Hellen launched a competition for mature songwriters, with some celebrity support the winning songs are now available to purchase , and the funds raised are in aid of Barnado’s.
How did Oldie Composers come about?
It was my idea on the back of a young songwriting competition we started a few years ago. We decided that there were a lot of talented people “out there” and just because they are “older”, had more or less given up. We felt that perhaps if we could find a way to rekindle their interest or give them something to work towards it would not only help them but hopefully help disadvantaged children through Barnardo’s. I have always liked the idea of the older generation helping the young.
How easy was it to get support to make it happen?
We are very lucky because we have worked with Sir Terry Wogan over the last 13 years fundraising for BBC Children in Need. We were having lunch with him one day and I asked him if he thought it would be a good idea. He nearly always says yes and then (according to his book) waits to see if I can actually pull it off. Ken Bruce was very keen to help us as he really wanted to support Barnardo’s too. Bob Harris and Johnnie Walker immediately agreed once we told them what it was all about, but then we are all of that generation, so I guess we know what it feels like to be “a certain age”. Malcolm Prince (top producer on Radio 2) had supported us with our Bandaged albums for BBC Children in Need and he said he liked what we do.
Has the involvement of celebrities made a difference?
Yes, over the years, I have learnt that with a celebrity endorsing what you do, it makes all the difference. I don’t think I could take anything big on without having some sort of celebrity endorsement or media partner.
Setting up the project from scratch
How long has it taken from idea to launch?
I did a lot of research for Oldies because I had no database to work from, so I contacted folk clubs, music shops and venues and even some old people’s homes. We set up a website, and published the rules and set up electronic entry forms. In all it took about 3 months from idea to launch.
What has been the greatest challenge?
Persuading the radio stations to play the songs, and to take an interest in what the competition represents..
Initially, it was hearing the first song on Radio 2, played by the very lovely Aled Jones. But then this week, I arranged for Anthony Head to be on ITV’s “This Morning” along with a backing singer and the fantastic BOND Quartet. I felt very proud standing in the studio watching them perform
What was the low point?
Norman having a heart attack in the evening after we had recorded our first two songs at Maida Vale. Thankfully he has now made a full recovery after having a stent fitted.
Which of your skills was of most benefit?
Hmmm, difficult one, as I don’t really feel I have any skills. My ex boss said I was like a dog with a bone, and I guess if that is a skill, then I have it. I tend not to give up.
Which area did you need most help with?
Publicity, getting the word out there once the songs had been recorded, has proved quite difficult. I still struggle with that.
Do you have a financial goal for the project and is there a specific initiative you are hoping it will fund?
There is an entrance fee to the competition, and half of that goes directly to Barnardo’s, the rest goes to running the competition and studio time etc.. All of the money from the downloads (after the download company takes their cut) goes to Barnardo’s.
Helping to get young people back on track
Everything that Barnardo’s does gets my admiration, but I am really interested in their projects that help young people learn how to get back on track and value themselves and others. Some children are now from homes where 3 generations have never worked. How are these children ever going to have self worth if they are not shown there is another way to live?
Keep contacting radio stations and TV programmes to try and get the songs played. Try to get media interest of any sort and any publicity we can get to persuade people to download the songs or buy the CDs.
I have ideas to make this bigger and better next year, but I think I may need a media partner to make it work. A national radio station would be perfect !
I started fundraising 13 years ago when listening to Terry Wogan on the radio talking about BBC Children in Need. My children were nearly grown up and had a good childhood, but I was becoming more aware of those who were suffering. No children ask to be born, so the least we can do is try to help them become good citizens and to care about each other.
I started a TOGs (Terry’s Old Geezers) Newsletter, which then led to a TOGs celebrity calendar. The first year of the calendar with Terry’s backing, we raised £23,000. That carried on until Paul Walters, (Terry’s producer) asked me if we would take a project on selling CDs of Janet & John stories from our website.
To cut a long story short (or you could buy our book “It’s a TOGs Life” and have the long story), 5 years later we had raised over 5million pounds from selling various items on our website www.charitygoods.com – with a volunteer network of about 30 people around the country sending out CDs from their homes or working on postal orders, of which we had 250 letters a day on busy days.
I then had an idea to record some of the old songs from our youth on an album in aid of BBC Children in Need and persuaded Sir Terry and Aled Jones to record “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”, which, with a huge amount of backing from Chris Evans on Radio 2 actually got to number 3 in the charts.
Now, we are working on the song writing competition Oldie Composers, which we believe is giving so much pleasure to so many people, but is also raising awareness of Barnardo’s.
www.oldiecomposers.com if anyone would like to download the songs or buy the CD