Jul 06

Run For Palestine

palestine_flagHere’s something you can get involved in to make a difference in the world – while making me suffer! Perfect eh.

I’m doing a 5k run for Palestine on Saturday. I’ve been training for weeks, but then put my back out two weeks ago. So I’ve been nursing a sore back since then.

But I won’t be deterred and I will be running nonetheless. It’s too good a cause.

I’m currently short of my target so need your help to meet it.

Click here to sponsor me: http://www.gofundme.com/alunrun

The beneficiaries are Friends of Bi’lin.

Friends of Bi’lin is a Liverpool based group that is twinned with the village of Bi’lin in the West Bank in Palestine.

Twinning is an act of friendship and solidarity with a people suffering from occupation, oppression and denial of basic human rights and freedoms, ensuring they do not feel isolated in their daily struggle. It creates opportunities for exchange visits and we get to know real people in a real place.

LFOB is non-party political, and its members come from Christian, Jewish and Moslem backgrounds, and from no faith.

So please do sponsor me if you can – or share the link to show your support: http://www.gofundme.com/alunrun

And wish good luck to me and my back!

May 14

Sunday Night (17th May) – Live In Wallasey!

AlunParryAtkinsonNo, no, I’m not urging you to go and live in Wallasey, although it’s very nice from what I can see.

I’m actually telling you that I’m playing live in Wallasey this Sunday. I’m doing a full show, and it’s my last local gig for the foreseeable future so you’d best come along!

I’m playing for the lovely people at Wallasey Folk & Acoustic Club.

You’ll find that upstairs at 8pm at The Nelson Hotel, 60 Grove Road, Wallasey, CH45 3HW.

And guess what – it’s absolutely FREE!

So if you fancy a cracking sing song with some lovely people and me singing the tunes, then get yourself there because I’d love to see you, and isn’t that as good a reason as any.

Photo: Jim Colvin

May 06

Election Songs To Kick Em Out!

Polling_station_6_may_2010So we need two things from election day.

The Tories as far away from power as possible, and the most left wing Parliament that we can muster.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how best to do that.

While you’re mulling that over here’s some election songs to keep you entertained.

And this one irrespective of who gets in…

Apr 30

7 Ways To See Me Play Live In May

A39O1345May is a busy month for me, meaning you have seven different chances to see me play live in the same month.

On Friday May 1st I’ll be playing at the Upton Upon Severn Folk Festival. (More info from www.uptonfolk.org)

I’ll be headlining the opening concert at The Parish Church venue.

Then on Saturday May 2nd, I’ll be doing my second show of the festival at The Star Upstairs.

There’s tons going on at this fab festival too, so come and have a lovely long weekend away.

On Wednesday May 6th I’m really excited to be playing the renowned Grateful Fred’s night at The Atkinson in Southport where I’ll be supporting the fantastic touring US act The Kennedys.

Friday May 8th sees me travel to Bolton to do a post election special show. I’m hoping this is a celebration of giving that smug Etonian the boot!

Saturday May 16th has me performing a fab House Concert Show. This is going to be a ton of fun. I can’t publicise the venue as it’s a house gig, but if it sounds fab and you wish you were there, why not organise a house gig of your own? Just give me a yell and I’ll show you how.

Sunday May 17th then has me dashing across the water to play for the lovely people at Wallasey Folk & Acoustic Club.

Then another house concert on Saturday May 23rd. The house gigs are really lovely and intimate events. I love playing them so do get in touch if you are curious about how they work.

So there you go, seven chances to sing along with me in the one month. I’m looking forward to singing for and with you.

For full details of all shows, click through to my gigs page.

Apr 23

DWP To Replace Benefit Sanctions With Crack Team Of Acerbic Songwriters

Demotix 19/03/2015The Department of Work and Pensions has today revealed new plans to ramp up their pressure on benefit claimants by scrapping benefit sanctions.

