#XmasAllStars focus number three!

We’re raising money to make an album of the Xmas Factor: All Stars!

In our third Xmas Factor focus, we look at three of the songs that have made the All Stars: “Christmas Swapping” and “The Christmas Table” by Luke Bateman & Mary Evans, and “All the Angels Sang” by Joanna Karselis.

Having been brought together by Iris Theatre’s “Musical Theatre Blind Date” and winning the Panel Award for Best Song in 2012, Mary and Luke won the Xmas Factor Audience Award in both 2013 & 2014 for “Chritmas Swapping” and “The Chritmas Table” respectively. They have since gone on to write a full length musical together called H.R.Haitch which was workshopped by Iris Theatre in 2015 thanks to a small grant from Arts Council England.

As well as writing comedy books and lyrics for the stage, Mary Evans (Maz) is also an acclaimed  children’s author, who started out as a TV journalist for both print and broadcast media. Her debut children’s novel, Who Let the Gods Out, was published by Chicken House in February 2017, and was selected as the Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month. It entered the bestseller charts on its first week on sale and to date has sold to 17 countries worldwide. The sequel, Simply the Quest was published in August 2017, with books 3 & 4 in the series to follow from 2018 onwards. Her acclaimed creative writing events have featured at Hay, Imagine, Edinburgh, Bath, Cheltenham, Latitude, Wilderness and many other literary festivals and primary schools around the UK.

As a scriptwriter, Maz won thescriptwriter.co.uk scriptwriting competition and a place in Philip Shelley’s Advanced Mentoring Lab at the London Screenwriters’ Festival. She was also shortlisted for the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Forum and the Scriptangel contest with her television script AFTER LIFE. As an author, she has won the hearts of children and as a nuclear physicist, she has been completely rubbish.

We had a chat with Maz, where she said:

Writing a Christmas song has to be one of the greatest pleasures there is. It’s a time of year that means so much to so many and it has been great fun to explore two very different Christmas experiences through the songs that Luke and I have written. Seeing them performed with Iris Theatre, by our fantastic singers Emma Sewell and Stephen Mitchell at this wonderful time of year have been amongst my happiest memories as a writer. It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts. Although the winning was very satisfying indeed…!

Working with Iris has been a huge stepping stone towards becoming a full-time professional writer. The experience, collaborations and crucially, confidence that I have gained with them has been incalculable. Xmas Factor is a joyful initiative and one that deserves a life beyond a single night a year. There is clear commercial potential in the album, but bringing new writers, musicians and performers together in this way is vital to the lifeblood of the industry and I am very grateful to be a part of it.”

Luke Bateman is a composer, pianist and performer. He wrote the score for Mr Popper’s Penguins (UK and US Tours including The Criterion and The New Victory, NYC) with lyricist Richy Hughes. With Michael Conley he has written the score for The Little Beasts, (The Other Palace) produced by Perfect Pitch, The Sorrows of Satan, (The Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden), and is currently writing Personality based on the Andrew O’Hagan novel of the same name.

Original music for plays include: Reel Life (Ustinov- Bath & St James); Dark Tourism (Park); The Autumn Garden; On Approval; St Johns Night; Mother Adam; All I Want for Christmas (Jermyn Street); Bachelor Boys, and Lord Byron’s Mistress (both winners of MMD Sounds of England Award – written with Katy Darby). Luke was a company member and Assistant MD in A Chorus of Disapproval directed by Trevor Nunn (Harold Pinter Theatre, West End).

For TV and advertising clients include BBC Sport, Santander, producer for The Sun – 2010 World Cup song featuring Terry Venables, Ian Wright, Harry Redknapp and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Also for the RPO two arrangements for Sarah Brightmans album Classics. Luke is a founding member of the Book, Music, and Lyrics (BML) workshop.

We’re really excited that Stephen Oliver-Webb is going to join us to sing Christmas Swapping, along with Emma Sewell. Here’s what they had to say!

I have had the most incredibly opportunities presented to me through Laura Wickham and Iris Theatre, my favourite one of of these has been ‘Xmas Factor’. Getting the opportunity to sing original Christmas songs is beyond fun! Even when not performing in it, I love getting the chance to come along and watch – it really has become an event which signals Christmas is on the way. It would mean so much to all the performers and writers to get the chance to share their work with others who cannot attend the event in December. Selfishly, I’d love to listen to the great songwriting whenever I want.

Stephen Oliver-Webb


Having been involved in Xmas Factor from the beginning I am dead excited that we are making an album. It’s always been a brilliant project and has given me the privilege of singing some of the best Christmas songs around. Making this album would mean so much to everyone involved in this project, and of course I’d be over the moon to sing these fantastic songs and know people could fill their ears with them whenever they choose.

Emma Sewell

All the Angels Sang is written by Joanna Karselis and the group of singers will be led by Tori Allen-Martin.

Joanna Karselis is a composer and songwriter based in Birmingham. Jo works primarily in film and theatre composition, notably scoring Reunification (winner of Jury Prize at San Diego Asian Film Festival, with screenings including the California Film Awards and Hong Kong Independent Film Festival), Disavowed (winner of the Audience Choice and Out Of The Box awards at the Rack Film Festival), Honey (which ran at Brighton Fringe Festival and will be touring the UK next year), and The Magnetic Diaries (which had a run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and a UK tour). Jo also won the University of Birmingham Composition Competition in 2013 and is signed to Move Music Library. Jo works too as a singer-songwriter, and her single “Silent Night” received air time on BBC WM. Her next EP By The Lovely Shores will be out before the end of the year. Her main passion is collaboration, and working with directors, performers, ensembles- pretty much anyone!- to create great music together.

I really enjoyed writing this song and the original performance of it, so was honoured to be included on the All Stars list. Studio costs can be very overwhelming for emerging artists, and it’s great that Iris have recognised that and are doing something about it. To have a top quality recording of a song like this would be a fantastic opportunity as an emerging song writer. I’m sure all the songs on the album will become Christmas favourites with all who hear them!

Tori said

I’m so pleased and privileged to have been asked to have been a part of the Xmas Factor album. I’m a huge fan of Iris Theatre having worked with them on a couple of projects. It’s so rare to find venues and companies willing to support and offer a platform for new work and Iris Theatre do exactly that. One of my favourite jobs to date was H.R.Haitch with Iris Theatre, which was an absolutely brilliant new musical from writers Mary Evans and Luke Bateman who were paired via Iris’ Blind Date event – Iris really do make miracles happen, and they deserve something concrete that exists and can bring happiness to people for years to come – what better than the Xmas Factor album. Laura, Dan and the rest of the team deserve your support – they work tirelessly to create opportunities for others, and it’s about time we made an opportunity for them come to life.


These are just three of the plethora of songs at this year’s Xmas Factor: All Stars, and all of them will appear on the album if we can raise the money to make it! If you would like to support us then click here, and make sure you get your tickets before they’re all gone here!