21/08/2016 Songs of Praise


21/08/2016

As the Notting Hill Carnival celebrates its 50th anniversary, Robert Beckford finds out about the Christian origins of carnival. Plus a special performance by Heather Small.


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Transcript


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Every August bank holiday for the past 50 years, the streets of

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W11 in London have been filled with the sound of steel drums,

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the smell of Caribbean cooking and the sight of colourful costumes.

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This time next week,

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these streets will be full of people enjoying the Notting Hill Carnival.

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I'm Professor Robert Beckford and I've always been fascinated

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by the theology behind the celebration,

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so I've come here to find out about the origins of the event

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and to meet the people who put their faith into the festival.

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# What have you done today to make you feel proud? #

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Also on today's show, former M People lead singer Heather Small

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talks about her music and faith as well as performing for us.

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I used to read a passage from the Bible and then come back

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and be asked questions about it and you'd get a little prize,

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which was a sweet, and that was always an incentive for me.

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So Bible studies and sweets, it went well for me.

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And we're in Batley, West Yorkshire, for another of our unsung

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-rugby heroes.

-Thanks very much. Keep smiling, go on.

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Jim McVeigh will be joining the rest of the Songs Of Praise choir

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chosen to sing Abide With Me at the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final

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at Wembley next weekend.

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Today's programme will have music both traditional and modern

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from the capital and across the country.

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And we start south of the river from here in Brixton at Ruach Church

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with an enthusiastic hymn of praise.

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RHYTHMIC CLAPPING

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STEEL DRUM MUSIC

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Carnivals in this area of London date back to the late 1950s

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at a time when racial integration was a real issue.

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Michael King's father, Sam, was a local pastor

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and one of the founders of the first carnival.

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It wasn't a radical political statement,

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it was a statement of unity.

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It was something that needed to be done at the time to exhibit

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Caribbean culture,

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bring a positive light to Caribbean culture,

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bring a bit of racial harmony.

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It was a way of getting the information over of,

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"These are us from the colonies, here's an experience,

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"an example of how we live

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"and let us live together in harmony and peace."

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Carnival, according to the dictionary,

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means an annual festival,

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typically during the week before Lent in Roman Catholic countries,

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involving processions, music, dancing and the use of masquerade.

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The carnival arose out of the backdrop of the race riots in the late 1950s.

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I just wondered if you could tell me whether you think it's lost

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its connection to Christianity.

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That's a very good question.

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Some would say yes but I think things evolve in a way

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because it's all-encompassing.

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They have fun together at carnival, people enjoy one another's

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presence, they enjoy the whole experience, that is an expression

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of love, which is the fundamental tenet of Christianity.

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It's the foundation of knowing God.

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Police have arrested over 100 alleged gang members ahead of

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the weekend's Notting Hill Carnival.

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We've had violence, we've had robberies,

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we've had tragic deaths and all sorts of things happening.

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I believe that there is always evil and I think sometimes it rears

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its ugly head and unfortunately it becomes very newsworthy.

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What I'd like to see is newsworthiness of the good things

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that are happening. Let's celebrate the good more.

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So, in some ways, it's evolved and changed but it's up to us to bring

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it back to the core root, which is that God is love and every time

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you're enjoying yourself and loving somebody, he's in the midst of it.

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Even though Michael was raised a Christian,

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it wasn't until later in life that he found faith.

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I had clothing shops when I was younger and it happened in

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Brixton when a friend came, he was evangelising at Brixton station,

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he was driving everybody crazy,

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they actually wanted to attack him and we took him into the shop

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to protect him and he spoke to us and he evangelised and he said,

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"Look, Christ is real. Everything else doesn't count.

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"What counts is your relationship."

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And within two weeks,

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I was receiving Christ tearfully into my life again.

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And for someone like me to be called, I was like,

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"God, are you sure you've got it right? I think you've got it wrong."

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But because of life experiences,

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and because I know where I've come from and the past that I've had

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and haven't been in church all my life,

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I'm honoured and privileged to serve him.

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Are you still involved in the carnival?

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We're looking at setting up carnival pastors and this year,

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some of us will be there, we'll be walking round there to support,

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help, love and answer questions because you find when you're

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in clergy collar, people ask you, "Is God real? Why do you love him?

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"Why is there pain and suffering in the world?"

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I blame that on the devil instantly.

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You know, this is the kind of thing that happens when you make

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yourself available to answer God's call.

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Next week, 32 rugby-league-mad fans will walk out onto the centre

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of the Wembley pitch and sing Abide With Me.

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It will be the culmination of a long search by Songs Of Praise

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to find a choir of superfans of the sport to sing this meaningful

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and powerful hymn.

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At the age of 84, Jim McVeigh will be the oldest member of our choir.

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# Abide with me... #

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I've been going to Wembley for many, many, many years.

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And I used to see the choirs

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and I used to sing Abide With Me and cry...

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You're asking for God to come down,

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steer me through the stormy waters,

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help me through stressful times.

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I never thought I'd be out there singing it

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and that is a dream come true.

