Celebrating Windrush, 70 years on: Church & Music – Part 1 by Juliet Fletcher

Recognition or being recognised is important in life. Anyone who says otherwise is not being truthful. It isn’t even a case of false humility. When Jesus asked the question: “Who do men say that I am?”, Peter spoke up with the right interpretation of His identity and, as a result, we forever have a succinct statement of recognising the Founder of our faith: “You are THE CHRIST, the Son of the living God!”

It may be tenuous (to say the least) to link recognition of the sovereign Person of JESUS to hearing that the 2018 Queen’s Honours List included an MBE for Bazil Meade, co-founder of the illustrious and industrious London Community Gospel Choir. However, my main aim is to point out the principle importance of making a statement recognising a person, place or thing for its worth and value. My good brother-friend’s Royal acknowledgment could not have come with better timing, as it sets a precedent for celebrating British Gospel in a special way, since this year represents a very special anniversary.

WINDRUSH, 70 YEARS ON – 1948 to 2018!

For over thirty-five years, Bazil and LCGC have given British Gospel a definitive visible face and voice within the mainstream. Bazil has led the Choir into places others wouldn’t dare to tread. However, it’s because of their trailblazing footprints that others have been able to follow and enjoy unprecedented opportunities for themselves, and to share the sound of British Gospel in Europe and other parts of the world. In his excellent autobiography, A Boy, A Dream, A Journey, we get a good picture of his life and musical experience. Yet we know it reflects just the beginning of his story, and a snapshot of the LCGC story as a whole.

There is an imperative for us to recognise who we are and what we have done. Seventy years means many of us, as first-generation kids of Windrush, are half-a-century and older. Gulp! We have to have visual, as well as “It-is-written” evidence, and give legitimate and credible witness to a future generation who will stand in our place. This year is a massive opportunity to ‘Big Up’ ourselves, because nobody is better positioned than ‘ourselves’ to tell the story and to stage events around our stories.

WINDRUSH FOUNDATION

First, we have to give thanks and a BIG UP to The Windrush Foundation, which was founded in 1995 by the late Sam King MBE (February 1926 to June 2016) – a former Mayor of Southwark, and by Arthur Torrington CBE, who is behind the current official Windrush, 70 Years On initiative. Both these men are from a strong church and faith-based background. [Torrington actually formed the first organisation for British Gospel – the Black Gospel Association (BGA), which operated from 1983 to 1991].

They established the Windrush Foundation and the Equiano Society – both registered charities rooted within the community and dedicated to (commemorate and celebrate) telling the truth about people of African descent, who came to Britain before and after World War II. Visit www.windrushfoundation.org and www.equiano.net for further information. You’ll find the resources truly eye-opening: for instance, stories and memorabilia of individuals who have been ‘discovered’ from the past to present, and the short and long films and audio recordings that are part of a unique growing archive – all these resources make fascinating reading, viewing and listening.

This groundbreaking work has greatly contributed to being formally recognised by agencies of all types: legacy and heritage foundations, and museums of arts culture, for example. It also highlights that much remains untold, and so my hope is that there will be a concerted effort to use this landmark year as a springboard to empower and improve the quality and value of our community – not only to express where we have come from, but also who we are now.

CELEBRATING 70 YEARS ON

This is particularly true regarding the story of British gospel music, which has, in an incredibly subservient way, undergirded many of the social, political and cultural advances of Black people in the faith community.

It’s with this in mind that the Gospel Music Industry Alliance (GMIA) has exchanged communication with The Windrush Foundation, and this has helped us to set some projects into motion. First, the GMIA has commissioned a series of special insignias to be used in association with the official Windrush, 70 Years On logo, to focus people’s minds on this significant milestone.

We need these emblems to be used and seen by as many people as possible, right throughout this year – even though Windrush Day itself is June 22nd. You can help, by requesting a copy of the emblem to display – whether it’s on your website, social media sharing or (and most importantly) on printed material.

