Women taking UK gospel forward by Juliet Fletcher

Whenever I am discouraged in my tasks – thankfully less often in recent times – it gives me great pleasure to look around at the women who are continually making a difference in gospel, relating to music, media and the arts.

The five women below have carved out space where they influence, inspire, engage and transform many lives, while fulfilling their own dreams as creative individuals. Be encouraged!


Andrea Encinas is Artistic Director of British Gospel Arts Consortium (BGA), which has set the new millennium template for gospel music’s wider engagement in the arts.

Andrea’s creative boldness has opened many doors of opportunity for herself and other people. She made ‘that call’, which gave LCGC their 1983 groundbreaking TV appearance; she’s a pioneer of gospel music in the education system, by running training programmes and providing work for gospel tutors. Last year, Andrea was curator of the first ever BBC Gospel Proms!

What inspires/motivates you?

Andrea Encinas: My parents instilled a strong sense of justice and ethical integrity in me. Encouraging and enabling self-development in others (and in myself) is my answer. I love gardening; therefore a good analogy is that I like to see things grow, bear fruit and be open to change – like the seasons.



Audrey Lawrence-Mattis is a consummate vocal and choral trainer/teacher. With skills forged in her gospel music roots, Audrey combined her classical studies at Birmingham Conservatoire to become a ‘go-to’ vocal teacher/trainer across the UK.

Audrey led the Manchester World Voices Choir behind one of Africa’s most powerful stars, Angélique Kidjo, in performance at the Royal Northern College of Music. Her group, the Audrey Mattis Chorale, has a reputation for delivering rich harmonies with a popular repertoire, suiting all kinds of settings. Audrey states, “Without my foundation being in gospel music and its oral tradition, I would not be the aurally adept musician I am today.”

More recently, Audrey has garnered a reputation for staging ‘throwback’ concerts based on the songs of the Hawkins family – particularly Walter Hawkins.

What inspires/motivates you?

AL-M: What inspires me most at the moment is seeing the spark of realisation on a student’s face when they ‘get it’. Priceless! What motivates me most are creative opportunities; not everything is handed to you on a plate, sometimes challenges must be turned into opportunities. It’s all about perspective.



Since receiving a nomination for MOBO 2012 for Best Gospel Act, Sandra Godley’s feet haven’t touched the ground.

Sandra is one of a handful of UK Gospel artists signed to an international major label: C&C Music Group, based in Nashville, Tennessee. With her own good work ethic and their support, she has procured a string of significant events and achievements.

Recently, Sandra was personally invited to perform her version of Amazing Grace at the House of Commons Tribute Book of Messages Reception for the late Nelson Mandela. That performance immediately brought further requests to return again later this year.

Her current album, Miracle, reached number one in the r‘n’b category on the popular global chart site, numberonemusic.com.

What inspires/motivates you?

SG: My 12-year-old daughter, Francesca, tells me I’m a role model; my 18-year-old son, Elliot, says it’s ‘all good’. So, with all that, and my wonderful husband, Paul, to keep cheering me on, my love for people will continue to motivate and inspire me to keep going.



Lola Ogunbadejo’s first show was co-presenting OHTV’S ‘Afrika Rising’, and describes gospel music as ‘my first love’.

The attractive and bubbly presenter now has her own show entitled ‘Out & About with Lola’. It’s described as ‘high quality’ and ‘extremely entertaining’, as Lola traverses London’s top social and cultural events. The second series starts on March 4th, 2014.

Lola’s dedication and perseverance have gained her high esteem in the thriving and vibrant entertainment industry. Awards ensued: Women4Africa – ‘Media Personality of the Year’ award in 2012, and BEFFTA 2011 nominee for ‘Best TV Presenter’. In addition to interviewing some of Africa’s biggest celebrities, such as Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola and 2face Idibia, Lola’s skills have broadened to include scriptwriting and producing.

What inspires/motivates you?

LO: “I keep my faith central. My passion is to bring quality inspirational and family value entertainment to people everywhere. I’m doing that through OHTV’s Christian-oriented values. I really enjoy achieving the best to the highest standard – that is always my aim.”



Independent talent shows were relatively rare on the gospel scene when Mercy B (aka Mercy Balogun) conceptualised Time2Shine, currently the leading UK Gospel music talent show.

Mercy B saw a need for change, and says, “When I heard people say it’s not worth singing gospel, because there is no money to live, it broke my heart.” It took her five years to launch Time To Shine, which she achieved in 2010.

Now Time2Shine’s success has seen a widening of its reach, beyond the sound of gospel. It is still, however, the heart and foundation of the talent show.

What inspires/motivates you?

MB: “My faith in God and Psalm 118:22. Every time I get low, I have to look back to where I started. It is then that I give God all the glory, and I am lifted.  A fourth season of Time2Shine is in the making.”

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