Wylde Green United Reformed Church (URC), 19 July 2024

In the last year or so, our Gospel Bell work with churches has expanded as we’ve ventured further afield and last night’s performance at the URC in Wylde Green, Boldmere, near Birmingham was at the invitation of our old friend the Revd Richard Becher who organised a rather special event to showcase the ministry of PeaceyK Nambi, a Ugandan singer and youth work with Youth with a Mission, Uganda. Donald and I were able to travel over a little earlier but Toni had to battle the Friday afternoon traffic from Banbury area, making it just in time. The URC Wylde Green is a lovely old church, with photos of its past ministers in the foyer dating back to the early 1920s. Today, the church hosts inclusive activities for all the community and that was evident from the array of notices in the entrance to the foyer.

We began the first of two sets at 7.15pm and after our first set, PeaceyK sang her own beautiful songs and shared aspects of her work with youth in Uganda. Her love of singing and for her culture and country truly shines through and later, she sang a song that she had composed for the youth of Burundi and Rwanda. She told us that she’d learnt a local Burundian dialect so that the lyrics would encourage the youth she met there. In the second set, we provided the backing for a reggae song sung by a guest singer and then we backed PeaceyK as she sang a song that she’d composed especially for last night.

Donald, Richard, PeaceyK and Toni

It was a fantastic evening! Our thanks to the URC Wylde Green for hosting us, Richard for organising the event, PeaceyK for her wonderful songs and voice and the enthusiastic audience that came to support this fund-raising evening.

St Leonard’s Church, Banbury, 29 June 2024

We have always enjoyed playing fundraisers at St Leonard’s – great singing, dancing and food too. On Saturday 29th June, the event began at 5pm (no conflicts then with Glastonbury main attractions!) and thanks to all the hard work promoting the event, it seemed to us that the largest audience so far came along to sing and dance with us. It is so encouraging to sing and play for such a responsive group of people and any disco would have been glad to see such a packed dance floor – let alone at a Gospel Bell gig! We took a break at around 6pm while the catering team served a fantastic and plentiful range of refreshments. After the break, Revd Kudzayi Harrison Bvekerwa, Vicar of St Leonard’s joined us on percussion and along with our friend Jay Ayliff making a guest appearance on saxophone and dobro, it was for a memorable evening of music!

Left to right: Richard, Revd Kudzayi, Thabo, Rachel, Donald, Toni and Jay

We would like to thank everyone who came along and supported the evening which raised £634.23 towards essential repairs to the church guttering. This joyful evening would not have been possible without the efforts of the catering team, the advance promotional effort and ticket selling and those who helped on the evening. We are particularly grateful to Sheila James and Olyvia Wilson for the invitation to play and we’ll look forward to the next time. Commenting on the evening, Sheila said that the evening generated ‘a massive amount of mood uplift and community spirit’. Commenting on Sheila’s Facebook post, a lady called Sue said: ‘It was joyous and just what I needed. Thank you all.’

Christian Aid Week, Deddington 11 May 2024

We were delighted to support the launch of this year’s Christian Aid week at St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church, Deddington on Saturday 11 May. To begin, we enjoyed conversation over a fantastic bring and share lunch, followed by some of our music. The main event featured an introduction to this year’s Christian Aid appeal by the Revd. Canon Christopher Hall, supported by a video about the challenges facing the people of Burundi. After this, Richard spoke about his experiences of working with rural communities in Burundi between 2013 and 2016. In particular, he shared details of a remarkable self-directed project by community members that led to dramatic reductions in child malnutrition.

Richard talks about community-led solutions to malnutrition in Burundi, East Africa

We played again after Richard’s talk and as ever, Donald encouraged us all to sing along. Our grateful thanks to Christopher and Viviane Hall, long-time champions and organisers of Christian Aid week in Deddington, Iain Gillespie for great technical support, Sarah Banes for help with setting-up, Revd Nick Fielden, Vicar, Stan Nelson, Church Warden and everyone that made this such a special occasion (food, conversation, singing and support for the event).

The band (L to R) Richard, Rachel, Thabo and Donald flanked by Jenny (on the left) and Judy (on the right)

St Mary Magdalene, Duns Tew, Oxfordshire: Burns Night supper, 27 January 2024

We were delighted to play at a Burns Night supper fundraising event in Duns Tew village hall on 27 January. The event was beautifully organised by Clare and team with lovely food and refreshments. I think it’s the first time that we’ve had a table set for us (complete with candle) on the stage and so we were literally the top table! Thank you Clare and St Mary Magdalene church for your kindness and hospitality, we really enjoyed the night.

Our thanks to Clare and team: (left to right): Richard, Clare, Rachel, Thabo, Julie, Donald, Toni

Organiser Clare writes: What a fabulous, joyful evening you gave us yesterday! Thank you so much. We so enjoyed the different style sets of music. I particularly enjoyed the Gospel set and the chance to sing along with the chorus.  Such a lovely and, as you said, prayerful, chance to sing with others. You never know what journeys might be started, as a result. We loved the way you addressed the haggis, too! It was lots of fun. We haven’t totted everything up, but profits are looking to be in the region of £600. We have recently applied to the Diocese to plumb in a kitchen sink in our church. This will make catering for after-service teas and coffees easier. We thought we had enough to cover it, but costs have gone up a bit since we got quotes originally, so this extra income will ensure we can afford to do the work.

