Free”.
    Bury was fab and all the members of the SGS wo attneded your workshops enjoyed themselves immensely.
    ’til the next time,
    Don

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    [...] I posted my recordings of the two songs from my songwriting workshop at the National Street Choir Festival, and the stories that inspired [...]

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