The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican

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The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican
Playing live at Beautiful Days Festival, August 2018: l–r: Alan Doonican #2, Scott Doonican, Björn Doonicansson
Background information
OriginBarnsley, South Yorkshire, England
GenresFolk music, parody music, pastiche
Years active2006–present
LabelsMoon-On-A-Stick Records (their own independent label)
MembersScott Doonican
Björn Doonicansson
Alan Doonican #2
Past membersDanny Doonican
Alan Doonican #1
Andy Doonican

The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican are an English comedy folk and parody band from Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Formed in 2006, they claim to be the hardest working comedy band in the UK, having played over 1000 shows throughout the UK. They are best known on the UK's festival scene, having played at major festivals including Glastonbury Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Beautiful Days, Bearded Theory, Rebellion Festival, Wychwood Festival, Kate Rusby's Underneath The Stars Festival, Towersey Festival, Wickham Festival and to an audience of 20,000 at Fairport's Cropredy Convention in August 2018, for their 900th show. Playing mainly acoustic folk instruments, they take popular songs and replace the lyrics with their own comedy reworkings, often on themes completely unrelated to the original song. They have independently released ten studio albums (containing over 110 song parodies in total), and a large number of live albums. Presenting themselves as the long-lost children of Irish entertainer Val Doonican, and claiming to be "on a mission to keep their late, great spiritual father's legacy alive", the various members of the band have adopted the singer's surname for their shows, and wear brightly coloured hand-knitted tank-tops in tribute to Doonican's traditional knitwear.[1][2][3]


The band started out as an acoustic harmony duo consisting of Scott Doonican (vocals, acoustic guitar/banjo/mandolin/kazoo) and Danny Doonican (vocals, acoustic guitar), mainly covering quirky song choices by such disparate acts as Sparks, Queen, Judas Priest and Vera Lynn on folk instruments with Everly Brothers-styled harmonies. The band's name and subsequent image was the idea of Scott's partner and long-standing co-lyricist Amanda White, inspired after they both saw a billboard poster for a gig by the San Diego band Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, whilst on a weekend break to Dublin.[4] They played their first show at Thawleys Pub in Wombwell, Barnsley on Saturday 17 June 2006.[4] The pub is now a local convenience store.[5] After their debut show, which was originally intended to be a one-off appearance, they decided to continue, and soon expanded to a three piece with the addition of Alan Doonican #1 on piano accordion, later self-releasing two albums of folky cover versions of classic rock songs (For Those About To Rock, Gently) and 1980s Number Ones (Back To The Day Job) on their independent Moon-On-A-Stick Records label, on which they continue to release albums to this day.[4]

From 2008, the original line-up began to change direction to become a comedy/parody band by replacing the lyrics of popular songs with their own and performing in their native Yorkshire accent and dialect, the first being "Tarnlife", a re-working of Blur's "Parklife" with lyrics about the inhabitants of their home town of Barnsley.[4] The spoken parts of the song, originally performed by Phil Daniels, were performed in 2008 by Scott’s late father-in-law, Michael White, under the moniker of 'Barnsley Mick'. The band often make reference to the word 'Tarn' in their lyrics and in titles of songs and albums, which isn't a reference to mountain lakes formed by glaciation, but a local pronunciation of 'town'. As a local slang word, it is, however, given a capital letter, because it is often used as a proper noun by many local inhabitants, who affectionately call Barnsley 'Tarn'. [6]

The song Tarnlife was later added to Cpl Kipper’s Barnsley Trades Club Turn, their first full album as a comedy band, released in 2010. Its cover artwork mirrored that of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles, with 56 Barnsley celebrities gracing its front cover.[7] The album was also notable for featuring the first of the band's several collaborations with guitarist Graham Oliver, founding member of heavy metal band Saxon.[8]

Shortly after its release, Danny Doonican left the band, leaving Scott to complete the recording of 2011's The Dark Side Of The Tarn largely on his own.[4] Unlike, Cpl. Kipper, which was a collection of songs with links to their hometown of Barnsley, from their second album onwards, the focus of the band's songwriting became more universal. Danny was succeeded by Andy Doonican, and the line-up of Scott, Alan #1 and Andy recorded three further albums of parody songs between 2012 and 2014 ('EY UP! LET'S GO!, Sat'day Neet Fever and Talk Of The Tarn).[4]

