- Together Festival 22
- Next Gen
On Saturday 9th July 2022, Love Black Country hosted their first ever Together Festival gathering and what a day it was!
Held in the beautiful grounds of Himley Hall and Park near Dudley, the free-to-enter event saw around 3500 people gather together across the day, representing over 100 churches.
The sun shone throughout the day and the festival site, which was filled with vibrant festival flags and colourful big top tents, was awash with a sense of the presence of God and of family. Many people commented throughout the day that the ambience and overall atmosphere of the festival was unlike anything they’d experienced before. It truly felt like the coming together of a huge family and gave a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God is like.
As a multi-generational festival, everyone in the family was catered for.
Children were entertained in a specially created Family Zone, with a variety of crafts, treasure hunts, face-painting, carnival games, circus skills and Christian performances throughout the day. A huge sandpit, filled with buckets and spades and a variety of fairground rides completed the hive of activity in this incredibly popular part of the festival site. The Family Zone team was made up of children’s workers from churches across the region, who worked together for months to plan the zone. Paul Willmott, who headed up the Family Zone team, was thrilled with the overall impact on the children who attended.
“There were hundreds of children who enjoyed the Family Zone throughout the day. It was a delight to see them engaging with all of the different things we’d planned for them to do, knowing that everything had been interwoven with the message that Jesus loves them.”
Young people were equally catered for, with a huge dedicated Youth Zone filled with sporting activities, bubble football, a nerf arena, The Message Trust Gaming Bus and a ‘chill out’ area which hosted Q&A panels throughout the day in partnership with The Faith Experiment. The Youth Zone team consisted of youth workers from a variety of Black Country churches, all passionate about engaging young people with the love of God.
In the centre of the site, the bustling Creative Zone was also a hive of activity throughout the day. Performances on the acoustic stage were met with happy crowds perched on hay bales, whilst other people explored our Makers Market, wrote their names on the lakeside Together Letters, took a selfie by the angel wings or wrote out a prayer for the Prayer Tree, an art installation specially created for the day.
“The Prayer Tree was a beautiful centrepiece of the Creative Zone,” explained Elizabeth Farley, one of the Creative Zone Leads alongside Josie Gamble. “Seeing so many prayer ribbons blowing in the breeze on the tree was a powerful statement of where our hope truly lies. Our God is a God who listens.”
The Explore Zone housed exhibitors from a whole host of local and national Christian organisations, sharing about the work they do, with Compassion UK’s Compassion Experience a particular highlight for festival goers who wanted to know more about how poverty affects children in the developing world and how they can help. As a result, 25 Compassion children found new sponsors during the day. Black Country Foodbank also collected food donations throughout the day for local families living in food poverty.
Finally, at the very top of the hill, with the delicious smells of the culinary delights of the Street Food zone wafting in the air, a huge mainstage played host to professional Christian performances throughout the day. A particular highlight was the brilliant Guvna B, whose headline performance was met with large crowds, dancing and signing together.
Festival Organiser, Linsey Wildsmith, was over the moon with the overall impact of day.
“Together Festival started life as a sketch on a scrap piece of paper. As a result of the favour of God, we’ve seen it not only become a reality but exceed all that we could have asked or imagined it could be. We are so thankful for all God has done through the festival and are trusting that He will use the connections made between people and sights people have seen to inspire and mobilise the ongoing movement of His body working together for the transformation of the Black Country.”
In order to make it a free-to-enter event, Together Festival was partially funded through the kind partnership of churches across the Black Country as well sponsorship and investment from some incredibly generous individual donors and over 30 local and national Christian organisations.
John Cook, one of the Love Black Country’s network coordinators and trustees, is encouraged by the financial provision he has witnessed.
“We knew that hosting a completely free-to-enter festival was going to be a challenge but we’ve been so blessed by how God has provided through a myriad of generous individuals and organisations. It was so moving to see business people investing in charities so they could exhibit in the Explore Zone, sacrificial giving by individuals and churches, and random gifts that left us amazed. An offering was taken on the day to try and cover the remaining costs, with hundreds of people contributing and amazingly we are now only left with a £5000 budget deficit, which we’re believing will be met.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to the final budget deficit and invest in the ongoing movement can send donations via BACS. Our bank details can be found here.
And as for a future Together Festival? Tim Fellows, another network coordinator and trustee for Love Black Country, has big dreams.
“Our heart at Love Black Country is to facilitate as many opportunities as we can to gather The Church of the Black Country so we can celebrate and imagine the future together. We’ve been doing this for over 30 years and don’t intend to stop now. Whether that be another festival in the future or through other Together gatherings, you can watch this space with certainty that Together Festival 22 was one of many ‘moments’ we hope to share in the ongoing movement of the kingdom in our region.”
If you’d like to be kept up to date with information about future Together gatherings, as well as to engage with the many relational groups already meeting in your borough, please join our mailing list and follow us on social media.
You can view all the official Together Festival photographs, courtesy of Uche Nwogwugwu, by clicking here.