Songs of Change – NVN Members’ Weekend Residential

24–26 Mar 2017 / South Yorkshire


Date: 24–26 Mar 2017

Cost: £250 (twin room) £275 (single if available)

Details: 4pm Friday 24th to 4pm Sunday 26th

Location: Wortley Hall, Sheffield S35 7DB



Run by: Jenny Goodman, Kirsty Martin, Janet Russell, Ali Burns, Penny Stone, Val Regan, Sarah Harman, Jules Gibb and Moira Hill

Contact details: 07984 584923

Further information:

Songs of Change is a weekend of professional development for NVN members. The weekend aims to:

  •  give you tools to develop original material to support social and political change
  •  provide you with original material written by some of NVN’s foremost song-writers and arrangers to take back into your work and groups
  •  give you the opportunity to learn some of the key classic songs of political struggle
  •  give you the opportunity to share your songs with others
  •  provide a space for networking, discussion, inspiration and planning.Underlying this is a vision that NVN and its members are a crucial component in using singing and the voice to support political campaigns – enabling people and communities to find their voice. We all know how powerful singing is and how it has been used in political struggles across the world and throughout time – it now feels like the time for us in NVPN to be developing our skills in taking action through song.There are 30 spaces available on the weekend, although we can probably negotiate with Wortley for additional rooms if necessary.


Songs of Change is the inspiration of NVN member Jenny Goodman – and it is not only about providing professional development but also maintaining NVN’s connection with Wortley Hall and the political ethos it represents. The organising and teaching team – Alison Burns, Frankie Armstrong, Janet Russell, Jules Gibb, Kirsty Martin, Moira Hill, Penny Stone, Sarah Harman and Val Regan – all share Jenny’s vision and are contributing their skills, material, experiences and organising skills to make the weekend happen.Although this is an NVN member event, it is not organised via the NVPN committee and administrator and is completely self-organised. The team agreed to run this weekend at their own financial risk but are delighted that the NVPN Executive Committee have agreed to contribute to keep costs to members at a reasonable level.


The weekend will consist of led workshops by Alison Burns, Kirsty Martin, Penny Stone, Sarah Harman and Val Regan (details of their workshops below) plus facilitated songswaps, big sings and space for discussion and reflection. The timetable is attached. Sign up for workshops will happen at the weekend.

The weekend will run according to NVN’s ethos and values. This means all singing will be within the oral tradition. Some tutors may be willing to share written music with you but that is entirely their own choice and only to assist you in taking the songs back into your practice – in the workshops teaching will be by ear. We will also start each morning with a warm up.

You can arrive from 4 pm on the Friday night and the event will finish around 3.30 pm on the Sunday. Wortley will be providing their usual service of food, snacks, teas and coffees, comfy rooms and inspiring environment.


Ali Burns: In Ali’s workshop she will showcase and teach some recent songs that confront political issues and talk about the writing process, with the aim of inspiring you to write your own material.

Ali is one of the foremost and most experienced songwriters and arrangers in the NVN. Her songs combine beautiful harmonies – often with gorgeous crunches – with effective words. She has made a speciality out of writing for community choirs about issues that reflect local, national and global events. “Her workshops are a harbour in a changing and troubled world …. her songs a powerful reminder that we need each other’s friendship and support to survive.

Kirsty Martin: Kirsty will be leading a workshop that will support you to create your own original material on the themes of political and social change – sharing her expertise on song-writing and arranging. She will combine this with teaching some of her own material for you to take away and use.

Kirsty has been arranging and writing groovy acapella songs for choirs for longer than she can remember now – but in recent years she took a decision to make a stand through singing and established Brighton Tubthumpers specifically to sing political songs and support campaigns.

Penny Stone: Penny workshop is entitled “What’s Your Point? – Using Radical Music Effectively” and will bring together some songs from the standard repertoire, some newer middle-eastern influenced music and, if time allows, will facilitate some group songwriting on a shared radical theme.

Penny Stone co-leads Edinburgh’s Radical Choir ‘Protest In Harmony’, runs a monthly radical song space and leads a solidarity with Palestine choir, San Ghanny, She is developing a repertoire of Arabic songs that are accessible to UK singers, helping build bridges particularly with Palestinians and Syrians.

Sarah Harman: Sarah’s workshop will reflect her recent work composing a number of ‘suites’ of songs based in the industrial landscape and telling its story from the perspective of those who lived in it, using a blend of oral history, research and imagination. You will sing some of the songs, have the chance to learn about the process and have a go at song writing using this approach.

Sarah has been involved in political action and song most of her life. She previously sang with Cor Cochion Caerdydd, Cardiff’s socialist choir and wrote the classic “I Don’t Want to be a Rebel’s Wife”. She currently performs and writes with Jenny as The Blameless Hussies – combining the personal and political in song. She is passionate about working with disadvantaged communities and telling the stories of ordinary people and hidden history through song.

Val Regan: Val’s workshop is entitled “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing?” and will be a mixture of learning one or two of her own songs, making songs and posing some fundamental questions e.g. What makes a song political? Is this a song or a speech? How do we hook the heart of the listener?

Val led Sheffield Socialist Choir for 11 years, singing many of the “standards” of the political repertoire from around the world. She founded and leads Sheffield’s LGBT choir and continues to contribute her musical skills to a range of political events and causes. Val’s own songwriting and arranging combines lush harmonies with a passion for rhythm and draws on a range of styles. Of late she has focussed on telling the stories of inspirational figures in song.