Since October 2014 the core line-up has been stable, with Scott (vocals, guitar, synthesiser ukulele, banjulele, omnichord, kazoo) being joined by Björn Doonicansson (violin, banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, vocals) and Alan Doonican #2 (piano accordion, keyboards, keytar, ukulele, vocals). Alan Doonican #1 left the band in September 2014, whilst Andy Doonican continued to play sporadic shows with the band until retiring in June 2016, after the band's 10th birthday show.

During this period, the band recorded The Tarn Machine (2015) and T'South 0 – Tarn 4 (2016) as a four piece,[9] while 2017's 'Ave It : Bold As Brass was recorded by the current trio of Scott, Björn and Alan #2.[4] Scott Doonican has been known to refer to this consecutive trio of studio albums as the band's Tarnetto Trilogy, itself a parody of the 'Cornetto Trilogy', likening them to the trilogy of films created by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, in which each have their own significant colours (red, blue and green) and individual characteristics, but contain common themes throughout. The cover of The Tarn Machine mirrors the blood red colour of Shaun Of The Dead, the cover of T'South 0 - Tarn 4 mirrors the alien green colour of The World's End, and the cover of 'Ave It : Bold As Brass mirrors the policeman blue colour of Hot Fuzz.[10]

Scott Doonican, in an interview with Farmer Phil's Festival in 2016, named his musical comedy influences as Mike Harding, Jasper Carrott and Richard Digance.[11] On the band’s website, Scott also claims to have formed the band, "to fuse the theatrical stage antics of Freddie Mercury with the comedy of Mike Harding, in order to form the world's greatest folk-band in knitwear".[12]

Due to the significant number of line-up changes between 2010 and 2014, in 2017 Scott Doonican created a family tree for the band’s website, showing the many incarnations of the band, which itself is a parody in the style of Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees. Each band member, past and present also has their own stage persona and their own individual elaborate backstory.[4]

In early 2018, the band re-recorded a collection of 21 of their most-loved songs for their ninth studio album, a ten-year retrospective of their comedy years, The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican/2008–2018. The album was independently crowdfunded and released on CD, double disc coloured vinyl and limited edition cassette.[13]

In December 2018, the band released two charity Christmas singles via iTunes. The first single was their final annual collaboration with the late Maartin Allcock, who passed away four months previous, only weeks after performing with the band at Fairport's Cropredy Convention. The track, a prog-rock/tradional folk crossover rendition of Greg Lake's I Believe In Father Christmas, entered the iTunes chart[14], peaking at Number 33, and gaining a Number 80 position on the UK Official Charts for both downloads and sales on 21 December 2018.[15] The second single, The Gasman Cometh, entered the iTunes chart reaching Number 55[16], and the iTunes comedy chart at Number 2. In the same week The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican/2008–2018 reached Number 2 in the iTunes comedy chart. On 26 January 2019, spurred on by BBC Radio 6 ignoring an unprecedented barrage of fan requests for the song How Deep Is Your Glove? on social media, during a feature on Stuart Maconie's show called 'Sunday Glove Songs', the band defiantly released the track as a charity single for Prostate Cancer UK, and it entered the UK iTunes Comedy chart at Number 1.

Their tenth studio album, entitled Place Of Spades was crowdfunded in early 2019, and all pre-orders, came with a packet of 'Doonicans Magic Seeds', which at the time of their arrival at fans' homes, were of an unknown variety. In late April, fans were encouraged, on social media, to post photos of their plants, as they grew. Several months later, on 20 September, Scott Doonican finally admitted via the band's Facebook group, that they were actually cleome seeds, chosen because, when they grow, the leaves look remarkably similar to that of the cannabis plant. Scott, coming clean in his status post, stated, "I thought it would be a proper good laugh to try and get so many people to attempt to grow them, not knowing what they were growing. It worked, as over the past six months, I have had countless private messages from slightly worried fans (one of which lives next door to their local police station!)". The Place Of Spades album was released and launched on Sunday 30 June 2019 at Glastonbury Festival when the band played the Avalon Stage.[17] A Glastonbury live album, Avalon Calling was recorded during the show, and was given a strictly limited edition CD release, which, on its announcement, sold out overnight, before being made available via digital download only. [18]

