Tell us a bit about yourself.
I own a home energy solutions business with Andy Green called Green Keys Installations. We had been in business together for a few months before we realised that we both played instruments. He plays piano and I sing, which is how we got together that way.
What inspired you to create the Christmas advert?
It began when a friend of mine started placing our tracks onto John Lewis adverts and putting them online, and they started to pick up momentum. Last year’s got around 40,000 views, but it was with someone else’s footage, so this year I sat down with Andy and suggested we do something ourselves; get a film crew, write the story and pick the song. Then we wondered – what is Christmas about? Presents, fun, family – family being the key word. So we thought about people at Christmas who perhaps don’t have family who are lonely, or kids that are in hospital over Christmas – and we decided what if it was Santa who was the lonely one?
How did the recording of the song come about?
A friend of mine has a studio, and I asked if he knew anyone who could get a choir and some strings together. He gave me the number of Mark Edwards, a conductor who’s worked for the BBC – he wrote the score, we had a couple of meetings and he got in contact with Crude Tarmac Strings and got their quartet involved as well.
How did you get Seamus O’Neill involved?
A friend of mine booked a hospital wing in Hartlepool and got some actors involved – the nurses in the video are actual nurses from Sunderland Hospital – and he’d managed to get Seamus O’Neill to play Santa – I didn’t realise who he was until we finished shooting and I googled him. He’s a great fella.
Are you going to continue competing against the other Christmas ads every Christmas?
Definitely, I’ve already got the song and the story for next year, which we will be shooting in February.
What’s your favourite part of Christmas?
The work’s Christmas party… or Christmas dinner, with drinks after.
What’s your ideal Christmas dinner?
Just as much food as possible with as much family around as possible. I do the dinner each year and I get my mam, dad, brothers and sisters to come as well.
What was the present you most wanted as a child?
I always wanted one of those electric motorbikes, but my mam couldn’t afford one, so I ended up with one of those crappy go-karts that you had to drag yourself around with and the wheels would always fall off.
What’s the present that you most want for Christmas now?
That’s a good question…I don’t know – more presents? Maybe just to live through next year would be the best present!
What’s your favourite Christmas song?
I really love O Holy Night… like in the film Home Alone in the church. It’s one of my favourite songs ever, actually.
What’s your favourite Christmas film?
Home Alone, definitely. It’s not Christmas unless you watch Home Alone, one and two.
A debate that always crops up around this time of year… is Die Hard a Christmas film or not?
Yes. It’s got tinsel in it so… definitely a Christmas film.
Do you have an in-your-face Christmas jumper?
You should see my Christmas suit. It’s a green suit with Christmas stuff all over it and a tie to match, it’s proper cheeky. I just pull it out each year from deep down in the bottom of the washing basket!
You can find Ben & Andy’s Christmas Advert on YouTube by searching ‘Alternative John Lewis Christmas Advert 2019’, and donate to Make a Wish and Age UK through their website uk.virginmoneygiving.com/bendyrecords