The DWP has announced that it is currently recruiting a crack team of songwriters to pen scathing ditties about claimants instead.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our Minister Hettie McVile got the idea after a nasty song was written about her. It created such an atmosphere of fear that we decided it would be the ideal tool to attack the poor and disabled with.”

Groups representing the disabled have responded with outrage to the announcement.

One campaigner, who preferred to stay anonymous for fear of ending up in a song herself, said:

“This is truly shocking. Losing all income for 13 weeks was bad enough. But being mocked by words set to a catchy melody is far, far worse. We are urgently lobbying the DWP to continue removing our money from us. Anything but this!”

Anti suicide campaigners are also alarmed at the proposed change.

The campaign group No More Suicides From Songs said: “Already there have been 60 to 70 suicides from benefit sanctions. This will get worse if this new measure is introduced. Starving for 3 months is a mere inconvenience compared to being the target of a satirical ballad. We are on full alert.”

The Minister was unavailable for comment today. Yet a Daily Fail editorial praised the announcement, calling it a step forward in the battle against compassion.

Apr 23

A Poem: The Gig

We have to pay the brewery
Cos they supply the beer
We have to pay the venue
For letting us be here
And we have to pay the caterers
Cos they bring all the food
And we have to pay the bar staff
Or else it would be rude

We have to pay the sound man
For bringing the PA
And we pay the paid official
From Head Office dressed in grey
We have to pay the printer
For the posters that he’ll print
It seems that from this “Benefit”
The whole world makes a mint!

Well, when I say “the whole world”
That’s not exactly true
Cos if you’re the musician
That doesn’t include you
And though there is no show at all
If you don’t play your part
You’re the one who does it
Out the goodness of your heart

Cos brewers they have homes to heat
And other bills they’re sent
And caterers have families
And bar staff must pay rent
And the printers and officials
They need clothes to wear
But musicians are a special case
Cos they live on fresh air!

So if you want to pay them too
Please don’t be premature
Only a *starving* artist
Is an artist that is pure
Then hold them up to judgement
If they find another wage
We must ensure they stay as poor
Even when off the stage.

Apr 12

How To Use Randomness As Your Creative Partner

dice-throwing-question_smallIt’s often a good idea to have a creative partner. Someone who will be able to add some ideas we couldn’t have thought of alone. Or someone who will provide input into how to structure a set list for a show. Or to advise on how best to tell a story you’re trying to tell.

Yet not all of us have the luxury of a creative partner, and so I want to tell you about the creative partner I have that all creatives can take advantage of – randomness.

This may sound a bit weird at first, but I find randomness really useful to come up with first drafts of things, so I want to show you how I use it, and then see if you can jump on board and provide some other ideas.

1. Concert Set Lists

When I’m doing a show, the organiser will tell me how long they want me to play for. I know from experience that, with me chatting in between songs, each song takes on average 4.5 minutes. (I’ll have to check this again as I’m probably even chattier now, but it’s a fair rule of thumb).

So I know now that if someone wants me to play for an hour it’s basically a 13 song set.

What I do then is list the 13 songs I think would fit that particular audience. But this is only the start of the process.

As any good entertainer knows, it’s important to place the songs in the right order. I want it to build towards the end, like any good story does. I want to make sure I don’t have three slow songs one after the other. I like my sets punctuated between the slow and the more upbeat so it is a really varied interesting experience for the audience member.

I used to spend lots of time on this, shuffling the pack through endless permutations. Now I have my creative partner, randomness, to come up with some ideas for me.

So I head off to http://random.org and use the Lists feature to type in the songs I’m singing. Then every time I press the Randomize Button, I get a randomly created set list order.

I then copy and paste that into my word processor, then do it again.

I’ll do this about half a dozen times. The effect is that of having a free assistant go away and come up with 6 different possible set lists.

I’ll look through them and there’ll be many that just aren’t right, but there’ll be one (maybe two) that aren’t quite right but they’re kind of close.