In June 2019, Scott Doonican announced via social media and the band's website that he was setting up a crowdfunding project for a special release under the title of 'Leap of Faith'. Scott claimed that the aim of the project was to demonstrate that "socialism can work in the real world". Fans were told that for taking a 'leap of faith' and by pledging just ten pounds, they would definitely get a CD album on time for Christmas 2019, but that this would be expanded to a second album for the same price, if enough people backed the project. By August, it was announced that the as-of-yet unnamed CDs would be expanded to a triple disc release containing 44-tracks.

The band hosted their own music and comedy festival at The Old School House Venue in Barnsley in October 2019. The aptly titled Doonifest sold out over a year in advance [19], with a line-up including Oliver/Dawson Saxon, Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs, The Sweetchunks Band and many other comedy and musical acts from the UK's festival circuit. It was the venue's fastest sell-out, with all tickets going within 56 seconds, before a single act was announced. The festival also saw, original founding member, Danny Doonican, returning for one final show, as the original duo of Scott and Danny opened the festival with a set composed of early Doonicans cover versions and songs from the band's first album.[20]

On 25 October 2019, the band played their sold out 1000th show at The Palace Theatre in Redditch, which was filmed and recorded for a DVD and CD live album. The following weekend, on 2 Nov 2019, Scott Doonican played his 1000th show (because he missed show #513 at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham) at the Laughing Badger Gallery in Padfield, Derbyshire.

Live shows[edit]

The band have played over 1000 shows to date,[21] and proclaim on their website that they are "The hardest-working comedy band in the UK".[22] The band's present day live shows range from full band shows, to duo shows by Scott & Björn, to solo acoustic shows by Scott. The band are regulars on the UK festival scene,[23] and have also supported a number of diverse acts including Levellers, Chas & Dave, Roy Wood, John Otway, Fairport Convention, Eliza Carthy, Tony Christie and The Darkness.[11][21][24]

Shows are often enhanced by audience participation and various set-pieces, such as the addition of occasional guest appearances from 6ft 9in tall Tom Large dressed as The Devil for their version of "The Devil Went Darn To Barnsley" (where The Devil dares Björn to beat his fiddle playing, the forfeit being Björn's soul) and Scott crowd surfing to the bar and back to get and bring back a pint of beer; at several large festival shows, including Fairport's Cropredy Convention, Glastonbury Festival, Beautiful Days and Bearded Theory, Scott has used a rubber dinghy for this part of the show.[25][26]

The band regularly invite other musicians to play with them. At Cropredy Festival 2018 Fairport Convention's Maartin Allcock, complete with Doonican-style tank-top, joined them for the finale,[27] at Beautiful Days 2017 they were joined by Eliza Carthy, and at Whitwell Festival of Music in 2015, they were joined by Graham Oliver guitarist and founding member of Yorkshire heavy metal band Saxon.[28] Scott also joined Oliver/Dawson Saxon on stage that same evening, brandishing a banjulele for Saxon song Wheels Of Steel (which the Doonicans covered as a hidden track on their 2017 album, 'Ave It : Bold As Brass), and again at the band's own 'Doonifest' in October 2019.

In February 2019, the band announced the date for their 1000th show, to take place at the Palace Theatre in Redditch, Worcestershire on 25 October 2019. The show, which is currently the band's biggest selling ticketed headline show to date, sold out on Sun 22 September. The band later announced and successfully crowdfunded a project to film and record a live DVD and double album on the night of the show. [29]


Jeff Robson, reviewing their 11 August 2018 show at Fairport's Cropredy Convention for the Independent, said "... The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican were the highlights of a rainy Saturday afternoon, swearily lampooning a genre that sometimes takes itself too seriously.",[30] whilst another review of the same show said "... complete with fluorescent tank tops and dodgy wigs [they] were an absolute highlight."[1]

Talking about the same appearance in a 4 December interview with Radio Bicester on the Tarka Blowpig Show, Fairport Convention's Dave Pegg, said that the band were "the best... the highlight of the weekend".

