MUSINGS (& meanderings) OF A COMMUNITY MUSICIAN...


Welcome to this work in progress, a scrapbook of my life and work... an illustrated musical journey

. . . .I have been very busy of late, but i promise to update this page soon! (see 'projects' page and social media for recent events and activity!)                    BEC- feb, 2017


Tommy Armstrong society annual singaround

 

What an incredible evening I enjoyed at the Tommy Armstrong society's annual singing meeting in Tanfield, County Durham. I was joined by some members of the wonderful "North East Socialist Singers' and we performed a selection of songs, including my reworking of his 'Durham Lockout'. I was joined by the brilliant Dr. Jude Murphy in a redition of 'Trimdon Grange Explosion' and joined in the choruses as the other performers took to the stage. It was a true honour to sing his songs, in my home county, in his home town, to friends old and new - the great (grey!) and good of the NE folk scene were there, and I got goosebumps listening to their renditions of songs I've sung since childhood.

The music will continue to live as long as we sing it so sing on we shall... 

 

- OCTOBER 2016


SINGING TO SAVE DRURIDGE BAY!

You may be aware of appalling plans to commence opencast coal mining in the Druridge Bay area of Northumberland, an idyllic living landscape of sandy beaches and diverse wildlife... I am ardently opposed to any such plans and I was overjoyed to be commissioned by '38 Degrees' to create 4 protest songs to sing at the decision day rally in Morpeth held on July 5th 2016.  I was asked to rewrite popular local mining / coastal / seaside themed songs for protestesters to sing at events and here are a selection of lyrics... please feel free to sing it loud and sing it clear - (coal mining aint welcome here!)

 

 

CLOSE THE SEASIDE TOWN (to the tune of 'Close the Coalhouse Door')

 

Close the seaside town lads, there’s coal abound

For a company by name of Bank’s

Has its plans to opencast

To mine dark relics of our past

Close the seaside town lad, there’s coal abound

 

Close the coalhouse door lad, there’s blood inside

Blood of wildlife we shall lose

When the mine, it ties its noose

Choking us of air and food

Close the coalhouse door lad, there’s blood inside

 

Close the beach hut door lad, there’s coal inside

Coal that poisons all the fish,

The air we breathe, the sea we swim

All to make the rich, more rich?

Close the beach hut door lad, there’s coal inside

 

Stop the opencast mines, the people sing

10,000 have now found their voice

Opencast is NOT our choice

We oppose pollution, dust and noise

Stop the opencast mines, the people sing

 

SUMMER HOLIDAY
(DRURIDGE COAL VERSION)

(to the tune of

'Summer Holiday')

 

VERSE

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Druridge Bay aint what it used to be

Our coastal wildlife, has dis-ap-pear-ed

And like the tides of our once blue sea

It’s just a mem-o-ry

 

CHORUS

We’re going where the sun aint shining

We’re going where they opencast

We’ve seen it in our nightmares

Our beaches have turned black

 

VERSE

We’re staying home for our summer holidays

For the air is, hard to breathe

The coalmine’s pump-ing, gas and poisons

From the ground, into the sea

Killing you and me

 

CHORUS

The environment has been ravaged

For the sake of another coalmine

No matter how hard we wish

We cannot turn back time


SONG FOR JEREMY - CORBYN LABOUR LEADERSHIP CAMPAIGN(S) JULY 2015 - PRESENT

Since summer 2015 I have been involved in the Jeremy Corbyn Labour leadership campiagns, singing for socialism at various hustings and rallies throughout the North East. In August 2016 I wrote this song about the current political climate, dedicating the chorus in a show of solidarity of support to Jeremy Corbyn. I was proud to debut this song at Jeremy's Sunderland rally and sing this at the Stand, Edinburgh at the launch of Labours' new arts policy during the Edinburgh Festival in August 2016.

 

SONG FOR JEREMY – Sunderland Rally 12th August 2016

 

Democracy, decency, honesty, hope

For a new kind of politics, Jez is wor bloke / Jez has our vote

Join with me as I sing: (we support Corbyn x 3)

 

Momentum grows, the tide it turns

Bridges are built, hope returns

Change is coming, we feel it near

Reform is our friend, we’ve nothing to fear

 

Politics is a rich man’s game

With dirty tactics, no rules, no shame

The grassroots are rising, the people speak

We will take back our country, reclaim our streets

 

Don’t believe all you see, hear and read

The media deceives us with fallacies

The cynics and critics, the capitalists

Their hate and lies, our hope shall eclipse

 

For many years, Labour lost its way

From the path of peace it blindly strayed 

 With a true socialist elected to rule

Our party returns to its hard won roots!