The special insignias are available for any promoters and event coordinators and, of course, church organisers who are staging a project and creating some excitement about it all. Write to the GMIA at info@gmia.org.uk, describing the activity you are planning, and you will be sent the logos. In fact, the GMIA – in association with special events company, GreenTree Productions – will be contacting various church denominations, organisations, groups and individuals to encourage and find out what people will be doing as we progress into the year.

BIG & SIGNIFICANT EVENTS THAT TELL OUR STORY

We need BIG and SIGNIFICANT events – not only in terms of audience, but also because they are potential game-changers to the way in which British Gospel is perceived and appreciated. SIGNIFICANT is more important than BIG, but if we can have both, then of course that’s better.

As a two-part article, here in Part One I list a series of events (two of which will already have taken place by the time this KTF issue is out) that I consider are big and significant on our calendar in the first six months of this year:

  1. FESTIVAL OF PRAISE [FOP]January Friday 12th

The first major music event for 2018 is Festival of Praise. This annual event in the North West can truly boast itself in the Lord. It has now completed its eighth consecutive year; has had audiences of between 7,000 to 9,000 per event – that’s between 56,000 to 72,000 over the time.

This event involves the widest joint effort across local Christendom, achieving unprecedented cooperation; it’s an avenue for bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and cultures from across the UK, to celebrate our faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world, and also to encourage community cohesion; it has featured over 50 national and international music ministers, including Madeleine Kerzner, Muyiwa, Noel Robinson, LZ7, Philippa Hanna, Don Moen, CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin and Sinach.

It’s a HUGE example of what we can do within a region (in this case, Manchester), when we remain committed to a cause together.

Wouldn’t it be marvellous if we had just ONE of these events in every region of the country?

Venue: Manchester Arena, Victoria Station, Hunts Bank, Manchester M3 1AR

Website: www.festivalofpraisemanchester.org

 

  1. KINGDOM WORSHIP MOVEMENT [KWM] RENEWAL – February 2nd and 3rd

Here is another solid event, celebrating 10 YEARS! Three cheers! Hurrah! Ten solid years of engagement for this highly regarded worship conference that has given a platform to over 100 UK-based worship ministers; over 60,000 attendees, and an average of 1,000 individuals per night.

Our most noted Praise & Worship minister, Noel Robinson – who started Kingdom Worship Movement – is the longest serving person in this genre to come out of the African and Caribbean churches. In fact, he is recognised as bringing the style of worship teams to the Black Church community, at a time when the term was almost discounted as too foreign. The KWM website describes itself as “a non-denominational ministry, committed to multicultural, multi-ethnic values, and which recognises the multiplicity of the many global worship forms”. This year, the theme REVIVE featured the usual breadth and depth of music ministers and teachers, including Jake Isaac, PJ Putnam, Hillsong London, Evans Ogboi, Lou Fellingham, Dave Daniel – just to name a few. It was totally inspirational.

KWM has a very special mandate; it is a game-changer. We’ve got so much more to look forward to with this event in the UK in the body of Christ.

Venue: City Gates, 25-29 Clements Road, Ilford IG1 1BH

Website: www.kingdomworshipmovement.org

 

  1. TRUE WORSHIP SUMMIT [TWS] – March 8th-10th

This dovetails beautifully into what I consider could be another game-changing event, specifically in the relationship between UK and US gospel music. (I’m marking my words.)

TWS is the inaugural of what is intended to be an annual event that draws worshippers to British shores – another potential game-changer moment. The significance is all the leaders, facilitators and performers are 100% rooted in Black Gospel. I use that phrase intentionally. Kirk Franklin, Israel Houghton, Marvin Sapp, Kim Burrell, Kiki Sheard and Donald Lawrence will be appearing, alongside Muyiwa, Noel Robinson, Bazil Meade, Mark Beswick, Karen Gibson, Lurine Cato and other top UK talent across the three days. They are ALL WORLD CLASS! The schedule consists of a Choir Day, evening celebrations, and a series of musicians and vocal workshops. On top of that, there will be special industry panels for those keen to understand more about the industry, and how to sharpen their ability to develop a career in the field.

