Helen Whitall went to BIG CHURCH DAY OUT at Wiston Hall, West Sussex on 26th and 27th May. Here is what she saw and heard.

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Then it was over to Mainstage for Britt Nicole. On the way over we passed a walking plant! Britt's vocals stood out immediately, piercingly strong, just like the red robe she was wearing. As we arrived she launched into the pop perfection of "Through Your Eyes", all dramatic gestures and sunshine, before going into "Gold", getting hands waving across the (predominantly young and female) crowd and then breaking it right down at the end. She switched into a worshipful tone for "After You" and then, with her voice breaking with emotion, sang "There's no-one else like you. . ." before asking anyone in need of any healing or comfort to lift their hands. She slowly sang through the chorus of "All This Time" and then called out "If he's been faithful I want you to shout!" Then she picked up the tempo again with "Work Of Art" and "The Lost Get Found", rocking out a bit on the latter, wheeling round on the stage with her robe flying and giving us a surprisingly rockstar yell on "Stand out!" towards the end. She revealed she was pregnant and encouraged us all to jump for the next song, "Set The World On Fire", saying "I've got a baby in my tummy and I'm gonna jump!", which fitted the song's message perfectly. The crowd was full of kids bouncing on their parents' shoulders. Finally she finished with the '80s-ish "Fallin' In Love", during which she came down off the stage and went along the crowd barrier meeting fans whilst the band played and even gave us a guitar solo.

After that we heard an appeal from Tearfund asking us to sign up to join them in prayer, and were entertained by a guy doing amazing tricks with a football. LZ7 were up next, entering the stage to a boom that had passers-by squealing! Smoke cannons fired and with a "Let's go!" the crowd was off jumping, beach balls being tossed about in a full-on party. A mosh pit started, people were up on shoulders, and you could literally feel the ground shaking under the jumping crowd, a real feel-good party atmosphere.

Crossing the site, we passed Illuminate where Written In Kings were sounding awesome, rocking out; then passed a steel band playing in the grounds of Wiston House, before arriving at the jam-packed Tearfund Tea Tent once more and catching the last piece by Sons Of Pitches, their amazing vocals sounding almost like they were accompanied by a band.

Trinity played a second set at the Tea Tent and we were fascinated to see if Trinity's party powerhouse would get the immovable object of the Tea Tent crowd up and dancing. Of course we needn't have worried; Bert straight away left the stage and had the crowd up and dancing for "Got It All". They went into a smooth Latin groove for the next song, Bert playing a retro-looking saxophone, and there was an amazing jazzy keyboard solo. Then we got "Alive Again", their latest single, a free download to those joining their mailing list. It was a fun track on acoustic guitar and whistle. This was followed by "Carried By The River", this time with a little less dancing, then "Anthem Of Love", sung partly in English and partly in Spanish. They sang the blessing song again, this time getting everyone doing actions to join in with the chorus, before finishing again with "Fiesta Celestial", getting everyone dancing and Bert breaking his flip flop in the process!

Walking back again across site, we caught Tim And The Glory Boys again at Arkyard, singing a hilarious song about overhead projectors, and then we sat and ate falafels while watching a group of dancers get attacked by a rainbow flag! Gotta love festivals.

It was time for For King And Country on Mainstage. We arrived part way through to see Luke in the crowd, singing "It's Not Over Yet", and many hands in the air. They introduced two new songs; the first, "Joy", they brought on a large xylophone and played some African rhythms to an otherwise EDM-infused rock song. Then "God Only Knows", which saw both brothers playing an electric drum pad up front of the stage, Joel losing his navy jacket part way through, following this with the slow epic of "Shoulders". They then spoke out, I thought somewhat clumsily, against gender-based violence. I took exception to the very stereotypical language they used even in doing so, but clearly the heart and intention was good; it's an important issue, even within the Church. From there they went into "Priceless", featuring cello and powerful bass. "Run Wild" followed. I was loving the range of instruments they were bringing out. As Joel started singing into a megaphone there was some brass accompaniment, a drum solo, and finally Joel grabbed some cymbals, crashing them dramatically. They ended with "The Proof Of Your Love", all the musicians up front and lots more dramatic musicianship as both brothers beat on drums and cymbals.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith

Finally, remaining at Mainstage, we were treated to an amazing performance by Martin Smith. Accompanied by members of his band Army Of Bones and his daughter Elle Limebear, he opened with the refrain from Delirious?'s "Our God Reigns", before with loud guitar and drums moving into "Emmanuel". A real crowd gathered as he began to sing "Then sings my soul. . .," hands raised in the air. He really got that crowd going with "God's Great Dancefloor", it seemed like everyone was jumping. Just when it seemed like it had finished, he decided to do it all again, pulling a group up on stage to dance, and from his grins it was clear he was having a great time with it. This was followed by a new song, "Leap Of Faith", which featured a spoken word section from a poet whose name I unfortunately didn't catch. Elle lent her beautiful lead vocals to "Waiting Here For You", which again got hands in the air across the crowd, before Martin ditched his jacket and launched into "Oh Praise The Name", spliced with Army Of Bones' "Love Song For A City" and some powerful yelling. Then another special moment; Martin thanked the man whose dream had created BCDO in the first place - former Delirious? key player Tim Jupp, bringing him onstage to big applause and playing their very first song, "Thank You For Saving Me", together once more. Martin and Elle sang their latest single "Jesus Only You" together, which was stunning, before moving into "Come Holy Spirit", guitar and drums sounding truly epic. Finally, having given us Delirious?'s first song, Martin ended his set with their last song, "My Soul Sings". Wow. For this old Delirious? fan there could be no better way to close out such a special weekend, reliving the journey, than with this soaring worship epic. It moved me to tears.

I'd intended to stay for Matt Redman closing out the festival, but that was enough. We headed off for some tea, hearing Matt's set drifting over the site as we went, and then the sky was lit up both with celebratory fireworks, and God's own fireworks from distant storms on the horizon once again. What a weekend! CR

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