 

We will stand together, comrades unite

For our future, we must now fight

For equality, peace, education for all

Heed our calls, build bridges not walls

 

We must open our hearts, open our minds

Break partisan ties that blindly bind

In our quest for justice, every shade shall unite

(and) we’ll keep the red flag flying high

 


music of the people -  by olivia walters

Wonderful North East film student and musician Olivia Walters made a short film of my work featuring the North East Socialist Singers...


Her article can be found here


farewell to davey hopper - Durham miner's association, redhills, july 2016

I was immensely proud to sing 'The Red Flag' at the close of Davey Hopper's memorial service at Redhills. and bring what was an unforgettable and fitting tribute to a wonderful trade unionist and activist to a close. Immediately following the funeral, I rushed outside and my friend and I erected the 'Women Against Pit Closure' banner in tribute to the women of the miner's strike. Pictured below are my dear friends Anne Scargill and Betty Cooke (members of the orginal, legendary 'Women Against Pit Closure' group).  

 

Here's a short article I contributed to paying tribute to Davey Hopper.


REMEMBERANCE, REBELLION, REVOLT

On Tuesday I returned to my hometown, the wild district of Stanley, Co.Durham (*un*officially the windiest place on the planet and seemingly where the snow never melts). I was there to attend an event commemorating the Burn's Pit Disaster. I was deeply moved; by the gale force icy winds, by words spoken by local townsfolk and also by the poetry and writings performed by local school children's (delivered under the guidance of the wonderful Jaene Davies, my NESS comrade and organiser of the Stanley Fringe 'Remembrance, Rebellion and Revolt' event). A small ceremony was held at the site of the colliery, now marked by the old pit wheel sunk into the ground upon the site of the old baths. A wreath was lain by representatives of the town council and I was pleased to observe that despite the despicable weather, that around 30 people attended the event. Afterwards we went to the old Stanley Civic, the Lamplight Arts Centre and watched Jack Hair's film documentary depicting the disaster. I was moved to tears by the photographs and testimonies, recounting and describing the events and aftermath of the disaster in which faulty safety equipment caused explosions deep in the mines. Scores of miners were trapped underground and killed by deadly poison gas. The community was shaken by the death of 168 men and boys, most families in the area losing a loved one in the terrible accident. The funeral processions brought the town to a standstill as thousands flocked to the town to pay tribute. Tuesdays (the day of the explosion) were thereafter known in Stanley as 'Black Tuesday'.

The struggle and strength of our ancestors, who overcame such hardship and injustice, their work and lives woven into the cultural tapestry of this region, is a constant and unforgettable source of inspiration to me. 107 years have now passed since the disaster and I am dismayed to see so how precious little remains of our mining heritage and the disipation of the communities it created. NE industry has changed beyond recognition and the old ways of life, passtimes, practices and traditions, all now seem many worlds away. As I sit, reflect and remember I am in equal parts saddened, enraged and empowered, but overwhelmingly I am immensely proud - of my story, my history; of the politics, people and places that have shaped my life. 

The miners, those men who worked in the black darkness, deep underground, who's toil fuelled our industrial revolution, pioneered our civilisation, men who marched behind their colliery banners - they were so strong, so proud and true. In their memory, we must we all try to be too...

I remember the words me old Grandad Tom used to say; "keep your timmer in pet" - and so I shall.

 

- FEBRUARY 18TH 2015


WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND 

What a wonderful life, what a wonderful gig.... 

It was a rare pleasure to perform last night at the Tyneside Cinema Christmas party! I was joined by a cohort of community musicians, the 'Coast road' collective comprising of: Dave Camlin, Brendan Murphy, Bex Mather, Paul Susans and we were joined for a debut performance with the incredibly talented Mister Paul Edis. 

Despite losing my voice (tssssk, careless singer!) to a particularly virulent headcold, rendering me unable to sing much more than a few husky harmonies (think Joan Bex after 100 Malboro & you'll have an idea) it was an absolute joy to share the stage with such an incredibly gifted and virtuosic cohort of musicians. 

As I stood in front of Paul S and Brendan, I was both physically and metaphorically uplifted by the rhythms and riffs; reacting to the resonance of their music as it reverberated forwards, soothing away the stresses of the day. As they began a rendition of Camlin's anti-consumerist anthem 'Work Less, Buy Less' my hips began to sway, my shoulders lift ...As the funk ebbed and flowed, the masterful songsmiths Camlin and Mather weaved the lyrical magic into a rich tapestry of timbres and I was spellbound by their beautiful music. I felt enriched by their energy and the emotion conveyed and conjured by the music... 

