If you  cant sing - HUM

I enjoy a sing song - particularly in the bar at the end of a union conference. Many years ago I produced a song book for my union branch. So it seemed like a good idea to dust it off and see if we could produce another one for the retired members branch.

But then one thing led to another!

Back in the day, YouTube did not exist. So it seemed like a good idea to link the Song Book to a web site with versions of the songs. Then it seemed like a good idea to use the songs in support of picket lines and demonstrations - indeed in support of all workers in struggle. But of course, we could not simply send our members out and expect them to sing in tune - unless, of course, the resulting cacophony would frighten the bosses into surrender!

We thought it better to practice - so we decided to have a monthly Song Club. This would be enjoyable as we would hold the Club in a hostelry where supporters could have lunch and a drink. I have always believed that trade union activity should be fun!

But the fun should not hide the fact that we will also go out into the streets and squares and target bad bosses, hand out union recruitment material and do our best to encourage young workers to stand up for workers rights.

Remember, joining in is the important thing.

So if you can't sing - hum.

Maureen Gardner
Branch TreasurerAmp


Mick Rice

Techno Babble

Much of what follows may just be techno babble for most people. However, you will probably have some web savvy friend – who will know exactly what the techno stuff refers to and who can improve on it. If you do then use them to help you get going. I have not put in web addresses for the programmes mentioned – you just need to Google the name to get the link.

We have mainly used free software to develop this campaign.Scribus

For example, we used Scribus - a desk top publishing (print layout) programme - to prepare the printed Song Book. We did this in A4 format. Once we were satisfied with the layout we exported the publication as an Adobe Portable Document (PDF).

Then we used a programme called CutePDF (paid for – but quitCutePDFe cheap) to “impose” the A4 file into an A5 booklet. The resultant file can also be reduced in size to make it easier to download from a web site.

It is possible to prepare a new outer cover so that the Song Booklet can be badged by any local Song Club.

In order to reproduce these lyrics we needed to obtain permission from the owners. Ninety years after the death of the author the lyrics are available in the public domain - they are free and you do not have to pay for their use.

As a trade union initiative we clearly do not wish to deny authors payment for their work. However, our purpose is not to make money from these songs but to encourage and popularise their use. Our initial print run was only 200 copies and we only want to recover the material cost of the publication by a small cover charge for the sale of each Song Book.  We have been able to secure permission from the owners of the copyrighted lyrics to most of the songs. It has been difficult to discover whether some of the lyrics are still in copyright. If you are aware of any that we do not know about, please tell us so that we can resolve it.

Many of the songs were written long before the Internet existed. However YouTube gave us the potential to display the songs online and play them. We want to use the songs to lift the spirits of workers in struggle – we want to sing them on lobbies and picket lines!

As we are just ordinary people and not professional singers – we thought we ought to practice first so we set up the Union Song Club. As we are retired we decided to set up a lunch time club and found that it was fairly easy to find a function room in a town centre pub that wasn’t being used. In fact the pub owners were pleased to accommodate us. However, you need to check that the venue is licensed for singing and performance.

But then the marvel of the Internet allows us to Bluetooth the sound to large amplifiers (the sort that buskers use in the streets) and we can use a laptop projector to throw the YouTube video onto a large screen. We can actually get Pete Seeger performing “Solidarity for Ever” on a stage in a Glasgow Pub even though he died some years ago! There are potential issues displaying YouTube videos in public. For this reason we have established The Union Song Club with a constitution and membership – as it is “private” and not “public” use.

We have also encouraged musicians to accompany us and have approached the Musicians Union so that their members can be involved as we are keen on live music. We shall take a collection at our monthly song club events in order to raise funds to book real musicians and singers. We are committed to sustainability - socialist singers and artists need to feed themselves and their families!

We set up the web site using Kompozer (a free web authoring programme) and BlueGriffon a more up-to-date but also largely free web authoring programme. The complex images were set up using Scribus. For example the banner head is 960 pixels long and 180 pixels deep. We actually created a Scribus document of 960 and 180 points. Once we were satisfied, we exported it as a jpeg image. Then we used Pic Monkey (a free online photo editing service) to reduce the image to the actual pixel size wanted. Please note that the proportionality of the image was maintained for otherwise we would get “squeeze” and stretch” problems with the way the image looked. It is good practice to have small image file size – but still looking good- as web pages load more quickly with smaller image files.

The web site is largely Html5 compliant (the latest standard) but more work will be done to ensure that the site benefits from CSS3 and Javascript enhancements. We used FileZilla a free FTP (file transfer protocol) programme to upload the files to the web site.

You can download a copy of this web site as a zip file (and unpack it using 7Zip – a free programme) to your own computer. You can then amend it as you see fit. Your local Union Song Club web site can be hosted for a small fee by LeftSpace. LeftSpace can also set up your Union Song Website.

In order to get the funds for the amplifier, laptop projector and other equipment we sent out an Appeal letter. This deliberately used flowery language so that it would be remembered by those considering it and not just regarded as “run of the mill”. But how you phrase your own Appeal letter is a matter for you. We sent out lots of emails with the appeal letter as a pdf attachment to defray the cost of posting.

Our branch resolved that any surplus funds received would be used to promote the Union Song Campaign.

We are promoting the Union Song Club through Email bulletins. In this regard we are using Kompozer to design html web pages. We then cut and paste the html code into MailChimp and send out to everyone we think will be interested. MailChimp allows you to input (cut and paste) a database of Firstnames, Surnames and email addresses and provides the service free for up to 2000 email addresses!

Mick Rice
Branch Secretary