Cross Rhythms Festival
Cross Rhythms Festival

During the late 80’s, the Umberleigh Rock Gospel Festival, was held annually in North Devon and headed up by Captain Steve Martin of the Church Army. In 1987 Chris Cole was invited to Stage Manage the event.

Like many of the events of the time, Greenbelt and Cross Fire, Umberleigh was an attempt to introduce the Church in the South West of England to the growing importance of the arts, radical speakers and of course contemporary Christian music.

These were days of optimism, with God’s Holy Spirit showing Himself through all traditions of the Church and expanding the Churches’ thinking in terms of engaging with the arts and contemporary culture. Artists like Martin Joseph, Garth Hewitt and the Barrett Band were artists who performed regularly at this weekend event.

Greenbelt was the main event in the UK which encouraged many to explore this exciting adventure into contemporary culture and navigate all the minefields associated with the journey. Greenbelt was coming under increasing flack for its more liberal festival agenda and many, including Chris Cole, felt it was important not to exclude the evangelical/charismatic experience from the festivals. Since many of those who attended these various festivals, were from differing traditions, there was a sense that these exciting events were great platforms where ideas could be passionately shared and debated.

The main pressure for all of these events was still the financial pressures to keep them going. Every festival was facing financial difficulty and in 1989, Umberleigh Rock Gospel decided to cancel their event for the following year. Chris Cole offered to take over the event and a rescue package was put together to salvage the festival.

This was the time when Tony Cummings approached Chris Cole to take over the Cross Rhythms magazine. It appeared to Chris that God wanted him to combine the radio, festival and magazine into one ‘brand name’ and he believed that the name Cross Rhythms ably described all the components he was putting together.

The Cross Rhythms festival was born.

Moving to the Okehampton Agricultural showground in 1990 and Exeter Showground in 1991, the event moved to its permanent site at the Gilead Foundations home of Risdon Farm, near Okehampton.

To read about the history for all the Cross Rhythms festivals with pictures and information click here

Following the move to its’ new home at the Gilead Foundations farm, the Cross Rhythms Festival consolidated itself into the South West scene for a further ten years. Each year the event named itself after a particular spiritual theme that the team felt reflected important dynamics in the spiritual life of what was happening in the nation, hence names such as ‘A Table In The Wilderness’, ‘Destiny Calling’, ‘For Such A Time As This’ or ‘Gideon’s Heart’.

Musically the event each year drew together about 40 UK bands and artists plus dozens of speakers, teachers and a quality line up of arts and performers. The annual, 3 day summer event, brought together a mix of Christian music, arts, seminars and teaching with quality ministry. Housed in a village of marquees and outdoor venues, the festival provided a strong sense of community for the 2,500 people who attended.

Andy Hunter
Andy Hunter

The contemporary nature of music led many people to believe the festival was solely for youth. In practice however, the quality of artists and calibre of ministry drew an exciting mix of people from across the generations. We saw God beginning to work in "turning the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents" (Mal 4:6) - a very real contrast to the spirit of the age we live in.

For a post modern world the variety of styles and venues at the event gave freedom for people to choose the level at which they wished to respond to the Spirit of God; whilst the very real community atmosphere was conducive to drawing people to the Father heart of God. Questionnaire feedback showed more than 90% of festival goers had a positive spiritual experience.

In fact there was a lot of freedom for the Spirit of God to engage with people. Many people believed God had significantly touched their lives; dealing with emotional issues, past hurts and pain, fears and also bringing physical healings. Many testified to the strengthening of their faith and feeling equipped and encouraged to move on in their faith at a deeper level.


Some of the highlights over the years included the visit of artists from abroad such as Margaret Becker (USA), Rich Mullins (USA), Kevin Prosch (USA), Eric Champion (USA), The Resurrection Band (USA), Rick Elias (USA), David Evans (Australia), Normal Generation (Holland), Tree 63 (South Africa), MIC (South Africa). For many years Tony Loeffler, who has played to literally thousands of prisoners in American prisons, was a popular visitor bringing his jazz funk band The Blue Angels to the event. With the notable exception of Delirious?, arguably all of the ‘known’ names in UK Christian music visited the Cross Rhythms Festival – bands such as The Tribe, Split Level, Iona, Phatfish, Noel Richards, Matt Redman, Thebandwithnoname, Paul Oakley, dba and hundreds more. Each year we encouraged countless UK independent bands as well, running the Showcase venue, where for many it was one of their first major gigs.

Ministry at the Festival
Ministry at the Festival

The ministry heart at Cross Rhythms has also led to many speakers and ministers coming to the event, many with incredible ability to speak authoritative truth, to ‘hear from God’ and prayerfully minister to people, including: Tony Fitzgerald (Church Of The Nations, Virginia, USA), Tom & Suzie Brock (Wave Of Life, Hawaii), Brennan Manning (Louisiana, USA), Pete Greig (24-7 Prayer, UK), Mike Pilivacci (Soul Survivor, UK), Julie Anderson (Prayer For the Nations, UK), Obii Pax-Harry (Women Arise, UK) and dozens more.

The Cross Rhythms Festival ran from 1990 to 2003.

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