So I’ll hone in on that one, and then just take a few minutes to jiggle the set list around so it feels like it will be the good varied experience I want.

It really does save me a lot of time and unnecessary brainwork. Thanks Randomness!

2. Documentary Film Making

I’ve made a few social documentary films.

This involves interviewing people to get their story from them.

Once I’ve got the footage I’ll then watch it back, making notes to show which bits of the footage I potentially want to use.

Once I’ve cut the unwanted stuff, my problem is that I’ll then have a load of clips from the interview with Bob, another load of clips from the interview with Edna, and another load of clips from the interview with Jeff.

The viewer doesn’t want to hear from Bob then Edna then Jeff. It is more satisfying for the story to weave. Yet it feels hard as the film editor to really feel like they’re a story that can be weaved when they’re all queued up like that.

So I call in my assistant, randomness.

I give each clip a number, and then I use random.org again to randomise the numbers.

I’ll then organise the clips in that order, and sit back to watch the first draft that randomness gave me.

This is where my own storytelling ability kicks in as I spot things that should really have gone together. Or the part of the story that would have been better earlier on. Or the clip that really needs to be moved so it follows another clip.

But that first draft from my “assistant”, randomness? That makes it look like a story to me for the first time (albeit a badly told story), and so saves me a ton of work.

I then craft it by changing things around, but a good 50 to 60% of it is generally roughly where I’d like it to be.

Randomness gives me something initially wrong for me to craft. And it’s the crafting of the story that is the storyteller’s skill.

3. Getting Ideas In The First Place

Okay so here’s a disclaimer. I’ve not actually used this one myself. But I just heard it suggested by a comedy writer called Brian Luff.

His technique is to use the Halliwells Film Directory as a source of ideas. Open the book randomly, put your finger randomly anywhere on the opened page, and it will have landed on a Film Title with a Plot Decription. Once there, that rough idea can be a jumping off point for your own ideas.

Or maybe you do that twice, find two movies randomly, and merge the two together to come up with a new concept. So to take his example, Godfather and Star Trek might lead you to come up with the idea for a sci fi “gangsters in space” story.

I’m sure the finger in the movie book idea could help songwriters come up with ideas for songs and characters too, again just as a jumping off point.

Over To You

So that’s the main ways I’m using randomness at the moment, plus the new way I just discovered.

Have you ever used randomness to make your life easier, whether it be in your creative life or not?

And what ideas can you come up with to use randomness to help you create, organise and generate new ideas?

Share them in the comments section below.

Apr 07

Headlining GREENSTOCK Festival This Saturday

Alun ParryIf you’re looking for a great way to spend your weekend this Saturday, head on up to Ulverston in Cumbria for an all day festival of radical song. And all for just a fiver!

The festival starts at noon and I’ll be headlining an awesome array of acts. I’ll be on stage with a full 70 minute set from 9.45pm onwards.

It’s going to be a great day and I’d love to see you there. If you love radical song then this is the only place to be this Saturday.

Full details:

Ulverston Sports and Social Club
Priory Road, Ulverston, CMA LA12 9HT

Mar 19

Sack Esther McVey Official Campaign Song

Sack Esther McVeyHere is the official campaign song for Wirral TUC’s Sack Esther McVey Campaign.

Written and performed by me, the name of the song is simple: Sack Esther McVey.

She has presided over the appalling benefit sanctions regime, and she can be booted out of Parliament altogether on May 7th.

The song is available  to hear in three ways. There is a video which was put together by Julian Talbot. There is a song that you can stream on the internet.

Finally, there is a free download so you can download it to your own computer and device.

Please share the song on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and amongst your friends.

Free Download

Download the song for FREE by clicking here


Listen Online


Mar 14

Songwriters: How To Get Your Music Performed

songwriteradviceI started a new feature on my website recently called Ask Alun. It’s your platform to ask me whatever you like, with a promise that I’ll answer it.