Reviewing the band's support act to the Levellers at Leamington Assembly in 2015, What's On West Midlands said "the Barnsley Boys left the audience in stitches with their exquisitely crafted parodies ... there was nevertheless some surprisingly excellent musicianship."[31]

John Atkin, reviewing 'Ave It: Bold As Brass in RnR Magazine, said "Bristles with proper belly-laugh moments... a LOL-a-minute through a variety of perfect pastiches. If there is any justice, the Doonicans deserve to be all over your Saturday night telly."[32]

In a review of Bearded Theory Festival 2016, UK Festival Guides said "I couldn’t fail to mention a gig by The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican that left even them speechless at the sheer size, volume and enthusiasm of the audience, the impact these boys have wherever they go is utterly phenomenal",[33] whilst at the same festival two years later, the reviewer noted "Rapidly becoming the must-have, must-see festival band, the Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican played to an over-capacity Woodland Stage arena as hundreds queued for a chance at catching their much-anticipated antics".[34] A review of a smaller venue show said "They simply take all the songs you cannot get out of your head – everything from The Police to Kings of Leon – and twist the lyrics beyond recognition while wearing gloriously outrageous multi-coloured tank tops."[35]

In July 2017, comedian Jason Manford described their performance at Underneath The Stars Festival as "great fun" on his Twitter account,[36] whilst eFestivals described their performance at Off The Tracks festival the same year with "Like a modern-day version of the Barron Knights, they take popular songs, amend the words and twist them into hilarious folk parodies."[37]

In the foreword of Scott Doonican’s book of the band’s lyrics Songs In The Key Of Tarn, folk musician Eliza Carthy describes the band as "a ridiculous family of genius, hilarious, irresistible music makers, currently crowd surfing to the bar all over the great county of Yorkshire and beyond, into the venues and music festivals of the UK".[38]

Folk musician and comedian Mike Harding said on his "Folk Show" podcast #177 in 2016 that "The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican are very, very funny... one of the hardest working bands on the planet". In the broadcast of his 273rd Folk Show podcast in Sept 2019 he described the band as "some of the funniest men on the planet... I would call them parodists extraordinaire".[39] On 12 April 2019, the Staffordshire Sentinel published a headline about the band's appearance at Leek Arts Festival, describing them to be "like The Barron Knights - on speed", going on to say "Their hilarious parodies of popular songs will leave you crying tears of laughter". [40]

Mike Scialom, writing for the Cambridge Independent, said that the band's headline set at Cambridge Folk Festival's Club Stage was a "another festival highlight". It went on to say that the "irreverent, madcap trio, insisting they were quite posh really, included defence of their home town, Barnsley: 'In most cities people smoke spice, but in Barnsley everyone smokes basil... they buy the Radio Times when it's not even Christmas, that's how posh it is'. [41]

During their appearance at Kate Rusby's Underneath The Stars Festival in August 2019, in a review by Louder Than War journalist Gareth Allen wrote, "The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican’s reputation preceded them and they didn’t disappoint, resplendent in the most garish of tank tops imaginable... without doubt these guys can really play. Led by the inimitable Scott Doonican, everyone is jumping, as metal-head culture joins folk and hip-hop in an intoxicating mix". [42] The Yorkshire Evening Post described the band at the same show as "hilarious". [43]

RnR Magazine, reviewing Place Of Spades in September 2019, described the album as "the summit of musical comedy. Scott Doonican's attention to detail is what sets the Doonicans ahead of all the contenders in this genre. These are lovingly crafted pastiches with tonnes of subtle layers". They went on to say that it was "the strongest Doonicans album yet".

