During the festive season, most children can barely think about anything except their Christmas lists. But this year, pupils at a Clapton primary school are giving something back.
The children at Millfields Community School have recorded a festive single, which will be released in December to help raise funds for a new school playground.
The song, “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S,” was written 20 years ago by Hackney resident and UNICEF campaigner, Jonathan Hart, who has been involved with many of Millfield’s fundraising campaigns.
Hart originally penned the song back in 1984 while he was teaching at a Cheltenham primary school. He said: “I thought it would help the children to spell ‘Christmas’ and it used the chord pattern C, A minor, F, G, that many children play on the piano – to the annoyance of many adults!”
The song is much loved by the school and is sung every year by its pupils at Christmas.
Hart said: “Every class I have taught since  knows the song – and children often sing it at home. This is why I apologise when it is sung at Millfields, each year, when they announce that I am the composer!”
Roz Wilson, head of music at the school, took pupils to record the single at nearby St James’ Church on Lower Clapton Road.
Wilson said: “They actually managed really well, I’m their music teacher so I sing with them all the time: they’re used to following me. As long as I was mouthing it and bouncing up and down to keep them in time…because kids are very visual and physical!”
The entire recording was put together at no cost. Wilson, Hart and instrumental tutors wrote the arrangement together, and played on the track. Wilson said: “they are all gigging professionals…they’re really good musicians so it’s really lovely.”
Three years ago the school raised funds for a playground at a school in Kenya, which Wilson helped to build. She said: “It transformed their school, and it was lovely that we did that, and now we need to look at our own playground.”
Millfields is a popular school, which means the playground is no longer large enough to accommodate all the pupils. Wilson said: “We’re just getting bigger and bigger, over-subscribed, bursting at the seams, and yet we have the smallest playground in Hackney…It would make a huge difference to every child.”
The extensions to the playground will cost around £250K, but Wilson is optimistic that the single will help them towards their goal, saying: “Any significant money we raise we hope will be match-funded in some way by the school or the borough.”
The school will also donate 20 per cent of the total amount they raise to a UNICEF campaign, and are currently deciding whether they will direct funds towards Syria or the Philippines, in light of the recent humanitarian crisis.
Wilson said: “We’re a UNICEF rights respecting school, we base everything that we are around the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child so we wanted not just to raise money for ourselves at Christmas time. We wanted to also give to others, especially at Christmas, not just think of ourselves.”
Pupils will be performing the song at the annual UNICEF Christmas Carol Concert on December 9 at St Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge, and the single will be available on iTunes and Amazon.
A CD with original artwork will be available on the school’s website, and a music video featuring many of the children will also be released.
More information about the project, including a short promotional video of rehearsals and pupils’ views about the existing playground and more about the school’s relationship with UNICEF, can be found on the school’s fundraising page and twitter.