Here is the question I got from Crispin, which I’m going to answer below. I think my answer will help other songwriters in Crispin’s position.

Alun, How would you suggest a writer gets material noticed? I write and record songs but am just not good enough to gig. I still want people to hear my songs though, so would love to have other performers sing my song. My question for you is how would you suggest I do this? Thanks – Crispin

The first thing I’ll say is that I’ve not been too strategic with this myself. Other people do sing my songs, and I’ll explain how that happened, but you’ll also see that it’s not a strategy so much.

Also, you’ll see that it’s happened because I perform my own songs, and I see you and many other songwriters don’t want to do that.

So I’m also going to give you a strategic plan of what I would do if I didn’t perform, so that the songs still had a life without the songwriter.

My Experience

The idea of a song with a life that is independent from the songwriter is one that resonates with me. I’m not a performer who wants to be famous. In fact, I think that would be horrendous.

Yet I’d love my songs to be famous. Then I’d get quite a nice low level of recognition, but still be able to trundle around Aldi doing my shopping without being mobbed.

I’m now in a position where others sing my songs, and it’s the most flattering feeling in the world for a songwriter. It’s also fascinating to hear what others bring to the song and how they deliver and arrange it. It’s something I absolutely love.

The Manchester based duo Our Morals sing I Want Rosa To Stay. Red Leicester sing a few of mine. Liverpool Socialist Singers perform a few too. Nottingham based punk folk artist Paul Carbuncle does a great version of If Harry Don’t Go. Leeds singer Gary Kaye sings My Name Is Dessie Warren. And a high profile artist has committed to recording one of my songs for his forthcoming album.

So how did this happen? By accident is the truth. Well, kind of. I perform my music, and I record my music, and I share my music. So even without trying, just this act of ensuring music is heard leads to these opportunities happening.

If you’re a songwriter, it’s really important to have your songs recorded, on YouTube, on things like Soundcloud, and share them as much as you can. That’s a prerequisite. It stands to reason that if you’re the only one who hears your songs then nobody can find out about them.

But that’s just a prerequisite, it’s not really a plan.

And of course, many songwriters aren’t performers.

So I’m going to detail what I’d do if I didn’t perform to make sure that my songs were still heard.

I’m Not Good Enough

But before I do, I want to poke about with that phrase in Crispin’s question that says “I am not good enough to gig.”

Maybe, like Crispin, the reason you’re not gigging isn’t because you don’t play an instrument or sing. It’s because you judge that you aren’t good enough.

I’m always reluctant to leave statements like that unchallenged. And here’s why.

The belief that we are not good enough is one of the most common limitations that people have. Let me tell you a story.

When I was 18, I was named the Merseyside Busker of the Year by the local media. There’s a lot of buskers in Liverpool, but they said I was the best. I’m not saying I agreed with them so I’m not telling you this to swagger and brag. I’m saying it because that’s one hell of a lot of validation that I was good enough, don’t you think?

Yet even with that approval, I discounted the value of that award. To me, I still wasn’t good enough. I didn’t start doing music properly until 17 years later. That’s not a typo by the way. It really was SEVENTEEN years later.

I didn’t think I’d be good enough. So I didn’t do it. I still feel a real deep upset about this. I wish I hadn’t started 17 years too late.

My story aside though, there is hard science that says that people who are brilliant think they are mediocre, while people who are only average at something think they rock! This science actually won the Nobel Prize and you can read more about it in my blog post Your Doubts Are Only A Sign Of Your Brilliance.

So I’ll challenge that statement. You’re not good enough to gig? Really? You see Crispin, I’ve heard your stuff on Soundcloud, and I thought it was really good. And it was you performing it. So despite what you’re saying – I’m not so sure.

I’d really advise you to get to some open mic nights. You’ll meet a ton of musicians there too, and they’ll become your pals. As you’ll see in a moment, that alone is pretty valuable.

