In Sickness & in Health

Publisher and presenter of the UK’s first gospel music programme, Juliet Coley shares the Scriptures and quotes that kept her going in sickness and in health

Legacy Matters
“I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:17)

Following a heart attack at 48 and quadruple bypass surgery (lasting 9 hours) at 49, former People Get Ready gospel show presenter, Juliet Coley, had to take a good look at her life and evaluate her priorities. Five years later, she was sitting in her consultant’s office being told she had bowel cancer, and would have to have a colectomy and a stoma bag. Her first reaction was to laugh.

“I had a heart-to-heart with God and told Him I was not the Bible character Job,” she said. “So He needed to sort it. The only ‘bag’ I was having post op would be a Hermès Berkin!” She avoided going in for surgery, opting instead to make some dramatic changes. She got rid of her Fitbit (because she was told it created radiation in her body) and also decided to become a vegan.

“I gave up after two weeks! My children were fed up with me sniffing their chicken and licking the gravy!” Six months on from her diagnosis, she had the 12-hour cancer surgery. Her six-week post op check-up showed the cancer had spread, and she was put on a three-month course of chemotherapy.

“Chemo was even more challenging, and during the painful recovery process I began to think about my legacy. What had I achieved? What would I leave behind?”

People Get Ready Gospel Music Show
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Juliet was due to have bypass surgery in 2014 following a heart attack, and a week prior to admission, ‘nesting mode’ kicked in. “I began cleaning my skirting boards, washing the net curtains, and clearing out all the cupboards. I wanted everyone to know, if I woke up following the operation that, in my yard, cleanliness was next to godliness!”

Her son pulled from inside a cupboard a box with neatly packed VHS tapes inside. “What’s People Get Ready?” he asked, after reading the labels. When they watched an episode, her children were shocked and found it hilarious watching their mum on TV in the ‘olden days’. Juliet decided to convert and upload them all to YouTube and the response was amazing.

“Everyone talks so positively and fondly about the programme, which was the gospel music soundtrack to many lives,” Juliet said. There was talk about how great a reunion would be and, during the pandemic, she spoke to gospel writer Marcia Dixon and Nicky Brown, the former musical director of the show, about doing a more practical and manageable walk down memory lane in the form of a vodcast. Planning this during lockdown was a perfect opportunity to get people to participate, because they weren’t on tour or busy with church business… Like the whole country, they had to Stay At Home. 

“What I loved about this project was seeing the growth of the original cast and their journeys post-People Get Ready. So many have gone on to do incredible things in society and on the international music platform,” Juliet said. “My co-presenter, John Francis, is the Bishop and founder of Ruach City Churches, which are local, national and international, and Nicky Brown has been a producer for Stormzy, a musical director for Emeli Sandé, and a musician for Paul Weller, and even the backing singers on the show have appeared on television in the UK and internationally.” Priscilla Jones-Campbell was a vocal coach on TV show American Idol and sang on the Voice UK, and Paul Lee received critical acclaim when he sang the lead vocals on the Kingdom Choir’s song ‘Stand by Me’, which was performed at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding.

The vodcast premiered in May 2021, and featured a tribute to gospel songbird, Lavine Hudson, who sadly died in 2016. “We were just a group of kids, who loved God, and were catapulted into the limelight through a national television series,” Juliet reminisced. “It was definitely the best of times.”

The People Get Ready vodcast can be found on YouTube under People Get Ready Podcast Mix.

Senior Deputy Head Teacher
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” (Mark Twain)

Being a television presenter was great, but Juliet says the day she found her purpose was the day she walked into a classroom officially as a teacher.

Juliet loves young people, and her journey from Beginner teacher to Senior Deputy Head was a roller coaster, but she has not regretted a second of it.

Her journey, spanning over 20 years, is documented in her memoir, ‘39 Weeks: Life Behind the School Gates’, and she is donating an audio and e-book copy to every teacher in the UK as part of National Thank a Teacher Day. They must visit her website for a download link.

As a Senior Leader in Education, Juliet was instrumental in turning one particular school into an Ofsted Outstanding institution; received a Wise Woman Award, and was also rewarded by her local authority for her efforts. She said: “Nothing beats leading teams that support youngsters to achieve and that give them the ability to make choices, along with working with students to become positive and active citizens in society.”

Writing the book, which is currently in development to be a UK Black British movie, was important to Juliet. She cited her Windrush grandparents, her mother and the Black Church as being instrumental in shaping her character and heavily influencing her leadership style – something she felt was important to document and share.

Publisher: Young Lit Stars
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.” (Luke 12:48 KJV)

Juliet’s health challenges had a dramatic impact on her hands-on role in managing a school. She had dedicated her life to supporting children, and was forced to retire in 2019. Nevertheless, her passion to see children’s confidence and self-esteem develop and push barriers continues through her current role as a publisher, who works with Black children aged 6 to 15, to become published authors.

She secured investment from friends and family, and has since established Young Lit Stars – Europe’s only publishing company that publishes young writers aged 6 to 13 years. She conducted free literacy workshops; has worked with hundreds of children, and published 14 books with 37 young authors.

The books work to build and spread the stories and legacy of Black people. The titles introduce young readers to the culture and experience of the Caribbean; highlights Black male and female role models; tells the stories of the Windrush generation, and their most powerful title to date, which was launched in June 2021 is ‘Why Are They Crying?’ – a book on racism, written by Brianna-Kayla Lynch (aged 12) and Nia Lekuwa (aged 15).

“My authors have to date won five awards, and have been featured in local and national print, radio and television media. When I was young, a typical author was White, male and middle-aged. I feel blessed to be able to bring young, gifted and Black talent to the fore. When one door closes, the Lord opens another – brighter, bigger and better. I feel blessed that the Father has given me the opportunity to continue to serve in this way.” 

‘Hey, Black Boy! UK Special’
This is the seventh book written by three-time award-winning author, Romeo Bremmer, who is 13 years old.

‘Our Roots’
27 children interview their grandparents, and share their inspiring stories of moving from the Caribbean to the UK.

‘Why Are They Crying?’
A collection of words, pictures, thoughts and feelings of local, national and international Black heroes and heroines.

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