Monday 3rd December will be a very exciting day for me, as it is the day Christmas Gibbon music and vocals by LA musician and composer Tom Harrison, words by, yes incredible as it seems, me, Adam Bojelian is launched on iTunes to raise money for Children's Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS)
You can preview it here but do please tell the world to download it from iTunes from Monday, as 50p of every download goes to CHAS and help children who like me, live with very serious, life threatening and life limiting health problems.
Talking of which I'm in hospital at the moment, so I've asked mum to tell you the Christmas Gibbons story:-
Dreams Do Come True - The story of Christmas Gibbons, told by Adam's mum Zoe:-
With a Brit Writer’s Award; a gold Blue Peter badge; a Young Scotland “Rising Star Award” and this year’s Young Scot “Arts” award, all to his name, as well as letters of congratulations from the Queen, the UK Prime Minister and Scotland's First Minister, I didn’t think my 12 year old son Adam could surpass his amazing achievements. But from Monday he will also be able to add lyricist to his precocious cv, when Christmas Gibbons, the wonderful poem Adam wrote in 2010, is launched on iTunes with music and vocals by LA based film and T.V. musician and composer Tom Harrison.
As those of you who follow Adam’s poetry blog and his twitter feed will know, Adam’s creative achievements are all the more remarkable in view of the fact Adam lives with very complex and serious health problems and severe physical impairment. Adam is currently in hospital. He has been in four different hospitals in the UK in the last few months. Indeed he has spent more of his life in hospital than out. Without question, a difficult life for a child, but at the same time the only life Adam has ever known and one our whole family have always been determined to make as happy and fulfilling as the restrictions of Adam’s health allow.
So how did a 12 year old living with more far more challenges than most, come to be the lyricist of a potential Christmas hit? The story begins when Adam was a baby. After a difficult start, Adam spent most of the first 18 months of his life on G1 at Southampton General Hospital in Hampshire. Ward G1 was then and I hope still is, a very special place. It is a hospital ward you definitely want to find yourself in if you are unlucky enough to have a baby with serious health problems.
The doctors and nurses were kind, compassionate, supportive, and informative, as I said recently elsewhere of another hospital, wrapping our whole family in a huge blanket of support and yes, I would even say love. It was also a place of laugher and fun. To this day, I believe the care, support and most importantly the way the staff treated Adam as a much valued child and recognised, even in the first months of his life, signs of early skills and abilities, laid the foundation of Adam’s achievements now reached at the eve of Adam's teenage years.
While still in Hampshire, Adam made his first efforts at blinking to communicate. I was asked earlier this year to write an article for “Special Children” magazine on how Adam developed his blink communication. I posted the article on Adam’s poetry blog and you can link to it here.
Adam has also told in his blog of his love of books and poems from a very early age, especially the joy he gets from visiting the Edinburgh Book Festival, something he has done since the age of 18 months, missing only one year because he was in hospital for the whole of August. Adam has never been able to run about; climb trees; play sport, His physical abilities now are limited to, when he is well enough turning his head and blinking. Instead, Adam’s life has been full of words, poems, stories, books; audio CDs and downloads. Adam has always listened to stories and loved them. Paddington Bear; Maisie (the Scottish cat not the mouse); Roald Dahl; C.S. Lewis; Harry Potter; Lord of the Rings; Spy Dog; Astrosaurs; Lucy and Stephen Hawking and current favourite Michael Morpurgo are just some of the many books and authors that have brought joy, excitement and childhood pleasure into Adam’s life.
Adam has, for as long as I can remember loved playing with words, learning, reading and listening are his passions. He has also always loved rhymes and poems and the poetry group at St Mark’s Unitarian Church in Edinburgh was the next stepping stone in the Christmas Gibbons story. In 2009 we began going to the monthly group as a family. Adam was the only youngster there, but loved hearing the poems being read and discussed. One time we were told the “topic” for the next month’s meeting would be summertime. Group members were encouraged to bring along much loved poems to share including, for those brave enough, ones they had written themselves. Adam and I were choosing a poem or two to take to the group when Adam said he wanted a go at writing his own. Summer Time was the result.
Further poems followed soon after, some being composed relatively swiftly and some taking weeks and months to complete,with Adam having to take rests and stop and start as his health allowed.
Very soon the recognition started, first the 2010 Brit Writers “Outstanding Achievement Award”; the gold Blue Peter badge (the award all Adam’s doctors seem to covert most); then the 2011 Young Scotland “Rising Star Award” and this year the 2012 Young Scot Arts Award. With Adam as our son we have got quite used to attending glittering awards ceremonies, which have brought so much happiness and joy to Adam and us his parents, as well as wonderful memories to treasure forever.