Paul Edis and Bex's rendition of Joni Mitchell's 'I Wish I Had a River' sent shivers up my spine, conveying with such eloquence the fragility and passion of the song. As much as I wished to sing along, I appreciated in that moment that sometimes one must be silent to truly hear.

 

- 23RD DECEMBER 2015


STOP THE WAR SYRIA PROTEST, NEWCASTLE -NOVEMBER '15

"He's five feet two and he's six feet four

He fights with missiles and with spears

He's all of thirty-one and he's only seventeen

He's been a soldier for a thousand years

 

He's a catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain

A Buddhist and a Baptist and Jew

And he knows he shouldn't kill and he knows he always will 

Kill you for me my friend and me for you

 

And he's fighting for Canada, he's fighting for France

He's fighting for the usa

And he's fighting for the Russians and he's fighting for Japan

And he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

 

And he's fighting for democracy he's fighting for the reds

He says it's for the peace of all

He's the one who must decide who's to live and who's to die

And he never sees the writing on the wall

 

But without him how would Hitler have condemned him at Dachau, Without him Caesar would have stood alone

He's the one who gives his body as the weapon of the war, And without him all this killing can't go on

 

He's the universal soldier and he really is to blame, But his orders come from far away no more

They come from him and you and me and brothers can't you see, This is not the way we put an end to war?"

 

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER
BUFFY SAINTE MARIE /DONOVAN

 

- NOVEMBER 2015

 


DURHAM MINER'S ASSOCIATION CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS AT REDHILLS, DURHAM - OCTOBER 2015

My Grandad Tombo would have been so proud of me! Ed Pickford and the Elliots of Birtley as a (self-proclaimed!) "warm up" act?!? I almost floated away like a balloon and burst with pride, not bad for a lass from Stanley, ehy? Or rather, how very fitting that I should be sat there, that day, singing songs of political and social struggle - from the coalfields to the mills, suffragettes to the slave trade - the miner's hall rang out with the sound of voices joined in song. As I sat and waited for the Elliots to begin, a hand appeared over my shoulder... I turned to see a kindly gentleman's face smiling and in his outstretched hand, a Werther's Original sweet! How thoughtful of him, I observed. He was sat with his friend and they told me of the time they came to Redhills when they were young men, after the second world war; "we used to come here every week of the classes, you should have seen the place, full to the rafters!" I met some wonderful new friends, who took me for dinner and told me of their life and work with the WAPC - to be around such incredible and inspiring women was like a dream... The colliery banners were displayed with pride and it was a rare opportunity to see them up close, such beautiful tapestries, woven of so much more than merely cloth, truly the fabric of our communities.

As I finished the set with "The Red Flag" my heart soared. I will never forget the voices of those joining me in song, the sunshine through the beautiful stained glass windows and the smell of the rich, dark wood... I was truly home.

 

- OCTOBER 2015


       LGBT HISTORY MONTH MUSIC WORKSHOPS, NEWCASTLE 

 

Thank you Pride and Joy! I thoroughly enjoyed myself teaching, singing and exploring a range of protest songs. My personal highlight of the session would have to be when we improvised a medley of Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side' and Queen's 'I Want to Break Free' - truly brilliant! :)
- February 28th 2015 


the journey begins... jtoj north east's first fundraiser at the star and shadow cinema, newcastle - janUARY 2015

The first Journey to Justice NE Fundraiser - we raised over £800! The event was a sell out, we could have sold out twice over in fact!
I opened the event by singing Birmingham Sunday... here is my speech in full: 
- 31st JANUARY 2015 


THE SEAM - MUSIC FROM THE HEART OF THE MINING INSTITUTE with gareth davies-jones & north east socialist singers

Recording 'The Seam' album; 'music from the heart of the Mining Institute' with the wonderful Gareth Davies-Jones and NESS at the Mining Institute

"People not profit, need not greed"
- 13th January 2014


A wonderful, intimate gig in a lovely cafe in Keswick, Cumbria. A wonderful opportunity to showcase some new material and arrangements of our music...
- 20th November 2014


Out door music making and wild recording - CUMBRIA

Out door music making and wild recording with Dave Camlin
at Lamplugh, Cumbria
- Summer 2014


150TH ANNIVERSARY - TYNEMOUTH VOLUNTEER LIFE BRIGADE

Singing with the wonderful Benny Graham and Tyneside Maritime Chorus celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade!
- 12th September 2014


"when you gonna start this socialist choir of yours...?" ...a seed was planted - june 2014

The very beginnings of 'North East Socialist Singers (NESS)' ... the journey began with an open day and blossomed into something very beautiful... 
- June 14th 2014 
(blog to follow)


"LOOK THERE'S A CUMBERLAND MOON RISING ABOVE..."

