Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland celebs tackle Band Aid classic even though some can't sing

By Sophie Inge

It's one of our most recognisable Christmas songs, as you've never seen - or heard - before.

Northern Irish celebrities have joined together to produce their own version of the Band Aid classic Do They Know It's Christmas? - even though some of them claim they can't sing.

The new cover features a host of well-known faces, including DJ Pete Snodden, YouTube singing sensation Emma Horan, singer-songwriter Brian Houston, X Factor contestant Eoghan Quigg and comedy boy-band Moss Road, as well as TV presenters Pamela Ballantine and Julian Simmons.

All proceeds from the video recording will go to Aspire NI - a charity that works with children from poor families in Northern Ireland who are at an educational disadvantage.

Although the makeshift band cannot formally release the song as a single, due to copyright restrictions, they hope the video will raise awareness of the charity and encourage people to donate.

Aspire NI founder Mark Knox came up with the idea with his friend Ross McConnell after they started the band Moss Road together.

Earlier this year, the comic duo recorded the song Dare to Dream for Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 campaign to raise money for a schools project in Uganda. The song was an instant success, clocking up around 70,000 views.

Then, after Mark founded Aspire NI in September this year, the pair decided to put their talents to further good use.

"We thought 'let's use Moss Road to raise the profile of the charity and a bit of money'," said Mark.

"We thought we would get a few names from Lurgan, where we're from. We didn't think anyone big would want to be in the song - but within about 10 minutes of sending out the email, people started getting back to us. We couldn't believe it."

The clip was filmed over one day last month, with the singers turning up at different times during the day. TV presenter Pamela Ballantine was only too happy to help out. "Mark got in touch with me and asked me if I would do it. And being a non-natural singer I thought why not?" she said, laughing. "It was great fun. It was quite weird because I was in a room with the other guys. Eoghan Quigg was there, who I knew from the days of X Factor when I went over to the final.

"Thankfully, he left when I started singing. It was really good craic." Pamela is urging everyone to go online and see the video. "Just please don't judge our singing seriously!" she added. Cool FM presenter Pete Snodden also jumped at the chance to appear in the video. He added: "I can't really sing, to be fair, but God loves a trier.

"I said 'as long as there's auto-tune, then it could all work'. It was good fun, and hopefully it will raise awareness and a few pounds."

He added: "I love Christmas and everything about it. It's a great time to celebrate and bring people together - and if you can add your support to any charity initiative at this time of year, it's a really worthwhile thing."

By yesterday afternoon, the campaign had raised almost £250 of the initial £2,000 target. Mark is hoping to use the money to fund a project in Craigavon to provide better education to children from poor families.

"The programme takes children who are on free school meals. Sixty-eight per cent of them are going to get fewer than five GCSEs - whereas with kids who aren't on free school meals, it's almost the opposite," he explained. "The kids we take on get given a laptop, and youth workers will facilitate after-school tuition and educational fun."

Mark said he was inspired to start the charity in 2015 while training to become a teacher.

"I had a lecture on poverty and education, and on how poverty is the biggest dictator of how well children do at school," he added. "I knew this wasn't on and started Aspire as a response to this."

The original Band Aid song was written in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in response to television reports of the 1983-85 famine in Ethiopia.

It has since been re-recorded three times - in 1989, 2004 and 2014.

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