All Saints Mollington fund-raising concert, Friday 15 December 2023

Our Gospel Bell goal is to play and help fund-raise in ancient and beautiful churches, some of which are battling to survive. The earliest parts of the Church of England parish church of All Saints, Mollington, Oxfordshire date from the 14th century and the font is 13th century so there may have been an earlier church building on the site.

We have played at All Saints Mollington on numerous occasions in support of the local church team and the previous Vicar of the Shires Edge Benefice, Revd Hilary Campbell, who asked us to play in all five of her churches and so we were delighted to be invited back by church treasurer, Mike. In fact, Mike invited us to play almost 12 months ago in November 2022 – he was that keen!

On Friday 15 December, we enjoyed a truly memorable evening of singing together and we’d like to thank Mike, Bob and the All Saints team for a really well organised event. Mike writes: Many thanks again to Gospel Bell for last night’s performance.  It really was a lovely, joyous evening. You are the most genuine and generous group we could hope to meet.  We raised over £260 and, as a certain supermarket advert says: every little helps!

Left to right: Andrew, Donald, Thabo and Richard – thank you to the All Saints team for a joyful evening!

The Friends’ of St Marys Christmas Concert, Saturday 9 December 2023

Our thanks to Becky, Ian and all who helped to make the Christmas Concert fundraising event for St Mary’s Bloxham such a lovely evening. The first half consisted of a wide range of Christmas-themed music performed by the St Mary’s Choir, Music Group and soloists, with audience participation. After the refreshment interval, we played a 50 minute set with excellent audience chorus singing. A fantastic evening with a rich array of music in a beautiful setting!

Left to right: Toni, Julie, Donald and Richard

Ian, Chair – Friends of St Mary’s Bloxham writes:

Your set was clearly greatly enjoyed by the audience and nicely complemented the first half from the church choir and music group. Sitting as I was near the back I had a good sense of the toe-tapping and sing-a-long you were generating amongst the masses in front of me! Funds raised from the evening are climbing towards £500 which is good considering this was a donations-only event on a rather blustery, inhospitable evening, and this has been a significant element of a varied Friends’ Christmas Programme of fundraising activities. Thanks again for putting heart and soul into performing to help us as you’ve done. It’s really appreciated.

Fundraiser for the Quaker meeting house Sibford Gower, Oxfordshire, Saturday 18 November

Our thanks to Megan, Adrian and all the team for inviting us to play for you last night. Adrian and Andy (Main Street) were excellent and I have never seen such an incredible spread of home made cakes! The meeting house is such a beautiful space and with the use of Adrian’s rather bigger PA (Thank you Adrian) we were quite loud and clear – one small boy on the front row sat there with his hands over his ears for our entire performance (we must suggest that people try that!) but no one else said we were too loud – and I especially enjoyed the children dressed as Angels (I think!) who were dancing at the front. Well done to the whole team – 77 people came (even though we were competing with Strictly Come Dancing on the TV) everyone sang really well and the event raised more than £400.

Thank you for a fun evening!

Here we are attempting surround sound singing to encourage the community singing!

Elmwood United Reformed Church, Saturday 4 November 2023

Donald and Richard joined by Omar playing harmonica and saxophone played at a fund-raising event in Birmingham on Saturday 4 November. The appeal raised £550 in donations to Christian Aid to support emergency aid for victims of conflict in Palestine and Israel.

Our thanks to event organiser Richard Becher and the team at Elmwood URC for a warm welcome and excellent samosas served during the interval!

Left to right: Richard, Donald, Virginia, Richard and Omar

Erdington Abbey Church Centre, Birmingham, Friday 29 September 2023

Parish Priest Fr Kieran Brady writes: The Parish of St Thomas & St Edmund of Canterbury, affectionately known as ‘The Abbey’ is located in the suburb of Erdington in the Northern part of the City of Birmingham. Here we share our faith with the many cultures and nationalities in the Erdington Abbey Parish Community. The Abbey was built in 1850 and currently requires considerable internal and external repair and restoration work. Given this, we were delighted to assist by playing at a restoration fundraising event on Friday 29 September. More than 100 people came to the concert and proceeds from ticket sales, the raffle and bar sales totalled £1,000. What a great contribution to the appeal! Not only that, but we had a fantastic evening together.

Gospel Bell about six feet from the ground at the restoration fundraiser for The Abbey

Hanwell St Peter Pet Service, Sunday 17 September 2023

Our thanks to Rev. Alicia Baker and her colleague Rev. Guy (who stood in for me on bass while I was in California!) for inviting Gospel Bell to play at a Service of Animal Blessing and Harvest Festival at Hanwell St. Peter on Sunday 17 September 2023. We’ve played a few Pet service events now and the animals that come along (with their owners) seem to know that this is for them – they always seem to be engaging with our music and Donald’s pet-theme talks. As I returned from the USA later that day, it was lovely to see the photos and the picture below of Toni with a toe-tapping tortoise is my favourite!

Thank you Alicia, Guy and all creatures great and small for supporting the event.