Jarvis Cocker from Sheffield band, Pulp, has been widely quoted to have described the band as "The best thing to come out of Barnsley, since the A61 to Sheffield".[44]

Notable instruments[edit]

Scott Doonican[edit]

Scott Doonican has been an official endorsee of Tanglewood Guitars since 2018, but has had a preference for them since the band's conception. According to their website his main acoustic guitar, a "battered old 1995 Tanglewood TW55, dubbed 'The Workhorse' (is) believed to have done well over a thousand shows to date". The guitar was bought in 1999 from Scott's uncle, current Showaddywaddy bassist, Billy Norman.[45] Scott also plays a 'chess board synthesiser ukulele', custom-built by North Yorkshire luthier, Robert Hinchcliffe, during She's From Dodworth, and occasionally he plays a 1981 Suzuki Omnichord OM-27 during solo shows. He also plays an Ozark banjulele, a GDAD tuned Irish bouzouki, and the 'Kazoobie Wazoogle', an extra-loud kazoo with a bell-shaped horn on top and a trumpet-styled opening at the front. Scott has used gauge 11 Rotosound Jumbo King strings on all of his acoustic guitars, exclusively, since learning to play the guitar in 1994.

Björn Doonicansson[edit]

Björn Doonicansson plays a Gold Tone TS-250A Tenor Archtop Banjo, a Bridge violin made by Sleaford violin-maker, Paul Bridgewater, and an electric Fender mandolin.

Alan Doonican[edit]

Alan Doonican plays Gallini accordions, a Roland V-Combo VR-09 keyboard (dubbed "Alan's Massive Throbbing Organ" on the side of his keyboard stand), a 1987 Yamaha SHS-10 keytar, and a ukulele of ill repute.


This is an abridged list of albums; the band have also released over 20 live shows on CD or in download format, via their own independent label, Moon-On-A-Stick Records.[46] All of the artwork for the front covers of the band’s studio albums, and a significant number of their live albums are pastiches of classic album covers.

Studio albums[edit]

  • Cpl Kipper's Barnsley Trades Club Turn (2010)
  • The Dark Side Of The Tarn (2011)
  • 'EY UP! LET'S GO! (2012)
  • Sat'day Neet Fever (2013)
  • Talk Of The Tarn (2014)
  • The Tarn Machine (2015)
  • T'SOUTH 0 – TARN 4 (2016)
  • Ave It: Bold As Brass (2017)
  • The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican 2008-2018 (2018)
  • Place Of Spades (2019)
  • Leap Of Faith Project (due for release Dec 2019)

Live albums[edit]

  • Get Yer Ha-Ha's Art (2016) Recorded live at The Lantern Theatre, Sheffield.
  • School's Art (2017) Recorded live at The Old School House Venue, Barnsley.
  • Live & Lairy At Fairport's Cropredy Convention (2018) Recorded live at Fairport's Cropredy Convention
  • Avalon Calling (2019) Recorded live at Glastonbury Festival.
  • The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican Live At The Palace Theatre (2019) Recorded live at the Palace Theatre, Redditch on 25 October 2019, the night of the band's 1000th show.

Other media[edit]


  • The Tarn Machine Live (2015)
  • Live & Lairy at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention (2018)
  • The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican Live At The Palace Theatre (2019) Filmed live at the Palace Theatre, Redditch on 25 October 2019, the night of the band's 1000th show.


  • Songs In The Key Of Tarn (2015) A book of the band's lyrics and the stories behind them, written by Scott Doonican, with a foreword written by Eliza Carthy MBE. The book was revised for a significantly extended 2nd edition in 2017.


The band's current core trio of Scott, Björn and Alan #2 has been stable since 2014. A number of former members, occasional members and additional guests have also performed with the band over the years.[4]

Current members[edit]

Scott Doonican[edit]

Lead vocals, acoustic guitar, banjulele, electric synthesiser ukulele, Suzuki Omnichord OM-27, kazoo, dinghy (17 June 2006 – present)

Scott has been the only constant member throughout the band's history. He has played at every single Bar-Steward Sons show, except show #513 at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham on 18th Oct 2014.

He has written or co-written the lyrics to over 100 of the band's parodies. Despite his best efforts he still doesn't have an Ivor Novello Award.

