Multicultural creative arts celebrated at fun festival

Down in the River music 1 credit Gavin InglisThe Revd Mark Meatcher, United Reformed Church minister for the Chelmsford and Area Group of United Reformed Churches, reflects on Down in the River: Festival-on-Sea, a multicultural celebration of music, art, poetry, and film in Southend-on-Sea.

URC members and their families and friends enjoyed a fully packed programme of activities for all ages on 23 September, as part of the URC’s year of celebration of Feasts and Festivals.

The children’s programme included a visit to the beach, a screening of Paddington – a wonderful film about a refugee bear – and a visit to the ice cream van (why not, when you’re at the seaside).

For others, there was the opportunity to join workshops led by the Revd Lucy Berry, the URC’s poet-minister, the Revd Jak Davis a Metropolitan Community Church minister, Neil Roper from Christian Aid, and the Commitment for Life programme coordinator Linda Mead on the URC’s renewed focus on Christian discipleship and mission, Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus today.

There was something for everyone, including opportunities to enjoy classical and Hungarian music as well as some great spicy food courtesy of the Essex Multi-Cultural Activities Network.

Down in the River relates to the gospel song Down in the River to Pray which resonates with the voices of those transported by sea and river as part of the slave trade, old and new, and of those fleeing war and persecution.

Many people were moved to tears after a screening of a moving documentary Humanity’s Rising by Tazeen Ahmed, and the multi award-winning film My Feral Heart.

Down in the River music 2 Gavin InglisWe celebrated the theme and the diversity of our communities with everything from art and craft to music, including performances by young adults with learning disabilities.

The festival was rounded off with Gill West reading some of her poetry, folk group The Famous Potatoes performing and Asian singer, Shephali Frost, giving those gathered a taste of Indian music at its best.

The entire day started and ended with worship, as thanks was given to God for the many talents given to so many people who made the day a true Feast and Festival enjoyed by the many who came along.

 Photos: Gavin Inglis