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Song contest pulling some strings to bring joy during pandemic

Song contest pulling some strings to bring joy during pandemic

Song contest pulling some strings to bring joy during pandemic

The Salvation Army’s own top-rating group of the 1960s, The Joystrings: Pauline Jane, Peter Dalziel, Ruth Swainbury, Joy Webb, Sylvia Gair, Wycliffe Noble and Bill Davidson. 

Mention The Salvation Army Strawberry Field children’s home in Liverpool, England, and most people will start humming The Beatles song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

The song immortalised the Army’s iconic site, which operated as a children’s home between 1936 and 2005 in the suburb of Woolton. The site is still owned and operated by the Army, running various programs for disadvantaged young adults, and is also a visitor attraction.

Strawberry Field has graced the headlines again, having joined what has been described as “a unique collaboration” in the search for the next international ‘song for kindness’, alongside global charity, Liverpool City Council, The Cavern Club and Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. 

Organisers say they decided to put together a contest, called ‘The Liverpool Song for Kindness’, as a way of giving people something to think about in the “dark days, indeed” of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing musicians to gain international exposure and a prize for the winner.

Major Kathy Versfeld, Mission Director at Strawberry Field, has encouraged songwriters all over the world, including musicians from The Salvation Army, to enter. (Entry details at end of the story.)

“Music-making and, we hope, kindness is still at the heart of what we do and who we are as The Salvation Army,” she said. “I would, therefore, challenge gifted and inspirational singer/songwriters across the world to have a go [and] enter The Liverpool Song for Kindness competition. Write a song birthed out of the heartache and hope you have experienced during this time of COVID-19, with words and music that will inspire and cause others to renew their faith in human kindness and the promise of better things to come.”

The contest also has links with The Beatles. It draws its inspiration from the message of the John Lennon song ‘Imagine’, which is regarded as the world’s most popular anthem for unity, peace and kindness. As with ‘Imagine’, released 50 years ago hoping that the world would come together as one, the contest is searching for a song of hope and optimism.

Strawberry Field gatesThe entrance gates to Strawberry Field, a centre in Liverpool, England, that is still owned and operated by The Salvation Army.

Diehard Lennon fans know that one of the first things that attracted a young John to the gardens at Strawberry Field children’s home was the opportunity to listen to a band from The Salvation Army playing at the home’s annual summer fete. He called the place so close to his home “paradise”. Years later, he co-wrote ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ with Paul McCartney.

Strawberry Field welcomed the public beyond its famous red gates for the first time in 2019. Today, the revitalised centre reaches out to local young adults aged 18-25 with learning difficulties or other barriers to employment. The structured Steps to Work program comprises classroom-based life skills learning, specialised sector training and work experience, allowing trainees to develop their employability and prepare themselves to seek and enter paid employment.

The Joystrings

Music traditionally is an important part of the life and work of The Salvation Army and its many corps, ministries and mission expressions around the world. Its own trailblazing group of pop musicians, The Joystrings, has been a significant part of that history.

The Joystrings were among the first groups to take the good news of the Christian message into the secular music charts and gave all its royalties to help people in need. The group shared the same recording studios at Abbey Road made famous by The Beatles – aka The Fab Four, often arriving shortly after John and the rest of the group had left.

Lieut-Colonel Peter Dalziel, one of the original members of The Joystrings who married fellow members Sylvia Gair, recalled an occasion of literally following in the footsteps of the Fab Four: “The Beatles had left the Abbey Road studios the previous night and, when we went into the same studio the following morning, we spent some time tidying things up.”

“Although The Joystrings only existed for five years, its influence still is being felt about 60 years later. Joy Webb’s song ‘A Starry Night’, which The Joystrings took into the charts in 1964, remains a firm favourite with churches and schools around the world,” Peter added.

Song entry details

Any genre is considered for entry into ‘The Liverpool Song for Kindness’ contest, but the song must be an original piece submitted by the songwriter and performed by the songwriter or a nominated artist. To enter, songwriters and musicians can submit their track (video or audio) along with the song name, writer, performer, lyrics and where they are based via the competition’s online portal:

The closing date for entries is 31 July 2021. The top 50 entrants, as selected by the competition judges, will be announced on 14 August 2021. The overall competition winner will be unveiled on 9 October 2021.

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Edited from a release by Laura Taylor from The Salvation Army United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland


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