Björn Doonicansson[edit]

Mandolin, tenor banjo, violin, bouzouki, vocals (20 April 2014 – present)

Hailing from a small goat-herding village close to Gothenburg, Sweden, Björn is the youngest member of the band's '2014-present' line-up. He played for the first time with the band at The Blues Bar in Harrogate at show #426 in April 2014, aged only 16 at the time.

Alan Doonican #2[edit]

Piano accordion, keyboards, keytar, ukulele, vocals, and according to a weekly Facebook phenomena is alleged to be the Eye Candy of the band (25 October 2014 – present)

Alan played for the first time with the band at Harefield Hall in Pateley Bridge at show #514 on 25th October 2014, at Halloween-themed festival, 'Scarefest'. The festival appearance doubled-up as a 'live audition', after Alan Doonican #1 had quit the band unexpectedly the previous month. At first, the rest of the band couldn't spot him amongst the rest of the festival crowd, as everybody in attendance was in Halloween fancy dress.

Since joining the band, Alan has written or co-written over ten of the band's parodies, including The Ornithologist Waltz, Walking In Manpiss and Too Good To Be Jus. Also, since Tuesday 5 July 2016, Alan has been the subject of a weekly Tuesday 'pin-up' on the band's Facebook page under the hashtag of #EyeCandyTuesday. As a result, Eye-Candy Tuesday has become something of a tongue-in-cheek hit with fans of the band, and also sported an official charity cALANder in 2018, with proceeds going to Prostate Care UK.

Former Members[edit]

  • Danny Doonican – acoustic guitar, vocals (17 June 2006 – 17 March 2011)
  • Alan Doonican #1 – piano accordion (24 June 2006 – 4 October 2014)
  • Andy Doonican – 12-string acoustic guitar, bass guitar, ukulele (8 April 2011 – 17 June 2016)

Occasional Members, Notable Guests and Collaborators[edit]

  • Maartin Allcock-Doonican (Maartin Allcock) – producer and multi-instrumentalist on several studio tracks including annual Christmas singles (2015-2017). Maartin was given Scott's EY UP! LET'S GO! tank-top and made an "honorary Doonican" for his only live performance with the band at Fairport's Cropredy Convention on 11 August 2018.
  • Duck Doonican (Simon Friend from Levellers) – played mandolin on the live album It'll Be Reight (2014) and has made two live appearances to date.
  • Mojo Doonican - made his debut on bass guitar and tambourine with the band at The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican's Sunday Service at Beautiful Days Festival 2019. Sporting an afro, sunglasses and silvery flares, Mojo remained mute for the duration of the show, communicating by coolly staring at his brothers. He is alleged to come from Coolville, Ohio.
  • Delmar Doonican – played 5-string banjo on the live album It'll Be Reight (2014) and as a guest on the tracks Whole Lotta Rosé from Talk Of The Tarn (2014) and Place Of Spades from the album of the same name (2019).
  • Foxy Doonican – acoustic guitar, bass guitar, banjo (made four live appearances between 31 May 2014 and 18 Oct 2014)
  • Bobby Doonegan – occasional appearances on tea-chest bass (25 May 2014 – present). Bobby has been described on the band's website as a distant cousin and the son of lesser-known skiffle star, Lenny Doonegan.
  • Sarah Doonican – occasional British Sign Language interpreter at live shows (21 May 2015 – present) has performed several times alongside the band at Bearded Theory Festival, inclusively translating the band's comedy lyrics for deaf festival-goers.
  • Tom Large – occasional appearances as Björn's nemesis The Devil (or Tom DeVille) at live shows (since show #555 on 21 May 2015 – present)
  • Joel Howe (music producer) - beyond being the lead singer/mandolin player in Derbyshire folk-rave sextet, Black Thorn, Joel is also a critically acclaimed producer, and has mixed and mastered a number of the band's albums since 2017, including studio albums Ave It : Bold As Brass (2017), The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican/2008-2018 (2018), Place Of Spades (2019), and the three as-of-yet unnamed studio albums that make up the Leap of Faith Project, as well as live albums, Live & Lairy at Fairport's Cropredy Convention (2018), Avalon Calling - Live At Glastonbury Festival (2019) and The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican Live At The Palace Theatre (2019).


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External links[edit]