by Jo Hales
One of the highlights of the summer was when some of the church families took the short journey from Surrey to Sussex in order to grab a camping pitch on the Wiston Estate near Steyning ready for the start of the Big Church Festival.
As a Sussex girl myself, being at the foot of the South Downs is like coming home for me.
The festival is attended by over 30,000 people from all over the UK. We even spotted some visitors from Sweden.
It caters for all denominations and ages and really does have something for everyone. I always find it amazing to look out over the mainstage from above and think that all of the people before me are Christians happily worshiping together.
There are five major stages; The main stage where you will seethe biggest Christian artists and hear their testimonies as they introduce songs in their set.
The Illuminate stage which is for artists that are most likely to appeal to teenagers. Tom’s stage which is a beautiful cut-away airstream campervan converted into a stage, where different artists perform acoustic versions of their songs, the worship tent with the stage set in the round so that the focus is on God rather than performance and the garden stage where you can sit at tables and have cream teas whilst listening to a wide variety of choirs and solo artists.
During the day the St John’s church family set up a ‘base camp’ at the main stage leaving our camping chairs and picnic blankets as a marker. This is common practice at the Big Church festival and is a testament to the niceness of the people who attend.
This mean that we could go off and explore the site in ones and twos or in family groups to try out the rides and activities in the field of fun, check out the Cheeky Panda’s in the children’s tent (Sally’s favourite) or dance along to the Soul Sanctuary Gospel choir at the Garden stage, safe in the knowledge that when we returned to the main stage we could easily find each other.
This was especially important as although the site is an enclosed site and ticket only, which makes it a very safe environment, it has little or no mobile phone signal which makes a ‘where are you?’ call a bit challenging.
We were lucky enough to have John and Philippa visit us on site on both the Friday and Saturday.
There is scope for day visitors as well as for camping so it is still possible to enjoy time at the festival without the need to camp.
There is a dedicated day visitors car park and due to us sending pictures of our ‘basecamp’ location at the main stage John and Philippa found us easily.
I would describe Big Church as a family friendly festival which everyone young or old can get something out of.
Here's a highlights video that the girls from Junior Church made of the weekend!
We look forward to going again next year and I would encourage you to consider it either to visit or to camp as we are so lucky to have such a well-managed Christian event on our doorstep.