There is a 24-page supplementary magazine – a guide detailing the programme right from the start and culminating in the True Worship Summit Artist Showcase and Celebration event. The Showcase will give one person the recording deal of a lifetime (valued at “a whopping £50,000”): a chance to be produced by Fred Hammond and vocally coached by Kim Burrell, and promotional performances and other opportunities in the US.

True Worship Summit – if you haven’t heard about it yet, you better get!!! If you’ve missed it – all’s well, see you next year!!!

Conference Venue: Dominion Centre, 9 High Road, Wood Green, London N22 6DS

Concert Venue: Gaumont State Theatre, 197-199 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7HY

Website: www.trueworshipsummit.com

 

  1. University Gospel Choir of the Year (UGCY) – March 28th

This event typifies what I mean by SIGNIFICANT. I have watched UGCY from its inception, when Lorraine Wright – supported by the one and only inspirational genius that is Andrea Encinas of British Gospel Arts – brought an excited group of students together and staged their first competitive event. Now, eight years on, a total of 6,000 students have entered, and this year, as in previous, around 350-400 will compete to be crowned University Gospel Choir of the Year. The atmosphere on the UGCY night is absolutely electric – charged with so much JOY. This is one of the annual events (like John Fisher’s WeSingUSing) that is nurturing the millennials into the hard-core sound of gospel, which is one of the reasons I love it!

Venue: Dominion Centre, 9 High Road, N22 6DS London
Website:
www.ugcy.co.uk

  

  1. TAKE ME BACKApril 2nd-14th

Four sold-out events already! That’s what happened when this play was first staged last year.

The multi award-winning Angie Le Mar, best known as Britain’s leading comedienne -also known for her hit plays: The Brothers, Funny Black Women on the Edge, Do You Know Where Your Daughter Is? and Forty – has done it again with this original stage play. The promotional wording speaks truthfully that this play is an emotional rollercoaster. The promotional write-up was NOT a giveaway for sure: ‘Sunday School is where the friendship between Andrea and Patricia started, but when it came to an end, life took over. Dreams were broken and heartaches grew. Even through the brokenness and disappointments, they never forgot who they were and whose they were.’

When I went to the December sold-out show, to be honest I was shocked as the story unfolded; I just didn’t expect the raw truth to be acted out in front of me. But this was truth in church life, as it should be – REDEMPTIVE! Just like the Lord of my life experience. You have 14 days to choose from, so book for you and a friend. Great storyline. Great music. And we’ll have that Great Discussion!

Take Me Back will take you back in time. The songs, the joy and the laughter will take you back down memory lane. That was in the promo, too – and it’s absolutely true. This play can only grow in stature.

Venue: 208 Wandsworth Road, London, England, SW8 2JU

Website: www.angielemar.com

 

  1. 6. PIA (Poets In Autumn) Tour April 28th-29th

This sensational spoken word outfit returns to the UK, and the anticipation is another series of sold-out shows hosted by the enterprising AStepFwd organisation. There is a continual synergy between gospel singing, rap and spoken word. Not that this is new, but it’s becoming more of a transparent phenomenon within the setting of the contemporary generation. It’s all good, because this is just stretching the landscape in which gospel music can move. PIA are amazing in and of themselves, and this makes it a date… and I can’t wait!

Venue: City Gates, 25-29 Clements Road, Ilford IG1 1BH

Website: www.astepfwd.com

All the above are a fine representation of events you need to look out for, but there are others, and if you’ve got something planned, let us know.

In Part Two of Windrush, 70 Years On, I will share more on the key events and activities happening this year.

You can now keep up with the GMIA via the new GMIA app. Download it now on your smartphone; it’s totally FREE! Go to http://m.appbuild.io/wedb4, or use this QR Code. Connect.Explore.Network.Rewards. Share the app link to gain rewards.

 

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