Whatever your tastes and theology, the growing number of summer festivals means that there should be something to suit you. We talk to satisfied customers who attended Keswick, New Wine and Greenbelt last year and reveal the speakers and bands appearing in a field near you this summer
“It was a very special week of fellowship for our church,” says Joan Pygott, who went to New Wine in Newark last summer. “There were two morning venues - I chose one that was hosted by Andy Hawthorne and the team from the Message Trust. It was inspirational. We heard about the Eden project in Manchester, where Christians are relocating into difficult communities to bring God’s presence into the community – awesome work! The worship was very special in those meetings. My particular favourite was Andy Smith; I bought his CD ‘Breathe’ which I play practically every day now.”
There is always a strong family atmosphere at New Wine, and Joan found that aspect of it particularly moving, especially when children were encouraged to join adults in worship. “There was one occasion where when hundreds of children age eight and nine ran into the main meeting praising God,” she says. “And in one family meeting, all the children sent balloons full of prayers into the air. It was brilliant! The healing ministry at the end of each meeting and particularly on the last evening was wonderful because it was totally inclusive. Everybody got the chance to be ministered to in a prayer tunnel and lots of people reported that they had received something from God. I personally felt very loved by God.
“The weather was wonderful too. One day it was so hot, the children had a water fight on the field behind the camp. They had so much fun and I, as a 58-year-old, enjoyed watching them just as much.”
In contrast the weather at Greenbelt could have been better. Tim Watkins-Idle – who attended with his wife Sarah and their children Joel and Samuel – described it as “grey and slightly damp, but entirely manageable.”
Tim is one of several seasoned Greenbelters who started going to the festival as a youth. “Greenbelt was absolutely central to my spiritual growth as an older teenager and student,” he says. “It engaged my brain in a way that mainstream evangelical stuff didn’t. It has a lot of responsibility for my left wing, wishy-washy evangelical-ish way of looking at the world.
“These days it’s fun and I learn something from the seminars, but I’m rather more set in my ways. I didn’t get to see many of the speakers last year because of the kids. But I really enjoyed hearing both John Bell and Frank Schaeffer. Especially Frank – he was very funny.”
The big highlight of Greenbelt for Tim was not any particular item on the programme, but simply the opportunity to socialise. “I met Andy and Susie, a CMS missionary couple who work in Tanzania,” he says. “It was wonderful to get to hear some of their stories. Aside from catching up with friends, a big highlight of Greenbelt for me was ‘Beer and Hymns’ in the beer tent.” The rest of Tim’s family also enjoyed the festival. “Joel and Samuel thoroughly approved of the childcare,” says Tim. “The registration process was much improved, too.”
Rob Baker had just returned from a missionary posting in Africa when he took his family to last year’s Keswick Convention.
“It was just what we needed 10 days after flying into the UK!” he says. “As a missionary returning from four years’ service in Africa, the meeting for other returning missionaries held one afternoon was very helpful. There was some great advice on re-entry into British culture and a wonderful opportunity to compare notes with others in a similar position.
“The worship was great. It was led by Stuart Townend and a band largely composed of Fellinghams. There was a great atmosphere in the tent and some awesome new songs. Another highlight for us was the location itself; Keswick is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains. We stayed in a lovely cottage 15 minutes’ walk form the centre. We had some great hill walking with the kids in our free time. The weather was typical Lake District weather: some sunny days, others when it chucked it down! All part of the experience, though.
“There were plenty of good speakers and sound biblical teaching. One challenging message which sticks in my mind was by Chris Sinkinson, entitled: ‘The Sermon on the Mount: A different kind of people.’ The main point, as I recall, was about not letting the world change us or ‘squeeze us into its mould’.”
Rob feels that Keswick gave him a spiritual focus and a time of reflection, along with a chance to worship and give thanks to God. But he did notice one area where some changes could be made.
“I’m in my late 30s, but found myself among some of the youngest people attending Keswick,” he says. “I’d say that around 80 per cent of those attending were over 60, and many seemed to have been coming every year for the past 30 years or more. However, given the quality of the music, teaching and kids’ programme, I see no reason why Keswick should be just an ‘old folks’ conference! I wish there were a way to get more younger families along, as the Keswick Convention is a low-cost, biblically sound, spiritually enriching experience for all ages.”
For your own festival experience, check out the choice of events this summer, from long established favourites like Soul Survivor – to newcomers like the Bognor Regis Bible week. There should be something for everyone.
