Once again, its not a book, although I’ve got a few on the go at the moment…

My wife and I spent Saturday at the Big Church Day Out and had a great time. I appreciate that some of you might think that this does not sit easily with a recent review of Enter Shikari, but I can assure you that I’m comfortable and have a very eclectic music taste. In fact Christian metalcore band “Devil wears Prada” supported them on a gig I saw in Manchester. In fact, the underlying passion for justice is a common thread. We spent the majority of the day experiencing the range of talent spread before us on the main stage. Below are a few embedded videos showcasing what I believe to be the best of each artist. The videos are straight out of You Tube. I’m aware that this is not necessarily the best for copyright, but I’m figuring that, if you like the artists, you’ll go out and buy their work. I’ve certainly got some new stuff to get hold of. Gungor have already done very well out of our household and I think they might “grow” on me further as a result. I did take time to look round the rest of the event so I could add more but this will do for now.

The time between sets was occupied with a variety of types of entertainment: DVDs, interviews (more of which later), showcases from other stages and demonstrations of superb skill. You could not describe it as boring…

We were treated to an intense set of tricks on a tiny stage from Keelan Phillips, a BMX freestyle artist who featured in a C4 documentary “Concrete circus” (I knew I’d seen him somewhere before!). Goodness, he has some serious skills…..


The Co-partner for the event was CAP (Christians Against Poverty). They were looking to get 1000 new sponsors willing to each give £3 per month to help develop their charity. There was a lot of opportunity to hear how this charity works and also directly from someone who had been helped. “Bev” featured in a DVD which was played frequently and was brave enough to be interviewed on stage at least twice – well done Bev! This charity is one which helps others to help themselves and does not pay their debts for them. This, to me, is crucial. I’m happy to support this type of charity. Handouts are one thing, but life skills are life changing. It took me a few hours to decide, but once I realised that I could do it by text, I started to consider it more seriously. This took a slightly interesting turn when Pete Grieg said that it was little more cost than a “decent cup of coffee”.  It was then pointed out to me that, for me, that could be Jelly Babies! Indeed I probably (definitely) spend more than £3 a WEEK on Jelly Babies. This is embarrassing and stupid and a little self control is required. I’m not doing this any more and I can then help others to help themselves and perhaps stave off maturity onset diabetes into the bargain.

So… I sent a text to the number provided and just “got over it”. If you have the urge then head over to :


If you have the “urge” for Jelly Babies, then I cant help you (obviously).

Apart from ALL that, there was some music as well! I’ve listed the artists/bands in the order they came on stage and there is no attempt made to rate each one as being better than another.

I must say that the production values for this event were excellent. The large screens were used to good effect, delivering stage and crowd shots. The camera work was professional and well directed. I’m presuming that GOD TV had a great deal to do with this. More importantly, the sound quality was superb. As some of you may know I’m a bit of a pedant about sound. This is largely due to the fact that I have spent a lot of time listening to a lot of music and working out what actually makes it work. I’m part of a team who runs the sound desk for a medium sized worship band in church and despite the best efforts of some to elevate one instrument to the fore, I take pride in making it balanced. I’m therefore, stupidly impressed when a sound desk mixes it well. I prefer to be close to the sound desk at a gig, as this is the place where the aural experience is likely to be best. The engineers are doing just what the crowd are; listening. They tune it based on this. These guys had taken a lot of time to make this work at BCDO and I tip my hat to their skills. I could hear all the instruments and was happy to appreciate the adaptations that were obviously being made to deal with the HUGE variety of styles of song being played.

