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Life in technicolour: Soul Survivor 2016 

Kira Taylor is now a veteran of four Soul Survivor festivals. She reflects on this year's event


Watching a hoard of young people party in a field with dried paint clouds billowing in the air above them seems to sum up Soul Survivor.

Whether it’s paint, mud, rain, pot noodle or God’s presence, you’re normally covered in something at Soul Survivor – at this youth festival you’re all covered together.

There’s always been a strong sense of togetherness here. Although founded and hosted by Church of England minister Mike Pilavachi, it has no denomination. I went with my Assemblies of God youth group from Exeter, who become a weird, slightly dysfunctional Soul Survivor family of 14. On the final night, Mike emphasised this community, saying the church should work together to focus on love and proclaim justice.

Alongside this, there was real sense of global connection this year. People from Germany, France, Malaysia and even Nazareth joined the 6500-strong crowd to worship God and dance to music from Tom Smith and Beth Croft.

The LIV choir visited from South Africa. For several years, Tich and Joan Smith have talked at Soul Survivor with passion and love about LIV village, near Durban, built to give AIDs orphans a home. Several offerings have been in support of the village and this year the LIV choir joined us as part of their ten-week tour of the UK. They danced and sang the story of the village in a mass of colour and energy.

The festival also included a visit from an Australian preacher, Mike Hands, who was an amazing speaker and reminded us of the basics of being Christian – that Jesus gave his life for us.

This was my fourth year and I considered myself as something of a Soul Survivor veteran. Seeing the seemingly endless spread of tents brought back the age-old excitement. Everyone talks to everyone, whether it’s before the seminars or in the queue for chips.

We arrived midday on Friday and, from there, the camping began. Each day was started with a lovely, alarm-like dawn chorus from some charming birds and then bleary-eyed breakfast. There were 9:30am seminars that my friend and I once managed to rally the energy to attend and then everyone then joined together for the morning meeting in the Big Top, which consisted of concert-style worship music, prayer and inspiring talks. The energy in the tent was amazing and there was a tangible excitement.

With brilliant jokes between the hosts, Mike Pilavachi, Andy Croft and Ali Martin, the Big Top is both a great place to learn about God and the informal style my generation needs. It’s also an amazingly safe place where everyone is friendly. Hundreds went up for prayer and 1527 youth gave their lives to Christ at the four festivals throughout the summer.


Once the meeting was over, kettles were boiled camp-wide for pot noodles and then there were two afternoon seminars (slightly more manageable than one beginning at 9:30am – seriously, we’re teenagers). One seminar, run by Neil O’Boyle, was particularly useful in an ever-busying and in an increasingly secular generation, as it focused on practical ways in which we can grow closer to Jesus and to bring our friends closer to Jesus, saying we need to be apprentices of Jesus and trust Him. Other seminars looked at other religions, mission, science, Christian life at university and teaching leadership skills.

Then it was dinner and back to the Big Top for more dancing, singing and listening to God. During the afternoon, there was a fun run, football matches, Colour Chaos (the reason for the dry paint) and chances to go around the Toolshed – a building filled Soul Survivor T-shirts, books, CDs, gap year options, Fairtrade jewellery and, best of all, cake.


In the evening, there were loads of things to do: a skate park, sports, outdoor films, including Star Wars and Inside Out and late night worship. The first night saw us stripe our faces in UV paint for the UV disco and the next night there was a silent disco. The final night was a huge party in the Big Top, where we dressed under the theme of “Noah”, including several arks.

'It is a genuine privilege to take young people to Soul Survivor and enable their development of their relationship with Jesus,' said Abbey Ward, a youth leader at Riverside Church (Exeter) and a very brave person to take us all. 'Soul Survivor played a key role in my Christian walk as a teenager and I feel that it is so important that the youth I now work with have the same opportunity.'

There was something poignant, too, about this year. It is the last year the Bath and West Showground will host Soul Survivor, as it moves to Peterborough for Week B and C in 2017. One of our leaders has been to 14 Soul Survivors in Somerset. There was nostalgia as my friend and I walked through Purple, where we camped last year and the lower half of the field flooded and when we looked across to Silver, where we camped my first two years and where our tent was squashed by a flying gazebo.

Back home and I’m initially grateful of a shower and bed – but even more for the time I spent with friends and God. I’ll really miss the Bath and West Showground, but it was a brilliant goodbye.  

Photo taken from Soul Survivor's Facebook feed

Kira Taylor is both a member of South Street Baptist Church in Exeter, and of the youth group at Riverside Church, Exeter. She is a student and aspiring journalist. She can be found on Twitter at @KiraTaylor15 and blogs at Smoke and Mirrors



Baptist Times, 31/08/2016
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