Left Coast Labour Chorus
We Do The Work Song Contest
Creating new songs about contemporary working lives
For more than a century, songs of workers and their unions have been a vital part of the daily life and social activism of working people and a connection to their history. With changes to the work force and the reduced influence of unions, many of the older songs seem to be a part of the distant past. Newer songwriters don’t naturally look to the lives of working people and the labour movement as a source of inspiration for their work. We want to change that.
This year, we’ve launched the first-ever We Do The Work Song Contest, aimed at creating new songs about contemporary working lives.
Through this contest, the Left Coast Labour Chorus and its sponsoring union, Unifor, want to encourage newer, emerging songwriters, musicians and arrangers who are inspired by social justice to see the lives of working people, their workplaces and their unions as a creative source of new songs.
We want to showcase the Left Coast Labour Chorus as a supporter and promoter of a new generation of songwriters creating socially-conscious music that is part of the labour music tradition.
And we want to demonstrate the support of the labour movement in promoting a songwriting and performing tradition.
- The object of the We Do the Work contest is to produce a new English-language labour song (songs with part of a recurring chorus in another language may be considered). The lyrics should be inspired by, and have as their basic theme: working people, their daily working lives, their unions and what it is like to be without a union. We want songs that move beyond personal experience to the general experience of working people: working together, acting together, creating change together.
- The contest will feature a top prize of $1,500 and second and third prizes of $500 and $300 respectively. It will be open to entrants from January 15, 2018 until June 30, 2018. Judging will take place from July through September, 2018 and the winner will be announced at an event organized by LCLC, to be held in October or November, 2018.
- To be eligible, songs must have been written in the last three years and not previously recorded or published commercially.
- What kind of songs will be considered? Many people are familiar with the traditional union anthems, such as Solidarity Forever and The Commonwealth of Toil, written a century ago by IWW songwriters. But hundreds of songs have emerged over the years, reflecting the lives of working people, such as Power in a Union and Never Cross a Picket Line by British rocker Billy Bragg; Woody Guthrie’s Union Maid and Deportees, B.C. songwriter Linda Chobotuck’s Canning Salmon, Brooklyn labour singer Bev Grant’s We Were There and I am a Sewing Machine, Alberta songwriter Maria Dunn’s Speed Up and union organizer-songwriter Paul McKenna’s Public Workers. We’ve named only a few but they’re all examples of the kinds of songs we’re looking for.
- The contest is intended to engage a newer generation of songwriters in writing about the lives of working people. Preference will be given to songs submitted by songwriters under the age of 45.
- The contest is open to residents of B.C.
- Contestants may submit up to three different songs for consideration.
- Current and past members of LCLC will not be permitted to submit contest entries.
- There will be four judges, two men and two women, one of which will be LCLC conductor Peggy Hua.
- The winning songwriters will retain copyright of their entry submission. However, the songwriters, as a contest condition, will grant LCLC full performing rights to their songs, including choral arranging rights.