The afternoon kicked off with a great set from Philippa Hanna. She has just been supporting Lionel Ritchie on a major tour and has a great voice. I’m looking forward to catching her again at the “Big Church night in” later this year. Her Yorkshire accent is evident when she speaks, but her singing is truly beautiful. Given that I too hail from the East side of the Pennines, that is a bonus and not a problem at all! I’ve given you my highlight from her set, but ‘lighthouse’ and ‘daffodils’ are worth checking out as well 🙂

I’ve put Stuart next, as he did a short stint on the main stage. I also caught a part of his set at the Tear Fund Tea tent later in the day. To me, “Vagabonds” captures the essence of the nature of Jesus’ relationship with us. Following Jesus is not about being perfect. He is inclusive of all. If grace cannot include everyone then no-one is included. Jesus came to earth and worked with prostitutes,the destitute and, on the whole, those rejected by society. “Vagabonds” draws on this and is all the more powerful as a result.

Come, all you vagabonds,
Come all you ‘don’t belongs’
Winners and losers,
Come, people like me.
Come all you travellers
Tired from the journey,
Come wait a while, stay a while,
Welcomed you’ll be.

Come all you questioners
Looking for answers,
And searching for reasons
And sense in it all;
Come all you fallen,
And come all you broken,
Find strength for your body
And food for your soul.

Come to the feast,
There is room at the table.
Come let us meet in this place.
With the King of all kindness
Who welcomes us in,
With the wonder of love,
And the power of grace.
The wonder of the love,
And the power of grace.

Come those who worry
‘Bout houses and money,
And all those who don’t have
A care in the world;
From every station
And orientation,
The helpless, the hopeless,
The young and the old.

Come all believers
And dreamers and schemers,
And come all you restless
Just searching for home;
Movers and shakers
And givers and takers,
The happy, the sad
And the lost and alone.

Come self-sufficient
With wearied ambition,
And come those who feel
At the end of the road.
Fiery debaters
And religion haters,
Accusers, abusers,
The hurt and ignored.

Brenton Brown was next up. I’ve seen his name acknowledged as the writer of many of the songs we regularly use in Church, but I knew almost nothing about him. First up; he’s South African and I had no idea! I’m beginning to wonder why my whole life is becoming ever more entangled with  South Africans (I work with tons of them!). They have a real heart and passion, and Brenton brings this to his songs. So much so, in fact, that I literally wept at “The humble king”. I’m going to admit that, when I first heard this some years ago, I wasn’t all that bothered about it, but now it would appear that it speaks straight into my heart. I now feel that I will probably be unable to listen to it again without “welling up”, such will be the association, but I will live with that ;). We were treated to many of the songs from the “God my rock” album, including “Hosanna”, which I had the delight to “mix” myself last weekend!

Salvador provided a complete change of direction for the afternoon. They mixed infectious rhythms with Mexican verve and delivered a dynamic fiesta atmosphere for the crowd to savour. I cant dance, but I could feel those salsa rhythms.  They were new to me and my life was enriched by their energy. The only slight discord from my point of view is that my sole personal musical reference was “Santana” and I had to laugh at myself for putting them both in the same pigeonhole! The only problem might be removing one of them and “once thought never lost” applies. Once again I must make comment; the size of their band must have provided a real challenge for the sound desk. There was 2 sets of percussion, guitars, keyboards, sax and trumpet. This was a bold and complex sound and none of its nuance was lost. I can speak a fair bit of Spanish, and it was great to hear some tracks in that language. I only wish I could “Bailar en su cançion” .

The next act up were “Jars of clay”. We’ve followed them for a number of years and have been desperate to see them play live. We travelled to Southern California in 2009 and during that visit Jars of Clay were playing various large churches in the region. It was slightly frustrating that our itinerary did not quite match theirs. We were thus eagerly awaiting a visit to the UK. They came to Greenbelt, but I couldn’t make that trip. It seemed nothing would ever work and we would be denied a live set. What a joy when they announced on their Facebook page that they would be coming to the UK to feature at the “Big Church Day Out”. My day was crowned by the performance of “Weapons”. This is one of my favourites. We were also treated to a live version of “Eyes wide open”, which has an unashamedly bluegrass country style and very evocative of the midwest USA. They also chose to deliver new material which will be out later this year (one for the iTunes purchase list I think). Brilliant.

