NICK Cope never quite made it big enough to attract screaming fans when he was a rock singer with Oxford band The Candyskins, but now he has plenty.

The 47-year-old has switched from playing venues like the Carling Academy and Truck Festival to performing for babies and toddlers at community centres and nurseries around the county.

And his decision to change direction in the music industry is paying off.

In recent years he has attracted a loyal following of families who regularly turn up and pay £3 per child to hear him sing songs from two CD collections, My Socks and What Colour is Your T-Shirt.

Last month he performed at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time and in November he will travel to Hong Kong to sing at a children’s festival.

The father-of-three from East Oxford said: “I’m playing about 20 sessions a month at the moment and the CD sales are going well.

“When I write the songs I try to bear in mind that parents will be listening to them as well as the children.

“Sam Williams, who worked with Supergrass , is an old friend, and he will be helping me to make the third CD There’s a Nose in the Middle of My Face.

“It was quite traumatic when the Candyskins split and I didn’t pick up my guitar for a long time afterwards because it was a symbol of a great trauma in my life.

“But a few years back my wife Amanda was running a child-minding business and it gave me the idea of writing songs for children.

“I discovered it was nice to find a different way of working and writing songs that meant I didn’t have to worry about getting coverage in the NME or going on tour.

“I’m very busy at the moment and it’s turned into a full-time job – I’ve probably played more times than Bruce Springsteen this year.

“The Candyskins have reformed a couple of times but I’m not sure if it will happen again.

“The band almost made it big but had so many bits of bad luck along the way and now I’m able to do something on my own terms – it’s a cottage industry.”

Venues Mr Cope plays regularly include North Oxford Community Centre in Diamond Place and Trinity Church in Abingdon.

About 40 mums, babies and toddlers gathered for a singing session at North Oxford Association community centre on Thursday.

Kirsty Gray, 37, from Marston, was at the session with daughter Ella, 18 months, and son Isaac, four.

She said: “I knew Nick used to be in a band but I didn’t know the name of it.

“The children think his songs are brilliant and play the CDs all the time.”

Andrea Bird, 39, from Headington, who joined in with sons Fiachra, three, and Cillian, two, added: “I checked The Candyskins out on YouTube.

“The children love the songs and we play the CDs in the car.”

The Candyskins recorded four studio albums before splitting in 1989. They featured in Anyone Can Play Guitar, the documentary film about the Oxford music scene, and reformed briefly to play at Truck Festival in 2009.

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