Press release

A jukebox of people trying to change the world

Published on 1 April 2021

A variety of artists will come together to perform songs of solidarity and struggle in an upcoming University of Dundee fundraiser event.

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‘An Optimism Class: A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World’ brings together a range of choirs and solo artists to raise funds for Optimistic Sound, a local charity which supports work that transforms the lives of young people and families in Dundee through music. 

The event, taking place on Thursday 8 April, is part of the wider Cooper Gallery project ‘The Ignorant Art School: Five Sit-ins towards Creative Emancipation’, launched earlier this year with Sit-in #1 by internationally celebrated Scottish artist Ruth Ewan.  

The online concert will see contributors perform songs that explore ideas of social transformation, inspired by Ewan’s ongoing project ‘A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World’, a growing collection of over 2,000 songs that address a spectrum of social issues. 

Sophia Hao, Cooper Gallery Principal Curator, said, “Music is an incredibly powerful tool. Artists throughout history have used their talent to address social issues and inspire change, and Ewan’s collection is a great example of this. 

“This online concert will be a moment for collective listening, brought together through an incredible range of artists performing songs of solidarity and struggle in aid of supporting the work of Optimistic Sound. 

“Contributors range from folk legends like Peggy Seeger, Frankie Armstrong and Dundee's Sheena Wellington to solo artists including Glasgow-based Aidan Moffat, musicians Heir of the Cursed, Kapil Seshasayee and US protest singer Lynn Marie Smith, to choirs, a piper and an anonymous family band.” 

Ruth Ewan added, “An extraordinary cross-generational range of performers have recorded material for 'An Optimism Class’ and I’m so excited to share this with an online community.  

“Music and song play such a crucial function in our lives, especially during dark times, both personally and socially. Many of the songs included in the event act as conduits for stories and histories. Some share struggles from the past, some critique the present and some dare to reimagine the future.” 

‘An Optimism Class: A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World’ takes place online on Thursday 8 April from 7:30pm - 9:30pm.  

Tickets are available to book via Eventbrite. Although the event is free to attend, attendees are encouraged to make a donation of £6 directly to Optimistic Sound

Optimistic Sound is a community campaign and trust established by the family of late Dundonian singer-songwriter and musician Michael Marra, who believed in the transformational power of music. 

The charity supports the Sistema Scotland music programme, Big Noise Douglas, in Dundee, a high-quality music education and social change programme that works intensively with children, young people and families within targeted communities. 

Ruth Ewan’s ‘A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World’ is a CD jukebox, sitting between digital and analogue technologies which contains a growing collection of songs addressing a spectrum of social issues, some directly political in motive, some vaguely utopian and some chronicling specific historic events. 


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878
Story category Events and exhibitions