The flip side to this story is of course that Adam does live with very serious health problems and his future is a very uncertain one. Like other children living with serious health problems Adam accesses Rachel House run by Children’s Hospice Association Scotland. Ironic as it may sound, Adam is often too poorly to use Rachel House, so only does so occasionally and with us, at Rachel House’s request, near by “just in case”. This year he has also enjoyed some visits from the Rachel House “at home’ team, a brilliant initiative as they visit children and young people who can’t get to Rachel House, either because like Adam their health can often be too turbulent, or because geographically it is too far to travel. Adam loves to beat members of the team at board games when they visit. Sick children are often offered the chance to make a wish or for their dreams to come true and earlier this years Rachel House staff asked Adam what his dream would be. Many children choose trips to Disney parks or similar but Adam’s health makes such a trip impossible. His wish when asked was something much closer to home, for his poem Christmas Gibbons to be turned into a Christmas song. Adam had written Christmas Gibbons in 2010, as a poem to send to family friends for Christmas. However, it is a poem that seems to have caught the public imagination. The Minister at St Marks loved it and decided to include it in her children’s Christmas service that year. She mentioned this to Unitarian colleagues and suddenly we heard of it being read in churches across the UK and even in Boston, USA, appropriately enough by Rev Gibbons.
One morning I also awoke to a ‘google alert” telling me that Adam’s poem was on the Scottish Government GLOW website, a site with providing educational aids for schools. Children were being asked to learn the poem as an aid to learning English.
Adam's story of gibbons swinging across roof tops delivering presents for Santa certainly seems to have caught the public's imagination. When Adam was awarded his Young Scot award earlier this year, it was Christmas Gibbons which featured in the Young Scot film about Adam.
Rachel House approached one of the wish making organisations, but Adam was once more in hospital and the request did not progress. About this time, one evening as my husband and I were dithering in the street about where to grab a bite to eat on our way home from the hospital. Kim and Gary Harrison, friends who had met walking our dog Charlie in the local park, happened to pass on their way to the local newly opened Italian and invited us to join them. It was a meal that was to see the conception of Christmas Gibbons, the Christmas hit. Kim and Gary who had both always taken a keen interest in Adam, and as we dined asked how he was doing. We up dated them on the latest from the hospital and also told them about Adam’s wish. The magic began as Kim and Gary told us of their son Tom (who we had met very briefly the previous Christmas) working as a composer and musician in LA. They were sure he would love to set Christmas Gibbons to music for Adam. A couple of days later I received a delightful email from Tom, telling me how he had read Adam’s poem Christmas Gibbons and absolutely loved it. Further emails exchanges told of the fun Tom was having creating the awesome music and recording the lyrics.
A couple of months or so later, Adam was in a different hospital and I was staying with him there when an email form Tom arrived with a recording of Christmas Gibbons. I knew I wouldn’t be home for a couple of weeks and was eager for Adam to hear “his song”, as indeed I was, as soon as possible.
I had my laptop with me, but couldn’t get a signal. I ended up one evening listening to it for the first time having down loaded it using the free wi-fi in a café. It was August and the other customers did turn and stare, no doubt thinking I was getting into the Christmas spirit just a little too early. I held my phone up to my laptop to record the track so that I could play it to Adam back at the hospital without the need for an internet connection. I rushed back to the ward to play Christmas Gibbons to Adam. He loved it! Tom had brilliantly captured Adam's brief to create a Christmas song that would appeal to all ages, but especially to young kids and a song where children of all abilities could participate, singing, blinking or shaking their Christmas bells. Adam has fond memories of joining in Rudolf the red nose reindeer at nursery and wanted Christmas Gibbons to have a similar vibe.
Things got even more exciting as Gary found animators Jess Connell and Nikki Godley who as everyone involved as done, donated all their time and professional skills free of charge, to produce the wonderful Christmas Gibbons animation. They even managed a cameo role for Adam’s much loved dog and star of another of Adam's poems Charlie.
Christmas Gibbons does seem to be born of happy and lucky chances; the chance meeting with Kim and Gary for dinner; the original poem having already been read in Boston, where Tom also has links; CHAS being chosen as the charity to support having been (unbeknown to Tom, Gary & Kim at the time) it being the charity who had been hoping to arrange Adam’s wish in the first place. Another serendipitous connection was Ewan McGregor, who is not only a long time supporter of CHAS but also has met Tom. He heard about Adam, Tom and the Christmas Gibbons, and was quick to throw his support behind the venture. Ewan says, “It’s quite incredible to think that Adam shares his vivid imagination with us through poetry written by blinking. I love the idea that Santa is assisted at Christmas by gibbons! I hope lots of people will download this track at Christmas and help to raise some money for CHAS at such a poignant time of year”.
Monday is the big day when Christmas Gibbons will be on iTunes with 50p from every down load going to support the work of the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland.
Enjoy the preview of Christmas Gibbons on YouTube, but do please also down load it from Monday from iTunes and encourage all your friends to do the same. That way, hopefully Tom, Adam, Jess and Nikki and everything Gary and Kim have done, and not forgetting Charlie Dog will make this Christmas an extra special one for the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland and all the children, young people and families they support. Happy Christmas!