Where? Various venues in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent
What? Now in its third year, NXT ministries’ two-day music festival is once again changing venue. Last year, it was held at Trentham Gardens. This year, it is being held on three stages: two free ones and one ticketed one.
When? 3rd – 4th July
How much? Day tickets: Adult £15, concessions/under 16 £12. Weekend tickets: Adult £25, concessions/under 16 £18.
Who? Matt Redman, Salvador, London Community Gospel Choir, Hillsong London, Andy Hunter, The Steels, Life Colour. Hosted by comedian John Archer.
What the organisers say: “After two years of running large events at the Britannia Stadium and Trentham Gardens, we have decided to step out and do something a little different for 2009. Working with Stoke City Council, we are going to take over the town centre of Burslem – the Mother Town of the Potteries.”
Bognor Regis Bible Week www.christforthenationsuk.org
Where? The Royal Norfolk Hotel, The Esplanade, Bognor Regis
What? Week-long event hosted by Christ for the Nations UK, including morning Bible teaching, afternoon fringe events, often hosted by local churches, and evening speakers with worship. Around 300-400 people attended last year. The theme for 2009 is ‘Thy Kingdom Come!’
When? 20th – 27th September
How much? A Bible week pass for £35 guarantees a seat at main morning and evening events. Free entry to individual events with offerings taken.
Who? Lyndon Bowring, Clifford Hill, David and Mary Pytches, Roger and Sue Mitchell, Greg Haslam, Derek Tidball, Rob Newey, Phatfish.
What the organisers say: “An exciting new venture by Christ for the Nations UK (Bible Training Centre) based at Bognor Regis, West Sussex. Based loosely on major Bible week models, but on a much smaller scale, we are aiming to provide a friendly, relaxed event, wellsupported by local Christians.”
CLAN Gathering 2009 www.new-wine-scotland.org
Where? Madras College, Kilrymont, St Andrews, Scotland
What? CLAN (Christians Linked Across the Nation) is the Scottish equivalent of New Wine’s summer conferences in Shepton Mallet and Newark. Some 3,500 people attended last year’s gathering.
When? 18th – 24th July
How much? Adults £105; Students £85; Youth/children over 5 £70; children under 5 £52
Who? Heidi Baker, Mark Stibbe, Andrea Wigglesworth, Tommy MacNeil, Kenny Borthwick, Tim Hughes, Al Gordon, David Ross, Esther Franklin and Lesley Penny.
What the organisers say: “CLAN Gathering will envision and empower Christians and churches for worship which is passionate, intimate, reverent and biblical, and teach and equip people of all ages for Spirit-filled Christian life and ministry in their churches and in the places where they live and work.”
Creation Fest www.creationfest.org.uk
Where? Royal Cornwall Showground, Wadebridge, Cornwall.
What? Free Christian music festival including rap, Hip Hop, rock, neo-soul, jazz, funk and more. Now in its 8th year, Creation Fest has extended to a full seven day festival. 7,000 attended last year.
When? 7th – 13th August
How much? Free entry and parking. Camping: Adults £6, children £3, families £12.75/£17.85, groups £5.40 each.
Who? Scott Cunningham, [dweeb], Superhero, Philippa Hanna, [crave], BOSH, Shell Perris, Finchley and more tbc.
What the organisers say: “Creation Fest exists with the aim to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. It offers something for all the family with a full programme of music, teaching seminars, workshops, sports activities, films, ‘Creation Kids’ and family fun. We also have a massive skate/BMX park with Pro skate demos throughout the festival.”
Where? Kent County Showground, Maidstone, Kent
What? Non-denominational festival run by Revival Fire Conferences. Last year, 3,500-4,000 people attended. This year’s theme is “Nothing is Impossible”.
When? 8th – 13th August
How much? Adults £129, 11-18s £96 for the week. Family packages and day tickets also available online.
Who? Jeff Lucas, Paul Scanlon, Eric Delve, Michelle Guinness, Bishop Wayne Malcolm, Adrian Plass. The Message Trust will be running the youth programme.
What the organisers say: “Detling seeks to equip, encourage and empower the church to be all God intended us to be.”
Grace Family Bible Week www.gfbwmorval.co.uk
Where? Grace Community Church, Oaktrees, Morval, Looe, Cornwall
What? A week-long camping holiday for all ages. Children, youth and adult activities during the day with families encouraged to join together in the evening. 600 attended last year.
