Alastair Campbell reveals pride at being asked to play pipes on Scottish charity single in aid of NHS workers

He is the former Downing Street aide said to have provided much of the inspiration for the feared TV spin doctor Malcolm Tucker.

By Brian Ferguson
Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 11:29 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th April 2020, 11:16 pm
Alastair Campbell has family connections with the Hebridean island of Tiree.
Alastair Campbell has family connections with the Hebridean island of Tiree.

But now Alastair Campbell has spoken of his pride after his prowess on the bagpipes saw him invited to perform with a host of leading Scottish musicians on a charity single in aid of NHS workers caring for patients during the ­Covid-19 outbreak.

Campbell, now a leading commentator, author and broadcaster, says he was “absolutely thrilled” at being asked to play part of a brand new piece of music and appear on the video for the single, alongside musicians from two of his favourite bands from the Scottish trad music scene, Skerryvore and Skipinnish.

Both groups are drawn from the Isle of Tiree, where Campbell’s father Donald was brought up and returned regularly with his family. His son, a long-time bagpiper, has got to know the musicians in both Skerryvore and Skipinnish over the years.

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Campbell, who has already been playing the bagpipes during the weekly “Clap for Carers” tribute outside his house in honour of a neighbour who is a nurse, has also promised to play the new piece, Everyday Heroes, in future.

The single and video, which will be unveiled tonight, after the weekly tribute, was masterminded by Skerryvore accordion player and piper Martin Gillespie, who also wrote the track, proceeds of which will go to an appeal created to provide support to NHS staff handling the pandemic.

His bandmates and musicians from Skipinnish, Tide Lines, Peat & Diesel and Mànran, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Trail West all recorded and filmed their parts at home around Scotland.

The song and video will be revealed at 8.15pm tonight on Skerryvore’s YouTube channel. The track, released by Skerryvore and Friends, will be avaiable to buy, stream and download on major platforms from midnight, with all proceeds going to the NHS Charities COVID-19 Urgent Appeal.

Trail West piper Seonaidh MacIntyre is among the musicians to play on the single and video.

Campbell, Tony Blair’s former head of communications, said: “I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to take part in the Everyday Heroes project.

“I’m a huge fan of some of the bands out of the Hebrides like Skerryvore and Skipinnish and to be playing on the same record as them is a real delight for me.

“To anyone who knows anything about traditional Scottish music, me playing with Skerryvore, Skipinnish, Mànran, Peat and Diesel, Tide Lines, Trail West, Skara and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers is the musical equivalent of playing football with Maradona, Zola, Schmeichel, Ginola, Mattheus, Desailly, Dunga and Figo...which I did, in Soccer Aid, though I never talk about it, apart from every day.

“As we’ve seen in Italy and elsewhere, music is so important to people at a time like this.

Skerryvore accordion player Martin Gillespie wrote the new track Everyday Heroes in honour of NHS workers handling the coronavirus pandemic.

“It can provide hope and comfort and inspiration to keep going. I’ve certainly been playing my pipes and listening to music more than ever. I’ve also written a new tune myself for our next door neighbour Sissy Bridge, who is a nurse and I go outside her house each Thursday night at 8pm to play it.

“I will now also be playing Everyday Heroes, which is a great way for musicians to play a part when their live events are all off and a great way to raise funds for the NHS and social care charities.”

Gillespie said: “Music is a source of comfort during difficult times and I hope this emotional, uplifting tune will raise a few smiles. All proceeds will go to the NHS Charities Covid-19 Urgent Appeal and we would ask everyone to give it a listen and support this worthy cause.

“The response and support from other musicians and special guests has been fantastic. Everyone worked so hard to turn the track around in a matter of days and I’m grateful to all of them.

“Hopefully when we are through this crisis, we can perform the track for NHS staff in person, but for now we hope they enjoy this tune written in their honour.”