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In harmony for human rights

Guest blogger Hyemin Yoo breaks for the Borders to judge a youth protest song competition

As an Amnesty International student activist, I was invited by Amnesty Borders Group to attend (and judge!) the finals of the Voices for Change protest song competition at the String Jam Club in the County Hotel, Selkirk – a meeting place for local communities in the Borders and where the Amnesty Group holds monthly meetings. The Amnesty Borders group organised the youth protest song contest to raise awareness of human rights issues and to encourage activism amongst school pupils.

Allie Fox, a singer-songwriter based in Scotland, introduced each group before they performed. Allie said: “When we asked finalists why music is so important to them, they said ‘through music, you can be what you want to be’ and ‘it is the best way of expressing the self’.” The most impressive part of the event was realising how the protest song competition empowered those young songwriters (all aged between 11 and 18 years old) in various ways. Many of them wrote lyrics, made music and performed in public for the first time in their life. However, the quality of performances – both the music and the message – was incredible. 

The winner was chosen based on 5 criteria: Music, lyrics, originality, power of the message, and overall impression. The judging panel agreed on whose performance and message within the song best delivered the spirit of Amnesty International. First prize was awarded to Kelso’s Unheard Voices. Their winning song Outspoken was an outstanding rap about racism, peace and justice. Overall, it was incredibly difficult to choose a winner, as they were all brilliant.

I believe that the Amnesty Borders group successfully reached Borders school pupils and raised awareness of the work of Amnesty in their community. The Voices for Change protest song contest created the space for young people to express a wide range of social issues from their own point of view. It also made us understand the importance of active involvement by those school pupils, who have great potential in leading social change. 

Last but not least, there was a very special guest – legendary protest singer-songwriter Julie Felix. She was a member of the judging panel and was a great inspiration for everyone participating in the event. Her stories of protest songs impressed the audience, showing her deep passion for music and humanism. Great job to all the participants, and huge thanks to Amnesty Borders, and everyone who came along and made it a night to remember.



The Ella Stone prize was awarded to the group of young rappers, Unheard Voices and their song, Outspoken.

The runners- up also received a cheque and recognition for their talent and hard work.

Corin Anderson and Leanne McFadden, Stand Up, Stand Out

Highrise, Putin's Deck of Cards

Erin Highton, Back Down

String Jam Club presented a special Most Promising Newcomer award to 11-year old Rory Piercy from Earlston, who didn't quite make it to the finals, but whose song really impressed the judges. 

Listen to the winning song:

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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