LIVERPOOL RECENTLY HOSTED YET ANOTHER GLORIOUS MUSIC FESTIVAL TO GET YOU PEOPLE OFF THEIR SEAT, RAISING THEIR HANDS, SINGING ALONG AND PRAISING THE LORD (NO MATTER WHAT THEIR RELIGIOUS VIEWS HAPPENED TO BE).
Gospel music is and has always been a huge crowd-pleaser. A passionate and powerfully inspiring form of song that naturally brings people together and lifts people’s spirits quite unlike any other form of music can. Like the sound of a rousing choir singing positive, life-affirming lyrics, led by some of the biggest names in Gospel today? Liverpool recently had just the thing for you.
On Saturday 9th September, North Liverpool’s glorious Staney Park welcomed thousands of music worshippers to the very first ‘Liverpool Gospel Music Festival’ featuring a selection of internationally renowned Gospel artists.
Following the event, Marketing Liverpool met up with Festival and Music Director, Anu Omideyi, to learn more about this divine new Liverpool music festival. “We were there to celebrate,’ explains Anu, “We were there to welcome people and rejoice in the wonder of life, through music. That’s why Liverpool was the perfect host city for this event.”
Anu, Tell me about the festival. Where did the idea come from?
“It really came from our work at Liverpool Lighthouse to develop a National Gospel Music Centre and from wanting to make Liverpool a destination city for gospel music. Through Liverpool Lighthouse, an arts and community centre and registered charity, we work with North Liverpool’s residents and businesses to help create thriving communities of people living more fulfilled lives.
“As an Arts and Community centre, we use engagement with the arts to improve people’s wellbeing, so they can go on to develop the skills they need to meet their aspirations. Our projects provide the local community and vulnerable groups with opportunities to develop skills, create and experience arts and culture and connect with others, integrated with practical support for people in crisis or who need a helping hand.”
Tell me about what went on during the event.
“Well, there was one big stage on which some of the UK’s best gospel artists performed. From The Kingdom Choir who sang at Prince Harry & Meghan’s wedding and the international gospel music sensation ‘ CalledOut Music’ to local favourites Love & Joy Gospel Choir, Sense of Sound and Wavertree Gospel Choir. We also had a number of stalls alongside entertainment specifically for children, so that people could bring the whole family.
“This festival was a wonderful extension of the work Liverpool Lighthouse do and it was very inclusive. It had been designed to be both a celebration of gospel music and a fun family day out for anyone who enjoys lively, upbeat music whatever their beliefs or backgrounds.”
That’s interesting. I think a lot of people see ‘gospel’ and automatically think about religious teachings and sermons.
“And they’d be right! Gospel music unapologetically stems from and relates to the Christian faith. But this festival was really for everyone, for the people of North Liverpool and far beyond. Through the event, we celebrated the music as a genre and we actively encouraged people of all faiths, ethnicities and identities to attend.
“Gospel music is vibrant, uplifting, inspiring and deeply moving – which is why you hear it behind your favourite pop star when they sing with a choir, or its influences in modern-day film and culture! Gospel music’s influence is far and wide and it touches absolutely everybody, in some shape or form.”
I heard that people came from all over the UK to attend the Festival. Is that true?
“Yes, we attracted around 3,000 people from all over the country. Liverpool is a city that really gets behind events like this. Especially in North Liverpool, which can be somewhat overlooked, when it comes to cultural events, compared to the city centre.”
What is the benefit to North Liverpool of hosting big cultural events like this? Why is culture so important to regeneration?
“There’s huge benefits to North Liverpool and it’s so important for local businesses and communities. A lot of local businesses participated through partnerships and the hosting of stalls and we know these things have a hugely positive effect on the hospitality sector.
“Culture is crucially important to regeneration because events like this bring so much positive attention to the region. With great attention, investment and commerce follow. Liverpool is such a culturally diverse place and events like this embrace all those different aspects of our different cultures and help to bring our communities together and help to create a stronger sense of community.”
You said that you believe Liverpool is the perfect place to host this event. How so?
“I think Liverpool has shown time again that it knows how to host a great festival! Liverpool simply loves music and is very open to new music too and the city’s status as a UNESCO City of Music, among other things, has long since demonstrated its broader commitment to that love. Liverpool also has such a strong contribution to the development of black history in which gospel music is rooted.”
What are the future plans for Liverpool Gospel Music Festival?
We want to run it every year. We’re very pleased to already have a licence to make Liverpool Gospel Music Festival an annual event. We’re also working with Resonate, the music education hub, to deliver a 6-week programme bringing Gospel Music into schools. It’s a fun programme with lots of singing and exploring the music and its history. We’ve piloted two secondary schools and will roll it out to 14 more in the next academic year.”
Why would you say Gospel Music is so popular with so many people?
“Ah, now there’s a question! I’d say it’s because it’s such an experience! It’s just so uplifting, inspiring, moving and deeply connecting! When the beat gets going and the voices come together you can’t help but feel swept up in it all! That’s why so many pop stars will use gospel influences in their songs and performances. We think about 60-70% of pop music features gospel music professionals or influences in one way or another, especially in the live music scene! Gospel music gives greater meaning to song. It energises people from within and that feeling is shared through all that can hear it. Gospel music unites and stirs the soul.”
Finally, tell me about the broader work Liverpool Lighthouse is doing in North Liverpool? How can people support this?
“We’re an arts and community centre that runs several programmes and events with a focus on well-being from festivals and theatre productions to community well-being programmes, we also run a coffee shop and a food pantry. We aim to provide a creative sanctuary for everyone who enters our building, from the vulnerable in the community to artists in the city. You can support us by getting involved with our programmes via liverpoollighthouse.com, partnering with us or donating to help us serve the vulnerable around us.”
For further information about Liverpool Gospel Music Festival 2023 click HERE.