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# Abide with me. #

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It's very quiet yet, you see,

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it'll liven up in about half an hour.

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Jim grew up supporting Batley Bulldogs and remembers his

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father bringing him here in the 1930s.

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And he'd a long, black overcoat and when it was bad weather,

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he used to put me between his legs and pull me up

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and I used to peep out through the gap.

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Jim is a keen volunteer and at every home game,

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he can be found running the car park.

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Keep smiling, go on.

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Over the years,

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he's done a tremendous amount of work for our club,

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so we made him an honorary member

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on his 80th birthday.

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He's a treasure, isn't he?

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They talk about national treasures, Jim's a Batley treasure.

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Jim was nominated to sing in the choir by his eldest son, Andrew,

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not only for his love of the game but also for his work in

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the wider community.

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Two years ago, Jim fell seriously ill.

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I was a patient on Ward 8 at the hospital with pneumonia.

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And I could have died on that ward.

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And I came through and I can sing

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and I can shout off at the Bulldogs.

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-Morning, everybody.

-Morning.

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To show his gratitude, the former club singer helps run a choir

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session in the hospital chapel for others with respiratory illnesses.

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A lot of us have bad chests and asthma and one thing and another

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so my little nickname for the choir is the Cough Mixtures.

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One, two, three... Ah!

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Again. Ah!

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Ah!

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Don't think that we're the best singers in the world

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but it does open our lungs up and gets us going, so...

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# Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars... #

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He does a great job.

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We all suffer from the same sort of things and it's such an uplift.

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Really, you walk out of here, you feel ten feet high.

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# Hold my hand... #

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And next week, when Jim sings at Wembley, he'll be flying high too.

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I'll do my family proud,

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I'll do Batley Bulldogs proud, and I'll do myself proud.

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# Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

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# Cheerio, here I go, on my way... #

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In the meantime,

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Jim has chosen our next hymn for the strength it gives him.

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My favourite hymn is How Great Thou Art

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and it means such a lot to me. I've sung it in the choirs,

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it's registered with me and that's my favourite hymn.

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This area of West London has produced some great musical talent

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including Rita Ora, Mark Ronson and Heather Small.

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Heather was born and raised in this neighbourhood and went to

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the Good News Club on this street.

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We caught up with her to find out more about her life,

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faith and music.

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# One night in heaven One night in heaven... #

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Heather Small made her name when her band, M People,

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made it big in the '90s.

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But a lot of her fans may not know about her religious roots.

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# One night in heaven One night in heaven... #

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I grew up with music from hymns, from gospel and also from secular.

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We heard Aretha's rock-steady,

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we had some ska

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and reggae and pop.

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For me, to sing a religious song is not unfamiliar to me.

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I think that if it's good music and it's about how you feel

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and what you want to say, then it makes sense.

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# You're my masterpiece... #

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My mother's father used to preach and she grew up in

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a household that was ultra-religious.

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No TV, no radio, all the songs that they could sing and all

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the entertainment was through church.

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She sent us to Sunday school.

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They used to always read a passage from the Bible and come back

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and be asked questions about it and you'd get a little prize,

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which was a sweet, and that was always an incentive for me,

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so Bible studies and sweets, it went well for me.

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I encountered the Good News Club when I was about 11

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and I heard this singing.

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It was so uplifting, I thought,

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"I'm going to just go and see what that's about."

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And I've always been curious about faith, about God.

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And I went in, it was very welcoming, very welcoming,

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and they had Bible studies that engaged and they liked to sing.

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They sang modern hymns.

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# That is why I can sing

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# That is why I can shout... #

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I'm very old-school when it comes to the gospel.

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My favourite definitely has to be Mahalia Jackson.

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She has that power, she's just regal and when she sings,

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and she sings with that faith in her heart.

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# Come on, children, let's sing

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# Come on, children, let's shout... #

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If you're a believer or not, you listen to Mahalia Jackson -

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even if it's for three minutes - you're a believer.

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And when somebody's got that kind of power, you know...

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I bow down.

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# What have you done today to make you feel proud? #

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Something like Proud, you know, Search For The Hero,

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I feel that those songs are based in faith, are based in love.

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So I think my faith has helped me make choices, that's what it is.

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Not just about song choices but life choices and whether something

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is morally right for me.

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And whether it's something I should be doing,

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whether it's something that I could be proud of.

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# What have you done today to make you feel proud? #

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People Get Ready is an African-American gospel-sounding song

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but some of the greats have done it like Curtis Mayfield,

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who does it with such ease and beauty, but this is my rendition.

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It's about gathering people together, it's about empathy,

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and that faith should bring a oneness and not a division.

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And faith is the key and those words resonate.

