On Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th May 2015, The Big Church Day Out Festival (BCDOF) took place at a great green field in Wiston House, West Sussex. This annual event celebrates Christianity through energetic and uplifting musical performances from talented artists who share their faith through music.
This year the line-up included many successful artists such as Israel Houghton, Lecrae, Jesus Culture, Christafari, and many more! Throughout the event, Tearfund’s ‘No child taken?’ campaign, to help stop child trafficking in Nepal, was advertised on stage screens throughout the event to raise awareness and gain donors to sponsor a child, preventing them from being affected by this issue. There were many volunteers for both Tearfund and BCDO at the festival and the sunny weather nicely complemented this friendly atmosphere.
On Saturday, the event kicked off with a set from London Rapper, Guvna B, performing on the main stage. Known to use his catchphrase ‘Allo Mate’, Guvna is an entertaining character and therefore had no issue with getting the crowd on their feet, as they jumped along to his booming beats. Having already launched four independent albums, the 24 year old included Big Boy Riddim from his 2013 EP ‘Odd1Out’ in his set, coaxing the audience further to dance and sing along, whilst assisted by the complex instrumentals on the track.
Following Guvna B’s set was The Watato Children’s Choir, who performed at the Tea Tent stage. Travelling all the way from Uganda and formed of orphaned children, Watato Children’s Choir brought a unique experience to BCDO through their fusion of culture into music, rhythmic dancing and stylish African print clothing. Their angelic vocals instantly engaged and inspired the audience. Between songs they interacted with the crowd and explained that although they had experienced orphanage, their hope in God helps them remember that He will never abandon them and that ultimately He is their father. They also taught us some Ugandan words, enabling us to sing along to the songs.
Walking back from the Tea Tent to the main stage, my friend and I came across the children’s entertainment area which included a mini farm, where animals such as donkeys, ponies and alpacas were displayed.
Later in the day, multi-talented American musician Israel Houghton performed on the main stage. The Grammy award winning artist created a lively ambience through singing many of his well-known songs. Playing the guitar whilst he sang and assisted by his live band, influences from jazz, reggae and rock were incorporated into Israel’s set, which created a relatable vibe for music lovers.
The last act to perform on Saturday was Bethel Music. Emerging from Bethel Church in Redding, California, the talented band performed a collection of praise and worship songs. As their set progressed, the sky darkened and lights from the stage shone brightly, complementing the peaceful atmosphere as arms were raised high in reverence of God. It was the perfect way to end Day 1 of BCDO.
The final day of BCDOF also included a performance from the Gospel Reggae group Christafari. With over half a million albums sold globally, the gifted group created a jamming vibe as the grooving audience sang along to the lyrics on the screen either side of the stage. Interacting with the audience after one of their songs, the lead singer explained how, as a collective, they consider themselves ‘Musicianaries’. The blending of traditional roots and contemporary dancehall reggae in their music showed the zeal they had to share the gospel with people from all walks of life.
Furthermore, the act I mainly looked forward to on this day was American HipHop artist, Lecrae. Rapidly gaining recognition for his music, Lecrae has featured in several well respected publications including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Huffington Post Magazine, XXL Magazine and more. In his set he performed some songs off his new album ‘Anomaly’, including Welcome to America, Outsiders and Fear. Fully engaged with Lecrae’s powerful stage presence, audience members jumped along to his rhythmic rapping and solid beats. Communicating with the audience between songs, Lecrae shared his testimony of how he got to his current position and encouraged the crowd to not be ashamed of what they believe in. Following his performance, he took part in a short Q&A session, where he provided further inspiration to the audience.
Later in the day, Northern Irish Folk Rock/Worship band, Rend Collective, brought a cheerful presence to the stage throughout their set. Showcasing their fourth album ‘The Art of Celebration’ and with lyrics on the stage screen, the swaying crowd joyfully sung along.
Following Rend Collective was the closing act, Jesus Culture. Like Saturday’s ending act, this group also derives from Bethel Church. With intimate instrumentals and vocals from the band, a mix of both lively and calmer songs were performed- all of which had the audience fully engaged as they treasured the last moments of the Big Church Day Out 2015.
I would recommend attending The Big Church Day Out Festival, even if it’s just for volunteering purposes, as the neighbourly and uplifting environment creates such a memorable experience.
By Maxine Harrison