Sunday, 23 October 2016

"They've cleared out your desk" - New ideas and outsourcing - A message from The False Dots

The Barnet Eye 8h Birthday party
On Friday night, we celebrated the 8th Annivesary of this blog. It was really nice to chat to a few readers who I'd never met before, at our 8th Birthday party at The Chandos Arms. The music was provided by my band, The False Dots. We've been going in various forms since 1979. Since 2012, author Allen Ashley has been singing with the band. Allen was originally the singer with the band in 1985.

One of the reasons I was particularly keen on joining forces again with Allen is that he's a talented lyricist and puts a lot of passion into the delivery of the songs. After Pete Conway left the band in 1980, I'd mostly written the songs on my own. Although I enjoyed it, I've always worked better in a team. Allen is not afraid to tackle controversial issues in songs. WIth some of our singers, they were reluctant to "get too political". With Allen, there is no such reticence, although neither or us are interested in writing overtly party political songs. We tend to concentrate on using the songs to get a message over.

For the Blog birthday party, we were especially keen to play one of our new selection of songs. The lyrrics were written by Allen. It is called "They've cleared out your desk". It is the story of Mr A, who arrives at work to find his desk has been cleared and his years of experience and hard work have been cast aside, in the name of "new ideas and outsourcing". The song ends with Allen singing "So we wish you all the best, now go line up with the rest, of the ex employees, of the British Industries".

Regular readers will recognise that outsourcing and the exporting of jobs has been a major concern of this blog. The song seemed to be very appropriate to premiere at the Barnet Eye Birthday Gig. Recently it was announced that Bob Dylan has received a Nobel Prize for literature. Dylan is one of the great writers of protest songs and songs which make you think. I wouldn't be so presumptious as to compare our material to Bob Dylan, but he is a definate inspiration to both myself and Allen. What I particularly admire about Dylan is that he is totally without fear in his lyrics and choice of subject matter. Whether he is writing a song like Hurricane, about a man on death row or Lay Lady Lay, which is a sensuous love song, the same passions is there in the writing and the delivery.

What I find tragic is that, by and large, mainstream bands and artists have stopped writing songs trying to put the world to rights. It is great to have anthems to march to. It was quite pleasing to me that after we played someone complemented me on "They've cleared out your desk" saying that it is an important subject. After I shared the page on Facebook, one of my friends commented to another "This should be your old firms anthem". To me that tells me that we've got something right. When we play, we try and make our shows as enjoyable as possible. On Friday, we were jumping on tables. Some of our songs are love songs, some are to lost loves. We do a song about football, an anthem to the fans, rather than the clubs, players and owners. It is quite interesting how the attitudes of fans has remained the same, despite the complete change in the way clubs are run and the obscene amounts players are paid. Today I watched Chelsea thrash Man United. I was disgusted by the reaction of the Utd players at the end of the match. They were laughing and joking and swapping shirts. These overpaid primadonna's didn't seem to have a care in the world. Ownership of clubs has been outsourced to the US, The Far East and Oil rich Arabs and Russians. They realise that you can make a shedload of money out of mugs like me, who have sons who want relpica tops. Most of the football shirts we buy are produced in the far east, by workers being paid a fraction of the minimum wage. The shirts cost nxt to nothing to manufacture, but when they are sold in the club "megastore", we pay hugely inflated amounts. I probably wouldn't mind if just a fraction of this bonanza made its was back to kids playing football on a sunday morning in the parks and sports grounds. Sadly, when my son was playing youth football, not a penny came back. As parents on occasion we had to have a whip around for kit for some of the boys with less well off parents.

The sad thing with all of the effects of outsourcing is that it may be good for shareholders of multi national companies, but it is devastating for local communities. North West London used to have hundreds, if not thousands of small engineering firms. They've nearly all disappeared, with them the expertise and know how. Have a look around your house. How many items have been manufactured in the UK? Now of course the argument is that it is cheaper to import, but is it really? When we have to pay people to do nothing, it puts up taxes. Ultimately you pay less to the shopkeeper but more to the taxman. It also makes our eonomy vulnerable. Since we decided to vote for Brexit, the value of the pound has tumbled. Because we don't make things anymore, we have to import, and now everything is 25% more expensive. Because we've lost the capacity to manufacture, we have no choice.

This blog has to date published 4,816 different posts.  We've covered a whole host of subjects and helped hundreds, if not thousands of people with all manner of issues. On Friday night, one of the blog readers made a rather interesting comment. He said "Where do you find the time to do all this, run your business, play in a band and writing the blog". Well I suppose there are two things. I actually type very quickly. I write most of my blogs mentally, on buses, trains, walking the dog and walking to the pub. At any one time, I have at least six or seven blog posts on the go. It is quite interesting to me that the less work I put in, usually the more hits I get. Some blogs, I work on for weeks, only to get minimal interest. The blog post this year that has received the most hits, was not even written by me. It was a guest blog, by a young man living with autism, who told me how his freedom pass had been taken away. I read his message just before going out to get a train. I simply thought "I'd better put this blog out right away". So I cut and pasted it in and posted it. I hadn't even considered that it might be a wider issue. It was only when all the emails started arriving.

What was clear to me, was that the Freedom Pass debacle was a direct result of the One Barnet Capita outsourcing. The lack of democratic control and the disconnection of provision of Council services from the locality where they are needed. When you ring Barnet Council switchboard now, it isn't in Barnet. Hundreds of local jobs disappeared. As Allen says in They've cleared out your desk - "They'll get in someone new and fresh, who won't draw on experience, who won't insist it all makes sense" - which is exactly what is happened in the case of the Freedom pass debacle.

It has to be said. Bands have a platform. We should use it responsibly and if something is wrong call it out. Of course we have to make it sound great as well. Anyway, many thanks to John V. Keough, for videoing the performance for posterity. I think it is a great song with a powerful message. We will soon be making a proper recording and video of the song, which I have already started storyboarding. It lends itself to a video.Anyway, for your enjoyment, here is a video of the world wide debut of They've Cleared Out Your Desk.

And finally.... If you want to have a listen to the party playlist on Spotify - Here it is, so you now have some idea of what my idea of great party music is!

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