Gospel Factor was back again for its second year at the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich, and what can I say? In the words of 13–year-old Leah Dawkins, who compered the show with Roma Thompson, the event was ‘lit’!
From an amazing line-up of talented young people, 17–year-old Rebecca Campbell came out on top, walking away with £1,000 in prize money for her rendition of ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow’. Letisha Orr (14), who sang Tremaine Hawkins’ ‘I Never Lost My Praise’, came in second place, and Tamoy Phipps (20) sang Destiny Child’s ‘Stand up for Love’ and was placed third.
Organised by Lebert and Janet Dawkins, who also run the charity ‘Blessed 2 Bless’, which caters to the needs of the homeless across the West Midlands, Gospel Factor is a platform they have created to give young people an opportunity to showcase their creative performing talents. This year, the competition saw a wider diversity of performances and even non-performance art forms, from young people like 15-year-old Dominic Small, who displayed his intricate, photographic drawings.
Receiving her trophy, Rebecca said that it was really for everyone. “I feel really grateful, happy and privileged to have won,” she said. “I didn’t actually expect to win, because everyone’s talent was so amazing. I’d like to thank the team at Blessed 2 Bless for all their support, for the wise words and the exercises they gave us to help us prepare for the event. I’d especially like to thank Janet and Lebert, who were so instrumental in the whole process, and for giving so many young people a voice to share their ministry with others.” The £1,000 prize money was donated by Bishop John Francis of Ruach City Church.
Letisha also expressed her gratitude for the exposure gained from participating, as well as the opportunity to minister to people. “Even though it’s over,” she said, “I still feel the adrenalin rush and I like that feeling.” She said the most difficult part of preparing for the competition was in rehearsals, because she usually did not like to go full out when practising, but preferred to let God take control on the night. She said she was looking forward to singing at more events and reaching out to even more people.
Tamoy said she gained so much more from entering the competition than simply singing. “I felt so gratified,” she said. “It is the first time I have ever performed, and actually felt such a connection with my audience.” About to begin her third year studying drama at university, Tamoy said in the future she hoped to do more work helping other performers.
Gospel Factor judges’ coordinator, Trevor Minto, who was also one of the five judges, said: “We had a difficult task of judging the multi-talented contestants. The event had us on a cliffhanger. We had to pool our combined skills of judgement to arrive at the worthy winner, Rebecca Campbell. Children and young people are certainly not afraid to display their talents to the glory of their Creator, Father God.”
Lebert, founder and CEO of Gospel Factor, said: “I am elated at the level of talent that was presented in the show this year. The contestants gave such outstanding performances that the judges had to work really hard to arrive at their decision. I am excited as I contemplate what next year may hold, as I believe each year will be better than the last. As we move forward, I would love to see more support for our youth from the wider community, church and the contestants’ families. This is for them and for their futures and I am committed, under God’s direction, to keep running with this vision. The youth are the future, and we value them and the gifts they have been blessed with.
“I would also like to take the opportunity to give special thanks to Bishop John Francis for such generosity in blessing us with the prize money, and to my entire team who have worked so hard on the planning since last year.”
Manager of the Bethel Convention Centre, Michael DaCosta, said: “I believe the event has a great future ahead, and I believe that the word will spread that there is a cross-denominational Kingdom-focused event that provides our youth, in and out of church, with inspiration, motivation and the opportunity to show their creative and artistic expressions on such a platform. I certainly will be giving my full support for the event to continue.” Mr DaCosta described the event as one of the great highlights of his decade-long tenure as general manager of the conference centre. He said: “The sheer level of devotion from Lebert, Janet and their teams, in executing a very high class, professional event, added to the very special atmosphere of providing our youth a great opportunity to showcase their talents. And the talent was absolutely splendid!”