There were quite a few artists I hadn’t heard of before and Güngör were one of them. I had chosen to do a little previewing in the week before and I wasn’t quite sure. I’m still not 100% convinced I like all their work, but I was absolutely blown away by “Beautiful things”. Lisa Gungor has a tremendous voice and she pulled off a cover of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”. I’ve heard lots of people attempt this and very few actually deliver, but her voice soared and brought real life to the song.

The early evening saw a shift away from the country and folk inspired afternoon and veered to a lively “younger” sound. LZ7 kicked this off. We first came across LZ7 during their tour in 2012 when they were playing alongside Matt Redman. We took a trip from the Midlands to visit Audacious! church in Manchester and thought it would be all about Matt Redman. The surprise was how much we actually liked LZ7. At that time LZ7 had a co-production with Matt Redman to deliver a single called “Twenty seven million” to support the a21 campaign:


I urge everyone to go and check this out. Human trafficking is an horrendous problem and sexual slavery is right at the top of our minds right now after recent trials which have featured in the media. They played this but I’m going to admit that I missed the majority of their set to go visit the rest of the site and grab some food! Before I went, I could see the blonde topped hyperactive frontman “Lindz” doing his usual high energy routine and, with a crowd which was quite warmed up, this went down well. There was lots of jumping and this makes me smile! I’ve recently been to another gig (see below) and there was much jumping and sweat there as well as outstretched arms (a big feature at the BCDO). You see! there are even more similarities in the types of expression! I’ll admit that I didn’t see any stage diving or mosh pits but I did see one instance of attempted crowd-surfing with the festival mascot!

The later evening moved toward a worshipful period with Phil Wickham. Again he was new to me but some of his songs were most certainly ones I knew. There was a real feeling of group warmth and worship when he was on stage and I got a great sense of us all being together for the purpose of worshipping God. it had been implicit previously, but I really felt a climax of this during his set.

http://youtu.be/Zg4cYdP1ngw (embedding disabled on request)

Hillsong burst onto the stage for the last set of the day. They had a tricky job in keeping us all lively at first in an ever chilling evening, but then taking us down so Pete Grieg could deliver a short evangelistic message with an altar call. The final few songs by them  felt OK but I did think it was a tough call to wrap it all up after such a passionate address. They have a BIG sound and if anyone could do it, they could and we were rewarded the privilege of an encore for staying right to the end.

I forgot to mention the flags!!! The people in front of us had some really funky flags and I desperately wanted to get hold of one and wave it myself:

BCDO 015 comp BCDO 009 comp

Flags were a big feature and the slight breeze on this lovely spring day brought them all to life. The organisation of the event was great, and thankfully the weather dry.

Through the day, there were a number of interludes between each act. During one of these Alistair Burt, the parliamentary undersecretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, gave an interview with the hosts and during this showed a great deal of balanced understanding and humility. With more of this level of thought in government, who knows how different things could be?

We were also treated to an interview with the Bishop of Chichester, in whose diocese this event was based. He too, showed a character which seemed at partly at odds with what the public impression might be of the upper levels of the Anglican clergy. For a start, he was there. He displayed an obvious love for Christ and the church. He seemed very in tune with the feelings of the modern church going public. I think we are going to see some very interesting things from the Anglican church in the next few years as Archbishop Welby is also very dynamic and keen to get to the heart of what it means to be church in the 21st century, and who can forget Archbishop Sentamu. Wow! You could say that the fields are ripe and the leaders are ready…

The only hiccup was the slightly problematic exit after the event. We had arrived early and parked very close to the front of the car park. True to the Biblical maxim of “The first shall be last and the last shall be first”, we spent 45 minutes going absolutely nowhere; not even one metre. I was waiting for others to kick off with a bit of road rage but in the end was also hoping that the message of the day had sunk in enough for everyone to be perfectly patient! What a marvellous day. We were a bit tired when we got back to our B&B though!

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