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# People get ready

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# There's a train a-coming

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# You don't need no baggage

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# You just get onboard

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# All you need is faith, yeah

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# To hear the diesels humming

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# You don't need no ticket

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# You just thank the Lord

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# People get ready

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# There's a train to Jordan

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# Picking up passengers

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# From coast to coast

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# Faith is the key, yeah

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# Open the doors and board them

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# You don't need no ticket

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# You just get onboard

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# Now there ain't no room, yeah

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# For the hopeless sinner

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# Who has hurt all mankind

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# Just to save his own

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# Have pity on those

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# Whose chances are thinner

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# Cos there's no hiding place

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# From the kingdom's throne

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# I said people get ready

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# There's a train a-coming

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# Picking up passengers

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# From coast to coast

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# All you need is faith

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# To hear the diesels humming

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# You don't need no ticket

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# You just thank the Lord

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# You don't need no ticket

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# Just thank the Lord

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# You don't need no ticket, no baggage, no guards

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# No

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# You just thank the Lord

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# This train is bound for Jordan

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# You just th-th-thank the Lord, yeah

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# People get ready

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# Yeah, get on, get on, get onboard

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# Thank the Lord

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# And get onboard. #

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The unmistakable voice of Heather Small recorded just down

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the road at the Hackney Empire.

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Our next piece of music comes from further afield.

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This is You Are Good from the New Community Church in Southampton.

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One of the most distinctive sights the Notting Hill Carnival is the costume parade.

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Giselle Carter is following in her father's footsteps,

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creating colourful outfits for the Kiddies' Carnival.

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Carnival is about masquerade.

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It's about having fun and dressing up and being free.

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Our costumes this year, we portray petals, so it's part of nature,

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nature's beauty. So we are celebrating the beauty of nature.

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I guess people really dress up because it's

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-a great way to have fun.

-What do you mean by masquerade?

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Well, I'm from Trinidad and Tobago

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and for us, the masquerade started as

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a result of the freed slaves back in 1833.

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And carnival in the Caribbean and certainly in Trinidad and

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Tobago was born out of oppression and into freedom

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so that's where the freedom of expression comes from.

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Hence the reason why you have fantastic costumes that you

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see from all the different carnivals around the world.

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One of the things that has intrigued me is the relationship

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between carnival and Christianity and I just wondered if you

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see carnival having Christian expression,

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or has it moved beyond that and away from any kind of religious meaning?

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No, I think there is still a lot of spirituality within the carnival.

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And there are lots of songs that reflect that as well.

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And a lot of the slaves, don't forget, were converted

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Christians so they did use their spirituality,

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they did use their religion in a creative way

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in that freedom of expression,

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so there is a direct correlation and link between the two.

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Is your creativity an expression of your faith and spirituality?

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Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

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'Our talents were given to us by the creator and once we use or if

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'we're able to use our talents then it is using something that

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'he gave us and even to glorify his name as well,

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'so I think being creative is godlike, if I would say,

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'because it's a God-given talent that has been given to us and when'

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we use it then we are then glorifying God

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by using what he's given us.

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'I recently lost my father a few months ago and when I create

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'these costumes, I feel him within me, you know,

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'I feel his creativity and his spirit helping me,'

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moving me along and even the whole creative process from

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thinking about the concept to actually making it physically

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with my hands because he was really, really creative.

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So it's really, really important for me

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to get involved in this because I really want to see it grow.

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I really want people to experience the joy that comes with

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carnival because when you are on the road for carnival,

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all you can think about is having fun.

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# Guide me, o thou great redeemer

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# Pilgrim through this barren land

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# I am weak but thou art mighty

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# Hold me with thy powerful hand

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# Bread of heaven Bread of heaven

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# Feed me till I want no more

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# Want no more

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# Feed me till I want no more

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# Oh, oh, oh, oh

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# Oh, oh, oh, oh

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# Open now the crystal fountain

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# Whence the healing stream doth flow

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# Let the fiery cloudy pillar

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# Lead me all my journey though

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# Strong deliverer Strong deliverer

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# Be thou still my strength and shield

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# Strength and shield

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# Be thou still my strength and shield

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# Oh, oh, oh, oh

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# Oh, oh, oh, oh

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# When I tread the verge of Jordan

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# Bid my fears subside

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# Death of death And hell's destruction

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# Land me safe on Canaan's side

0:29:320:29:36

# Songs of praises

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# Songs of praises

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# I will ever give to thee

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# Give to thee

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# I will ever give to thee. #

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The origins of the carnival may be disputed and over the years,

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they may have become known for reasons other than purely celebration,

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but when it's at its best,

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the carnival can live up to the ideal of Sam King who said,

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"If you lift up the name of God, he will lift you."

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Sentiments that are expressed in the words and actions of our final hymn today.

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Thanks for watching.

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As the Notting Hill Carnival celebrates its 50th anniversary, Robert Beckford finds out about the Christian origins of carnival and meets the people who put their faith into the festival. Plus music from across the country and a special performance by Heather Small.

Music:

What a Friend We Have in Jesus/Praise Him from Ruach City Church, Brixton At the Name of Jesus from St Mary-e-Tower, Ipswich How Great Thou Art from Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff People Get Ready by Heather Small You Are Good from New Community Church, Southampton Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer by the Drifters Thine Be the Glory from St Mary's Church, Portsea.


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