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Hospice aid: festival’s version of Christmas hit

By “doing what it does best” – creating music, raising money and bringing the community together – Alsager Music Festival is about to release its own version of the Band Aid song Do They Know It’s Christmas? in support of the Dougie Mac Hospice.

Those who have recreated the smash yuletide hit, originally recorded in 1984 to raise awareness of the famine in Ethiopia, are performers who played to a packed Milton Park during this year’s music festival on a hot and sunny day in July.

The likes of Tim Hodgins, lead singer with rock tribute act Double Denim, the festival’s own James David Holland, the man behind the project, and Alsager teen band The Buggs will sing their rendition of the lines originally performed by the likes of David Bowie, Bono, George Michael and Sting in Sir Bob Geldof’s famous fundraising music project from 38 years ago.

The music festival’s version of Do They Know It’s Christmas? can be heard publicly for the first time when it will be played during Alsager’s Christmas lights switch-on celebration on Sunday. Its official release is next Friday (2nd December).

All proceeds from sales, streams and downloads of the song will go to the Stoke-on-Trent based Dougie Mac, with a donation also being made to the Band Aid Trust. Dougie Mac recently absorbed the Donna Louise Hospice.

Even the Chronicle plays a part. The opening shots of the music video show an article from an edition in May last year previewing the first music festival following the pandemic under the headline “Music festival will be hottest ticket in town”.

It is something Mr Holland, who has been involved with the music festival for seven years or so, has wanted to do for a long time – and for the Dougie Mac.

“You won’t need to speak to many people before you find someone whose life has been affected, one way or another, by cancer,” he said. “And if you live in and around the Staffordshire and Cheshire area, there’s a good chance that the Dougie Mac hospice have been involved in helping support those people and their families through the toughest of times.”

He added: “I’ve got a friend who is being cared for by the Dougie Mac right now and my granddad was treated there. It’s usually the generation above you with these things but then it starts being your friends who are around the same age,” said 44-year-old Mr Holland.

“What the Dougie Mac does is incredible. We’ve been through the pandemic and the hospice didn’t stop. It is absolutely amazing.

“We just hope the video and the music goes viral. We will raise whatever we can for the Dougie Mac but it’s also about making more people aware of the hospice and what it does.”

As for the recording itself, Mr Holland emailed the performers who played at this summer’s music festival asking if they wanted to be involved. Around 11 turned up to appear on the charity song.

It was recorded at SoundBites Creative in Crewe by Mike Lawton and produced by Gav Brady, of Rain City Rehearsal and Recording Studio in Manchester.

Mr Holland said: “We have subtly changed the lyrics to better reflect the Dougie Mac, but for the most part it still retains the spirit and vibe of the original, certainly in terms of musical style. The most iconic lines from the original are still intact.”

Festival chair Pete Weatherburn said: “It was James’s concept. He had wanted to do this for a very long time.
“It has involved a huge amount of work to get this done, to get all the musicians together for the recording and to make the video, and we had to get the agreement of the Band Aid Trust for copyright purposes.”

Mr Weatherburn added: “It really is fantastic, and raising money for a good cause. I think it’s really exciting.”

The performers on the new music festival’s version of Do They Know It’s Christmas are: Mr Holland, Jonathan Tarplee (The Blue Yellows), Martin Prigent (Amber Lamps), Hanna Rafalko (Rock Paper Sister), Deborah Miles (The Repeaters), Immie Carrahar, Charlie Middleton, Mr Hodgins, The Buggs, Jon Stevens and Lindsay Lewis (Alsager Music Festival).

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