When? 25th July - 1st August
How much? Free but donations welcome. If camping, the fee is £70 a pitch, which includes two people and a car. Additional children cost an extra £10; additional adults £15. Book in advance to ensure a camping pitch.
Who? John Gillespie, Andrew Ollerton
What the organisers say: “The servant-heartedness of the Grace family has often been remarked on by our visitors and, along with the teaching, this seems to be what makes our Bible week such a blessing to our guests.”
Grapevine 2009 www.grapevinecelebration.org.uk
Where? Lincolnshire Showground, Grange de Lings, Lincoln
What? Family event now in its 28th year. Some 10-12,000 people attended last year.
When? 28th August - 1st September HOw MUCH? Adults £90/ £95, children £75/ £83 including camping. Day passes also available. Under 5s go free.
Who? Stuart Bell, Tony Miller, Jeff Lucas, Duane White, Andrew Owen, Lawrence Neisent
What the organisers say: “We believe the Church is here to have a growing impact for God within our nation. As salt and light we nudge our world towards character, integrity and better behaviour.”
Where? Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham
What? All-age, Christian-based multi-genre arts festival with a large and varied programme of speakers and worship. 16,500 attended last year. This year’s theme is ‘Standing in the Long Now’.
When? 28th - 31st August
How much? See greenbelt.org.uk/tickets (deadline discounts, concessions, youth, child and family ticket options)
Who? Rob Bell, Giles Fraser, Bev Thomas, Alistair McIntosh, Douglas Alexander MP, thebandwithnoname, LZ7, Miriam Jones, Tim Hughes (lineup constantly being updated).
What the organisers say: “People of all ages, all denominations, all faiths (and some of none) all mixing together for a festival experience.”
Leading Edge www.baptist.org.uk/leadingedge
Where? The Warwick School, Warwick
What? All-age Bible week organised by the Baptist Union and Viz a Viz. Includes a special stream for those in their twenties, sport and entertainment.
When? 10th - 16th August
How much? Family of 5 £287-£380, adult £98-£126, youth £66- £98, child £54-£87
Who? Kingsley Appiagyei, Fran Beckett, Ian Ruth Coffey, Mark Greene, David Shosanya, Dennis Pethers, Jonathan Edwards.
What the organisers say: “Leading Edge seeks to offer a refreshing, fun and inspiring holiday for all ages. People from around the UK - from three week old babies to those in their nineties – come together for a week, to worship God, learn, play and simply have a great time.”
Keswick Convention 2009 www.keswickministries.org
Where? Keswick, Cumbria
What? Event taking place over three weeks in July. Full adult programme; separate programmes for 18-30s and those with learning disabilities (2nd week only), and for children and youth (each week). An estimated 12-15,000 people attended last year; this year’s theme is ‘Faith That Works’.
When? Week 1: 11th - 17th July Week 2: 18th - 24th July Week 3: 25th - 31st July
How much? No charge – they rely on freewill donations.
Who? Week 1: Dale Ralph Davis, Peter Maiden, Keith Kristyn Getty Week 2: Jonathan Lamb, Amy Orr-Ewing, Steve James Week 3: Vaughan Roberts, John Risbridger, Stuart Townend Phatfish
What the organisers say: “The great attraction of the Keswick Convention is that the programme not only offers superb Bible teaching from a team of acclaimed international speakers, but also gives you the flexibility to enjoy time off with family and friends to explore the beautiful Lakes and the bustling market town of Keswick itself.”
Where? Bath and West Showground, Somerset
What? A Soul Survivor event for students and 20-somethings, including seminars, cafes, late night worship, cinema, sports, prayer room, art shed, performing arts, live lounge. Over 3,000 attended last year.
When? 22nd - 26th August HOw MUCH? £92
Who? Mike Pilavachi, Mike Erre, Mark Greene, Viv Thomas, Ken Costa, Maggie Ellis, Frog and Amy Orr-Ewing.
What the organisers say: “Momentum is five days in a field with God, your mates and thousands of others who are trying to follow Jesus in their daily lives!”
Where? Norfolk Showground, Cotessey, Norfolk.
What? Youth conference for 12-19 year olds, with celebrations, Bible teaching, skate park, sports competitions, art workshops and social action projects in Derby
When? 1st - 6th August
How much? 3-11s £79, 12 and above £119
Who? To be announced
What the organisers say: “Newday is a six-day camping event for young people where we get to encounter Jesus together.”