Lovely memories of a great gig. Our hosts were warm and welcoming and it was a wonderful surprise to see so many Geordies in the audience! - 24th May 2014


UNITY, anti-rascism rally PERFORMANCE - newcastle 


war on want tour - poetry and music performance 


war on want agm 2014 - music and poetry performance


international women's day - token bloke debut gig!


SPEECH & PERFORMANCE @ANTI-LIB-DEM RALLY, GATESHEAD

MY SPEECH AT THE PROTEST OUTSIDE THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT CONFERENCE
SAGE GATESHEAD - 13TH MARCH 2012

 

As a young woman new to trade unionism I was a little sceptical at first as to what the trade unions could do for me and how relevant they were to me and my friends, then I learned a few things.

The North East has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the country- it has gone up 120% since this government came in- tuition fees are through the roof, youth services and projects are closing daily- everybody here will know of an example in their area.

 

Now more than ever young people need trade unions and trade unions need young people- we are the future! Together we can build alliances unite in challenging our councils and the coalition government to rectify the mistakes they have made, to fulfil their broken promises and the election pledges that they sold to the people that voted for them.

 

I work in a charity for people with learning disabilities and I understand the immense challenges in society that these people face, but the recent cuts that the liberal democrats in this coalition have made are impacting and affecting the most vulnerable in our society – students, the elderly, unemployed, disabled people, women, and low paid people: just look at the reforms to the NHS, unemployment benefit, disabled benefits, legal aid, university fees- I could go on... while private companies are invited to take over our public services.

 

We must all stand together in solidarity and opposition to this oppressive, opportunistic government that is stripping us of our wealth, resources and rights, using the deficit as an excuse to make devastating changes driven by the same Tory ideology. We know that most of the liberal democrat members in there don't agree with the government's policies- I call on them to come and stand here with us now!

 

Enough excuses, enough blame, enough apathy and enough inaction.

We have the power to change our councils, our local government, our parliament and our future. Not Clegg, Cameron or any of the leaders in there.

 

These are our schools, colleges, hospitals, universities, houses and jobs, this is our future and we have the power to change it. We have our hearts, minds, voices, votes and rights, let's use them and unite.

ory ideology. We know that most of the liberal democrat members in there don't agree with the government's policies- I call on them to come and stand here with us now!

 

Enough excuses, enough blame, enough apathy and enough inaction.

We have the power to change our councils, our local government, our parliament and our future. Not Clegg, Cameron or any of the leaders in there.

These are our schools, colleges, hospitals, universities, houses and jobs, this is our future and we have the power to change it. We have our hearts, minds, voices, votes and rights, let's use them and unite.


UNISON NORTHERN YOUNG MEMBERS REGIONAL PAY CAMPAIGN

During my time as chairperson of UNISON Northern region's young members, we go CREATIVE! See the campaign video we made below, created by us, the young trade union members and directed by the brilliant Gerry Raffery the video was wonderful opportunity to explore the use of film in political campaigns...


SING MY SPEECH AT UNISON NATIONAL DELEGATE CONFERENCE 2012 - WHILST CHAIR OF UNISON NORTHERN YOUNG MEMBERS

MY SPEECH IN FULL:

President, Conference, Bethany Coyle, Newcastle City Local Government Branch, Chair of Regional Young Members Group and Regional representative for young members for Unison North.

My granddad was a miner and a trade unionist, but it was through studying folk and traditional music, specifically Northeast and American protest song, that I came to truly understand the powers of the unions and how powerful a tool for change music and song has been and continues to be. So in a rather unorthodox fashion, I’m going to sing you the next part of my speech…

 

Come all you fair and tender comrades

Take warning how you court young members

They are the future of your great union

But look how far from you they’ve strayed

 

Your old campaigns, leaflets and posters

I’m sad to say, their power fades

To entice young members and ignite their passions

You must try more creative ways

 

The youth grow disillusioned and apathetic

For ahead of us, lie the darkest days

We’re filled with anger, power and sadness

We need a guide to ignite the flame

 

We look to you to represent us

But you must first, gain our broken trust

We are the future of your union

Reach out a hand, you know you must

 

Come all you fair and tender comrades

Take action, heed all that I say

We look to you, to represent us

So come show us, your better way

 

To reach young people we need to campaign more creatively, use the medium of film, song, art, dance, theatre.

Now more than ever young people need trade unions and trade unions need young people- we are the future! Enough excuses, enough blame, enough apathy and enough inaction. Show us your better way. Please support this motion.