home for the holidays: a christmas songbook for shelter;

Michael Morrison of Book Group introduces a very special Christmas album and book which will be released at a pair of shows in Edinburgh this weekend, with all proceeds going to Shelter Scotland.

I think 2010 was the first year I took part in The Christmas Songwriter’s Club. Now on hiatus, the annual get-together really was one of the best nights of the year. It used to be on the 23rd December – back when it was in The Leith Dockers Club – and being so close to Christmas added something special to the atmosphere. Drunkenly stepping out in to the snowy streets of Leith in the early hours of Christmas Eve was a treat in itself. I sang some awful songs, about whisky and snow and my dog and suchlike, but the heart of the whole project, which made even the most ill-rehearsed performance a joy to watch, was one* solitary rule: all songs had to be original Christmas songs. No covers.

In 2014, by the time word had spread and the event had grown to fill Central Hall in Tollcross, Book Group performed at it, along with eagleowl, Teen Canteen, Broken Records, and a few others.

Fast forward to 2016 and we were keen to do something different, before starting on a follow up to our debut album. What could be more different than a Christmas single, right? We headed out to Pencaitland and came out the studio with a song about catching up with old friends on Christmas Eve in your local, and even clubbed together a wee video to go with it. Straight away we knew it would be a charity release, something fun which would hopefully raise a few quid for a worthwhile cause, but then we got thinking… maybe other musicians might want to do the same? We put the word out and very quickly we got back a dozen or so songs. There were no rules or stipulations: it could be a band, an instrumental, a poem, a slick studio orchestral number, or a bedroom smartphone recording…as long as it was ‘Christmas’.

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Before being a full time front-man, Graeme used to run a series of mini-festivals in Glasgow and Edinburgh years ago, called Gimme Shelter. A huge range of Scottish acts played at them over the course of four or five years, and all the money raised went to (you guessed it) Shelter Scotland. Keen to resurrect the halcyon days of his gig promoting, Graeme met up with our friends Bart and Danielle who work at Shelter Scotland to see if they wanted to get involved. Turns out they did, they really, really did. Anyone who knows Bart knows that he likes to get involved in stuff, and that ‘stuff’ is always the better for it. From here, Home For The Holidays was born: a songbook, a physical Christmas songbook, with lyrics and illustrations, and a download of 37 songs. Needless to say, it would make a wonderful, wonderful gift – cough.

So as I corralled more artists in to contributing a track, Graeme, Danielle and Bart roped our friend and talented illustrator Fiona Buckle in to designing the whole thing. And then the superb team at Nothing Ever Happens Here (Summerhall) agreed to host the two-day, two-stage launch party weekend!

It’s basically the story of Band Aid.

So this Friday it all kicks off at Summerhall, with 5 bands and DJs ‘til the wee hours, before starting again at 1pm on Saturday. We’ve got a market of local stallholders (so you’re Christmas shopping needn’t suffer), and the 7pm start on Friday should be just enough time to go to your office Christmas party long enough to witness some of the meltdown ensue, before making your escape and heading to the southside.

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Of course, it’s the launch of the Home For The Holidays songbook, which will be for sale throughout the weekend. All proceeds go to Shelter Scotland and, boy oh boy, is it worth every penny. I obviously can’t have favourites, but a lot of the songs are so bloody good, and funny, and touching, and interesting, and sad, and all those things. Frustratingly, the Book Group track, ‘Christmas Morning Hangover’ is almost certainly the greatest thing we’ve ever done.

Home for the Holidays - a Christmas songbook cover art

Have a Merry Christmas everybody.

Michael

*you also had to wear a Christmas jumper.

Michael Morrison is the guitarist in the Edinburgh-based popular beat combo Book Group, and co-organiser of the inaugural ‘Home For The Holidays’. Say hi to him at @MichaelSince83 and he’ll likely wish you a Merry Christmas.