No Really!

For those songwriters who are glaring at me right now thinking “no, really, I can’t gig” then the next bit is for you. Here’s that plan I promised you.

Your goal is to get other bands and singers to be performing the song that you have written.

So the best thing you can do is to become somebody that all of your local music scene knows, and values, and regards with some “authority” and trust.

I’ll take you back to my story again now, as it is relevant.

As I started so late in life, I needed to start quickly. So I set up a music night. It wasn’t an open mic, it was a night of booked acts. We took a split of the door money.

I think this would help you too and here’s why.

1. You become insanely useful to the people you want to get to know.

You could go round cold calling musicians, sure. But you’re only scratching your own itch here, and besides who responds positively to a cold call?

Yet what do bands and singers want? Gigs! A stage to perform on. Set up a music night and here’s what you’ll find will happen.

You’re local music scene will be contacting you!

2. You’ll be the hub of your local music scene

The fact that you’re booking gigs will give you a certain authority amongst the local music scene. I don’t mean that in a uniform and funny hat way. More that you’re regarded as someone who is a player on the scene.

3. You’ll know everybody – and many will become your pals

So why is this important? Well, it gives you three things that you really need.

Firstly it gives you intelligence. No, not the IQ Test kind. The James Bond kind. You’ll be in a position to think of your songs, and be able to identify exactly which acts a particular song would be perfect for.

Secondly, you’ll get to know which acts are songwriters, which acts need songs, and which acts are a bit of a mix. Pitch a song to a writer like me and no matter how good it is, I’m unlikely to sing it. Why? Because my main reason for performing is to have MY songs heard. That’s my songs main opportunity to be out in the world. So you’ll need to know in the first place which acts are needing songs, as they’ll be really receptive to an approach.

Thirdly, because they are now your mates, or at least acquaintances who view you as someone with weight on the local scene, it is really easy to put a song their way and ask if they would be interested in adding it to their set.

Moreover, the fact that you now have the “scene intelligence” to carefully select a song tailored to a particular act, and  you know that act needs material, increases your chances of a YES many times over.

Here’s Another Great Idea

Now that you’re in touch with everyone – why not put the feelers out for songwriting collaborations?

This opens up possibilities to get your songs sung by those “off limit” acts who are prolific songwriters. Many songwriters love to collaborate. Of course, some of us are predominantly loners, but others love to join up.

This is a great way to start getting your songs performed because anything you write with a singer/songwriter will be a song that they’ll inevitably put in their set list.

Ride The Momentum

Once your songs are being performed by acts on your music scene, ride the momentum. When you talk to other acts that you’re pitching ideas to, make sure they know that you wrote this song for that band.

It gives you a whole load of social proof, which is really important in calming people’s fear of the unknown and uncertain.

You’ll also get a halo effect from the act singing your song too. If they like that act, they’ll be impressed that you are writing songs for them, and it will make them even more receptive to you.


So that’s my advice.

1. Challenge the “I’m not good enough” stuff. It’s normally not true. You don’t need to be perfect and my guess is that you’re more than enough already.

2. Set up a music night where you book local acts to play it.

3. Use the knowledge you gain to filter which acts write and which don’t.

4. Carefully select songs to suit the style of those acts who don’t write, and pitch them. After all, you know them now.

5. Approach acts who write their own stuff, and suggest a collaboration. Expect people to say no, that’s normal. It’s not personal but some songwriters work alone. But you will get a yes. Just keep putting the question.

By the end of this, even if you’re not performing yourself, your songs will be getting performed by others.

Let’s know how it goes.

What Do You Think?

Well that’s my take on it. But I’m sure there are a ton of ideas out there.

Have you had songs sung by others? How did it happen?

How would you go about having others sing your songs if you didn’t perform yourself?

Have you ever sung someone else’s song that wasn’t famous? How did it happen?

Write your stories in the comments box below. I’d love to hear them.

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