Organisers and bands, festival goers and journalists share individual memories of August's CREATION FEST '09. Photos by Ian Homer.
PHIL PECHONIS, Festival organiser and pastor
I stood on the mainstage next to Chip K. Moments earlier I had watched as a clump of young people - 20 at least - had stood to receive Christ. The stageshow of Chip and his fellow musical evangelists in thebandwithnoname had, for the previous 45 minutes, been an enthralling display of raucous rapping, perpetual motion dancing, strobing pyrotechnics, gutsy singing, rapid costume changes and a barrage of lyrics which poured out over the dancing, clapping throng gathered at the front of the Big Shed stage. The lyrics still seemed to echo around the Shed. "I could feel my spirit rising as I think of your return/To reclaim the adoration and the glory you deserve," "Death defied we'll walk on free/Justified by love" and, most powerfully of all, "Not talkin' about the birds and the bees/Not talkin' about a pocket full of weeds/Not here to sell a million CDs/But I know what you need to let go and be free."
As I watched the young people being spoken to by the Creation Fest volunteers who gave each new convert a New Testament, a sense of gratefulness swept over me. These precious young people taking their first tremulous step of faith were tangible reward for the exhilarating, exhausting and emotional rollercoaster ride I and the Creation Fest team had experienced in putting Creation Fest '09 together.
As a pastor in Woolacombe, North Devon, I had been privileged to help birth the Creation Fest and seen it grow from a sparsely attended one day event in 2002 to the 2008 festival which Cross Rhythms called "the biggest free Christian music event in Britain" at which over 3,000 people had attended. Creation Fest, along with the accompanying Creation Fest roadshows, had become a powerful vehicle in presenting the Gospel to the holiday makers, surfers, BMX riders and others who came to hear music and heard something else as well. But we needed more room and facilities than the Woolacombe site could give us.
After prayer and the door closing for the use of the Woolacombe site, we decided to relocate the event to Cornwall, expand the fest to a week-long event and hold it in the daunting vastness of Wadebridge's Royal Cornwall Showground. The prophets of doom said we were crazy and they had a point. We had pitifully few contacts with churches in Cornwall. We had a limited time and budget to put together an expanded programme. And, as the event loomed ever closer, we were facing the potentially disastrous situation of having not nearly enough volunteer helpers who in years past had flown in (largely from California's Calvary Chapel churches) to work at the event.
With a Herculean effort and no few miracles we made it to the opening. The weather wasn't kind to us - rain showers throughout the week, the programme had way too many gaps in it and with no time to tell many Cornwall churches about the event. But we were moving in faith and had booked the showground for the following year and indeed for five more thereafter. Long before the event closed the team running Creation were planning big improvements for the 2010 event, working out a strategy to tell Cornwall's churches about this resource which was now on their doorstep and recognising that '09 really was a foundation for what was to follow. We hadn't really planned it that way but clearly Creation Fest had become a family event, where parents, singles, old and young could attend. We recognized though that for the 2010 event we would need to expand the Youth Stream.
As I watched those new converts, excitedly clutching their New Testaments, leaving the Big Shed such plans of next year weren't in the forefront of my mind. I was just thrilled for what God had done this chilly Tuesday evening in August. The Creation Fest vision had been for an effective door from which the Gospel could go forth to Cornwall. This evening I was seeing some of the first fruit of such a vision.
TONY CUMMINGS, Cross Rhythms music editor
I was ready for my seminar. I'd been ready all day, but the venue and time had changed so here I was at five minutes to seven striding into the Surf Café. I was pretty proud of this seminar. 55 minutes of tightly researched information. I had my seminar notes. And I knew the ropes. I stepped up to the sound desk and introduced myself then strode to the stage. I didn't get there. With my mind fixed on CCM history and which mic I should use I gave scant regard to the muddy ground over which I was treading. Suddenly my feet shot from under me and I landed flat on my back in a pool of liquid mud. Two concerned seminar goers rushed forward - amazingly neither of them laughing - to pick up their seminar speaker who in one split second resembled a giant melting chocolate soldier. Enveloped in the glistening, dark brown coating I allowed one of my helpers to timidly wipe mud off my glasses with his handkerchief so at least I could see. Someone asked me if I was hurt. But it was only my pride that had been damaged. And in retrospect that was a good thing, maybe even worth a liquid mud baptism.
LEO PSWARAYI, youth worker
The three piece blues rockers Verra Cruz had a sound as big and macho as American wrestling. Their lyrics were a mixture of socially conscious songs ranging from the Arms trade to divorce driven by an underlying spirituality while their music was a comfortable marriage of rock and old time blues that chugged along very nicely! Frontman Marc James, armed with scraggly locks, Jimmy Hendricks axe moves and a voice like a cross between a freight train and a gravel pit, was accompanied on drums and bass by Jimmy Cooke and Henry Cross, intent on blasting the Big Shed throng to smithereens with their wall of sound. Remember guitar solos, screaming guitars, anthemic war-cry choruses? It was the '80s all over again in glorious surround-sound. And the next morning they played a powerful worship set to prove conclusively they're no one trick pony.
