Gospel singers take to the Greenbelt stage.

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Organisers of the 50th Greenbelt Festival are welcoming a new act this year.Award-winning gospel choir The Spirituals will be playing at the event in Kettering – now in its 50th year.

Billed as somewhere artistry meets activism, festivalgoers can dance and debate, pray and party, with a multi-arts programme of music, visual and performing arts, spirituality, comedy and discussion.

It takes place at Boughton House, from Thursday, August 24-Sunday, August 27.

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New to the lineup for 2023 are The Spirituals which were formed in 2020, by music artist, Junior Garr and arranger/conductor Marsha Morrison.

The Spirituals warming up for their festival appearance.The Spirituals warming up for their festival appearance.
The Spirituals warming up for their festival appearance.

They will be playing on August 26.

The choir began by reimagining spiritual anthems to commemorate black history, music and culture. This summer (June) they won Choir of the Year at the Premier Gospel Awards, held at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea.

They love to create new arrangements from powerful classics, such as Something Inside So Strong, with the aim of highlighting injustice and inspiring people to take action.

‘Music has so much power.’

Creative director Junior said he set up the choir following the killing of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, in 2020.

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“The world was turned upside down,” he explained. “Not only that but we were then in a pandemic – and those two things sparked a really long journey for me of processing the tragic events happening around the world.

“I really wanted to talk about it and say something but I didn’t want it to be another rant on social media. I actually wanted to do something about it and so I spoke to a friend saying, why don’t we reimagine some Negro spirituals and tell the story about black people and how we ended up in the West.

“Essentially, we want to beautify the world by the songs we sing. Music has so much power – the very force of nature that music is has the ability to transform all languages and cultures and if we put the message in the music then the world can get to hear it and experience it.”

International development agency Christian Aid, which has been a partner in the Greenbelt Festival for 30 years, is also joining forces with The Spirituals on a tour later this year.

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Dr Lisa Adjei, British Church Relations Manager, said the pairing was a compelling project: “Christian Aid is very excited to be partnering with The Spirituals and thrilled they will be performing at this year’s festival.”

And Paul Northup, Creative Director of the Greenbelt Festival, said the team was delighted to be able to welcome The Spirituals.

He added: "We love the quality of their gospel artistry and repertoire and we also love the intentionality with which they connect that with their hunger for and commitment to social justice – mining back into the old traditional spirituals through which the gospel tradition was birthed.”

To find out more about Greenbelt visit www.greenbelt.org.uk and for more information about The Spirituals and Christian Aid go to www.christianaid.org.uk.