Xmas Factor: The Album Writer Focus: Richard & Carol Campbell, Stuart Barter & Louise Ainsley

Hello and welcome to another Xmas Factor: The Album writer focus! Today we’re looking at the writers of two songs: Richard & Carol Campbell and Stuart Barter & Louise Ainsley.

We are so close to reaching our Kickstarter target of £2,500 to make the album a success, so look here for more info on what we’re doing and how you can support us!

Carol Pestridge has worked in theatre as a stage manager for many years, most frequently with companies such as the RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe, The Barbican, and Told By An Idiot. Richard Campbell is the owner of Orpheus Studio in Hackney, where as well as recording the artists and bands that come through his door, he also writes and records his own music.

Carol and Richard got married in 2014, the same year that they staged a sell-out production of their original musical Frankenstein: The Metal Opera! In 2016 they decided to try to write and record a catchy Christmas classic that would invoke the spirit of Christmas songs past. They entered it into the Xmas Factor, and won the Iris Award!

Being part of Xmas Factor last year was an absolute delight: Iris Theatre really do put on a lovely evening, sure to get everyone feeling all festive and snuggly! We can’t wait for the All Stars concert in December, and can’t believe we’re included alongside so much incredible talent.

The really great thing for me is that if the album goes ahead – it’ll be my studio we record it in! We’ve already recorded Christmas Films Again of course, so it’s all the other songs and writers that I’m looking forward to getting to know better. I’m just super excited at the idea of working with the Iris Theatre lot for a few days, putting together great recordings of just some of the creative genius that has graced the competition over the years.

We always said that one day we’d write a Christmas song, and that we would aim for an upbeat Mariah/Wizzard/Slade-esque one. Then the subject for our lyrics came to us during an argument with friends over what the best Christmas films were. We realised that films are a huge part of many people’s Christmases, and we weren’t aware of any songs that particularly mentioned that, so we saw an opportunity to honour that tradition, and also declare our personal favourites!

Richard Campbell


Next up, the writers of “January Roars”!

Stuart Barter is a composer and theatre maker from London. As a composer he is currently developing a new musical with writer Amber Hsu with the New Musical Development Collective bursary, based at Theatre Royal Stratford East. He is also composing music for Skydiving, a new musical by Cristina Carty, in development at Shoreditch Town Hall.

Stu is a founder member of TOOT Theatre Company, and is also a composer, actor-musician, musical director and songwriter. He’s a founding member of folk-pop band Left With Pictures, and has released two albums via Organ Grinder Records, with radio play from BBC6 Music, BBCR2, XFM, and has been published by Sony Music and EMI.

Louise Ainsley lives and works in Northumberland, and is an Audio Describer for theatres in Newcastle. She studied a ‘Music with Drama’ degree at Northumbria University, loves writing songs, sings in an a cappella group, is a member of MMD and is working hard to get her toe in the door to write musical theatre.

I think what Iris Theatre do is enormously important for developing artists. Scratch nights (where artists try out material at a very early stage) are often very unappealing for audiences, but Iris Theatre’s masterstroke is that their concerts transform scratch nights into a hugely entertaining, engaging evening for audiences as well as artists. For me personally, the acknowledgement of winning an Iris Theatre panel award and a commendation from the judging panel at separate events gave me a huge confidence boost and sense of vindication as an artist – which is invaluable. Iris also also introduced me to lyricist Louise Ainsley – with whom I am still collaborating. Long may they continue!

January Roars is probably a slightly atypical Christmas song, in many ways. It’s partly about lost love – but also about how Christmas intoxicates you, and then January throws a bucket of cold water into your face! Some of my favourite Christmas songs have a slightly eerie quality to them – a sense of mystery – even something a little sinister and foreboding – and we tried to bring those qualities out in this song.

Stuart Barter


Quite a few years ago, in the week before Christmas, a tragedy struck that shook the whole community in the village where I live. As the year turned, gripped in freezing winds and constant darkness it seemed a particularly cruel time in which to try to recover.

And so I wrote ‘January Roars’ – two verses, that were set aside and never quite finished. I threw these words into the mix of ideas for a song for Xmas Factor, 2015. Stu picked them up, requested more lyrics, and put in a special Stuart Barter twist that resulted in the finished song. Miracle enough for me! But then the song gained a place in the final and went on to win the panel award…

This gave an enormous boost to my confidence as a lyricist. I travelled back home through storm Desmond, happily clutching our shiny star award and a bottle of Prosecco.

I met Stu through Iris Theatre’s Workin’ Process ‘Musical Blind Date’ that October, there is no other way I would have had the chance to work with Stu except through Iris Theatre. Their energy and dedication in producing opportunities for new writers is beyond compare.

Please, support the production of this album of brilliant, brand spanking new Christmas songs, and for less than the price of a haircut you could own the album and have the satisfaction of knowing you helped make it happen!

Louise Ainsley


This album only gets made if we raise enough money! To support us visit our Kickstarter now.

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