RICHARD CURNOW, Pastor, Wadebridge Christian
What an honour and an amazing opportunity for Christians in Cornwall to have Creation Fest on our own doorstep. My first thoughts were how do we support this event? I was asked along with my now very good friend Dave Matthews to head up the ministry team. What a privilege it was to be able to lead people to the Lord following the evening bands and for praying for people who came to the prayer tent. There were a large number of prayer cards as well that were handed in, many with moving, heart-rendering situations that were prayed into and continue to be prayed into by local Christians. My best memory though was before Creation Fest actually opened. We had booked the Town Hall in Wadebridge as a pre-show opener and Scott Cunningham with his band, some of Bosh and Narrowpath were all due on stage. The turn out was not huge - probably due to the fact that we had not had a great deal of time to publicise it. However after Scott had played he found that the pub a few doors down had an open mic evening. So he and his band took the place over. The locals loved it, and they really had the Gospel presented to them as only Scott can give it. I heard one local say "best thing that's been in here for ages." That was a real compliment from a Cornishman and has given us great ideas for next year.
It must seem a long, long way from Stourbridge, West Midlands to Wadebridge, Cornwall, particularly when you step onto a stage to find yourself facing an audience of 10. But NlighteN aren't a band to allow a tiny audience, or summertime showers, to shift their focus. The foursome (one of the couldn't make it) with the unusual lineup of two keyboards, guitarist and drummer, were there to minister Christ and minister they did. The first new songs came from their latest CD and with frontman Tim Barton sat at the keys singing his compositions in a clear, tuneful voice and the band make a crisp, tightly executed accompaniments, the effect was impressive. It was when the band switched to worship that NlighteN really hit the mark however. A soaring version of "How Great Is Our God" and an impromptu stab at the old spiritual "This Little Light Of Mine" warmed the audience which seemed to grow with each number. Suddenly the gradually-growing-in-number spectators were touching the transcendent. Tim spoke movingly about a series of traumas and tragedies in his own life to introduce a song, focussing on the neglected topic of considering oneself blessed when the bad times come. The song itself was newly minted and though let down by an arrangement that had Rick singing on the verse in a key too low for his vocal range, hit home with power. These were lyrics that resonated with truth. By the close the "crowd" - now 40 or 50 - were clapping enthusiastically. NlighteN had come to minister. And that they unquestionably did.
MARTIN J KEMP, marketer
From their opening jazz-funk number, London's All 'Bout Christ (ABC) established their musical credentials as the five-string bass, drums and keyboards lay down a mean groove for the five vocalists, who really let rip with their improvisational skills in the following number, a vocal dance around the ancient spiritual "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands". Moving into worship songs such as "Sacrificial Life", we really saw what makes this band tick - worshipping God and leading us into God's presence. The simple repetition of this song should in theory be boring, but I for one didn't want it to stop - a glimpse of Heaven? A refreshing aspect of All 'Bout Christ is the unpredictable blend of styles, and in particular the worship songs were structured in a rock idiom which made it easy for the audience to get involved and join in. The vocalists - two men and three women, exhibited seamless close harmonies and throughout the band displayed a very controlled musical economy - all the notes were there for a reason, and not to obscure the message. If you want to hear sincere worship leading, then I urge you to check this band out (www.myspace.com/allboutchrist) but be prepared to be challenged and inspired.
TOM WHITMAN, singer/songwriter
People say that festivals are often cherished for the spontaneous moments that both cajole and surprise. When you think things couldn't get better, or worse for that matter, you can be positively stunned into a moment of sheer communal joy. I had travelled to Cornwall from my hometown Bournemouth with good friends Bosh to play a couple of acoustic sets with the aid of their drummer and one of my closest friends Mike Griffiths. We played two pleasant sets and met some wonderful people including Gareth Dix and Kris Lannen from Narrowpath. On the last day I wasn't due to play and was simply anticipating Bosh's mainstage slot in the evening whilst I hung out in the merchandise tent and they got ready to soundcheck.
I got chatting to a couple of lovely folk called Becky and Elizabeth who were looking after the CD stall. After learning I was playing at the festival they suggested I put some CDs on the stall. Being laid back I thought I'd just sell them after performing but this new approach to self-promotion had caught my imagination. Nonetheless they also mentioned I might fetch my guitar and perform a couple of tunes. I felt nervous at the prospect but equally excited. By this time there was a small crowd of guys and girls gathered encouraging me to do so, and the buzz of playing an impromptu gig took over. I promptly collected my acoustic with a Herculean like run to the backstage area, tuned up and walked back pretending not to be all giddy. I played a few songs from my album 'The Breaking In Of Light' and pointed out one song's similarity to Nizlopi's "JCB Song" with an appropriate snippet of the aforementioned hit. I even got them singing some "Dah dah dah dah's" on a new song "Fireworks" then Bosh guitarist Matt Gainsford turned up and we duly obliged with a rendition of Bosh's "Teenage Kicks", undoubtedly their most poignant song for me personally. They sang along, most of them bought my CD and I probably put silly messages in all of the sleeves. I can't mention all the people I met but they were all wonderful and a lot of us are friends on the still continuing social revolution of Facebook.
We agreed to meet up at the front for the Bosh gig. To top it all off my brother and sister-in-law, who live in Manchester, rang to say they were coming camping in Cornwall and would pop along for the evening. Result. At the front of the hall, with my responsible married brother and a more reserved sister-in-law in tow, we jumped, rocked and bounced off each other singing, "I've got Heaven syndrome," in what can only be described as the best Boshpit of my life.
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