Make a big difference to The Big Idea.

Help us tell the most creative stories.

Become a supporter

A strange year gone by

Talia Dalton, winner of the 2014 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition.
Mike and Barney Chunn reflect on 2014 and playing a part in 'the swirling world of song – music and lyrics - in New Zealand, as it twists and turns around us, taking us to the top.'


By Mike and Barney Chunn

As another year draws to a close, it’s invigorating to look back on what has been another very rewarding year in the world of Play It Strange. Before we talk of the current swathe of students let’s acknowledge the graduates that are kicking up dust.

We’ve been thrilled to witness some of our alumni continue to grow and flourish in the global music industry.

Graduates! Georgia Nott - Broods was on our 2012 CD; Thomston was there in 2012 & 2013. Louis Baker has been globe trotting. He was on the 2007 CD. Jesse Sheehan has been touring on vocals/guitar with Neil Finn and is currently recording at Roundhead Studios. And Graham Candy has been kicking up dust from Berlin. He was on our Lion Foundation Top 40 in 2007 and has been touring with Alle Farben and playing to massive crowds around Europe (for some amazing photos, follow him on Instagram @grahamcandymusic). He’s recently been named on German Spotify’s ‘one to watch’ list for 2015. Then there is Eden Roberts, Annah Mac, Anthonie Tonnon, Holly Christina and more.

Songwriting Competitions.  We’ve had another incredible year of the Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition, our flagship programme. The constant level of talent that this country’s secondary schools produce is high and wide and it galvanizes us to do what we do.

This year’s winner is the wonderfully endearing Talia Dalton. She took the First Place Trophy and a Rockshop retail credit voucher worth $1,000. Talia blew us away with her song Ice-Cube in a Coffee -  a song where her narrative and pairing of theme and sound are far beyond her very youthful 13 years. Talia attends Otumoetai College in Tauranga, which is a regular provider of great songwriters. In fact, their graduate Mark Perkins (now engineering at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios won our songwriting competition in 2011 with My Tower.

We also run other songwriting competitions – these with specific lyric themes. The Peace Song competition, in its fifth year, found Emma Cooper-Williams from Rangitoto College in Auckland and Jessica Adams from Mackenzie College in Fairlie, Sth Island winning the Auckland and Rest-of-NZ sections of this competition respectively. Emma’s Put Our Swords Down and Jessica’s Under The Same Sky are on the Play It Strange CD and both girls, as part of their prize, went to AICJ College in Hiroshima, Japan on a cultural exchange.

The other themed songwriting competitions were:

The Calling. Lyrics that recalled the emotional response in NZ of the UK announcing their declaration of war with Germany in 1914. The winner is Josh Zhong from Auckland Grammar.

The WERO song competition conceived and sponsored by Richard Jeffrey and the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau, Sth Auckland. Primary/Intermediate and Secondary competitions were held for this programme. Check out the concept and the great results.

The Jam Bus. Our mobile recording studio programme has continued to roll out, visiting over 120 schools this year and now clocking in over 250 sessions. That’s nearly 20,000 students who have sung, played, plucked, hit, clapped, and chanted into our microphones. Each participating student gets a commercially manufactured Stebbing Recording Centre CD of their whole school’s recording session (Mixed and mastered!).

Jam Bus Gold Award. This year also saw the first year of the Jam Bus Gold Award (sponsored by Terry Gould), a celebration of original songwriting in Primary and Intermediate Schools who had recorded with the Jam Bus. The winning school this year was Wairau Intermediate’s Free 4 Lyf (consisting of Georgia, Deshma, Jefa, and Kaitlin), recorded their winning original song at Roundhead Studios.

A Strange Day’s Night. A special moment for Play it Strange this year was spent in celebration of something that happened 50 years ago, when four young men from Liverpool had barely begun changing the social fabric of the world in as far as they would. They did however change the pavements of Queen St for at least two nights, and we celebrated their connection to us over that span of time with the Strange Day’s Night event – a whirlwind adventure with over 350 performers taking to the stage at the town hall over two packed nights. More than 160 teenagers took part! The response was huge, as was the love in the room. We hope we did the fab four proud. Check out the dozens of great live photos taken by Jason Hailes. Radio NZ Concert will be broadcasting a number of mixed tracks from the two shows on New Year’s Eve.

Achievement Standard in Songwriting. Play It Strange is advocating to the government for an Achievement Standard in Songwriting – Levels 1,2 & 3 – NCEA.

We continue to be proud to play a part in the crazy beast that is the swirling world of song – music and lyrics - in New Zealand, as it twists and turns around us, taking us to the top.  For the full range of awards, trophies and successful winners – travel to Play It Strange; and check out our photo library.

Written by

Mike Chunn

15 Dec 2014

Interests Mike Chunn has worked with original songs all his life from his days with Split Enz and Citizen Band through Mushroom Records (Dance Exponents and DD Smash) to eleven years as Director of Operations for APRA.