New Horizon www.newhorizon.org.uk
Where? University of Ulster, Coleraine
What? A week of teaching, fellowship and worship for all ages. Theme for 2009 is ‘Enjoying God’. Those planning to attend youth programmes need to register and this can be done online at a cost of £10 per week per programme. There is no other registration required for the event.
When? 18th - 24th July
How much? No charge – costs are covered through donations and offerings.
Who? Don Carson, Ray Ortlund
What the organisers say: Major elements in the programme are morning Bible readings, seminars, evening celebrations, children’s work, celebration for those with learning disabilities, separate programmes for youth and senior teens, and end of day informal activities on and off site.
New Wine www.new-wine.org/summer/
Where? Newark and Nottinghamshire County Showground, Newark (North and East conference) Royal Bath and West Showground, Shepton Mallet (London and South East, and Central and South West conferences)
What? Three week-long conferences with a focus on mission under the theme ‘Step Out’. 30,000 people attended last year.
When? 25th - 31st July (North and east) 25th - 31st July (London and south east) 2nd - 8th August (Central and south west)
How much? Adult £146, 14-19s £120, 12-13s £114 (cheaper if ordered online)
Who? to be confirmed
What the organisers say: “This conference is all about being envisioned, equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we overcome our fears and engage in the sort of fulfilling and fruitful mission that will change lives, churches, communities and our nation!”
New Wine Cymru www.flamesoffire.co.uk
Where? Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells
What? A week-long event including worship, teaching, ministry, fellowship and recreation. 1,000 attended last year.
When? 1st - 7th August
How much? Adult £120, 12-18s £85, 5-11s £75, 0-5s £45
Who? David Parker; others to be announced
What the organisers say: “Hundreds of us gather in a spacious auditorium to lift our voices and fix our gaze on the Lord, using contemporary songs mixed with traditional hymns interspersed with Welsh-language lyrics.”
Where? Ashburnham Place, East Sussex
What? Bible week organised by the Ichthus Christian Fellowship, with a range of events for all ages. Last year, over 2,000 people attended. The theme this year is ‘Seedtime and Harvest: Bear Much Fruit’.
When? 1st - 8th August
How much? Camping ranges from £63 to £138, depending on the size of tent. Week passes are adult £45, 13-17s £34, 3-12s £20 and 0-3s are free.
Who? Che Ahn, Greg Boyd and Roger Faith Forster.
What the organisers say: “For over ten years Revive! has provided a wonderful environment for all the family to meet with and be challenged by God.”
Soul Survivor www.soulsurvivor.com/uk
Where? Stafford Showground, Stafford (Week A) Bath and West Showground, Somerset (Week B C)
What? A five-day event primarily for young people, including seminars, cafes, sports, skate park, late night worship, cinema, prayer room, gigs. Over 27,000 attended last year.
When? Week A: 24th - 28th July Week B: 12th - 16th August Week C: 17th - 21st August
How much? £92
Who? Mike Pilavachi, Jason Gardner, Ali Martin, Matt Summerfield, LZ7, One Nation, Onehundredhours and more (not all speakers/artists are at all weeks)
What the organisers say: “Grab a tent and join us as we spend five days worshipping Jesus in a field! This year’s Soul Survivor events are packed full of awesome venues, time to chill with your mates, an incredible array of seminars and (start praying now) great weather!”
Summer Madness www.summermadness.co.uk
Where? Royal Ulster Agricultural Showgrounds, Belfast
What? A five-day event for young people; including seminars, debates, workshops, sport, cafes, cinema, prayer room, gigs, mainstage worship and teaching, new festival stream for 18+, separate venue and extensive programme (£35 non-residential).
When? 3rd - 7th July
How much? Standard Camper: £59.50 - £74.50 / Family Ticket: £220.00 / Sibling discount: (First Child = 100%, second = 50%, third = 25%, fourth = free).
Who? Andy Hickford, Jason Clark, Rachael Gardner, Brian McLaren, Andy Frost.
Together on A Mission www.newfrontiers.xtn.org
Where? Brighton Centre, Brighton
What? Leadership conference hosted by Newfrontiers. It includes two streams: Leadership International (for leaders) and Mobilise (for students and twenties).
When? 7th - 10th July
How much? For Leadership International: £140 For Mobilise: £80
Who? Terry Virgo, Stephen Van Rhyn, David Holden, Kate Simmonds, Phatfish
What the organisers say: “This annual event gathers over 5,000 delegates from 50 nations for inspiring teaching, worship and ministry.”