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David Doran makes the everyday feel iconic

David Doran Mr Porter The Workplace

Professional illustrator David Doran has an unmissable, iconic style, influenced by – among other things – travel posters of the early 20th Century, traditional printing techniques, and modern painters from Rothko to Matisse.

Doran lives and works in Falmouth, where he shares a studio with his brother (painter Jon Doran, who we recently featured in our first Sputnik anthology) – having graduated from Falmouth Uni in 2014, turning a few heads in the process. While his work has kept its hand-drawn charm since those early days, it’s quickly developed to include digital methods too, resulting in devastatingly clean, impactful visuals.

Illustration is hardly an easy field to break into, but Doran has quickly racked up an impressive resumé of clients, from The New Yorker to BAFTA, with editorials, book covers, and agency campaigns; while still finding time for his own personal projects on the side. His multi-tasking abilities may boggle the mind, but his success is not so surprising, given the quality of the work. David’s illustrations give credence to the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words: they have undeniable communicative power, grabbing the eye and expressing a mood in one swift delivery.

Don’t miss David Doran kicking off our brand new ‘Spotlight On..’ series in 2021 – with a live talk and Q&A discussing his journey and practice. Get tickets here!

You can see more of David’s work at, or follow him on Instagram

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Enter the Chaiya Art Awards 2019/2020

The Chaiya Art Awards is a national art award celebrating the intersection of art and faith.

It’s no small perk to be recognised in this competition. Finalists are exhibited at the OXO Gallery in London, and a generous £10,000 in prize money is given to the first place winner.  

Last year saw the first round of entries and winners for the award, exploring the theme: Where is God in our 21st Century World? Sputnik’s own Luke Sewell visited the exhibition, and noted the display of technical excellence on the part of the artists involved, who articulated theology and the nature of God into a 21st century context. Some came from a Christian worldview, but plenty of others brought their own approach.

Now Chaiya Art Awards is back, welcoming a new round of submissions exploring the theme ‘God is’. Work is judged according to theme interpretation, originality, technique and emotional impact.

The award was established in 2017 by Katrina Moss. Though it’s still a young event, Katrina has big aims, hoping that the Chaiya Art Award can become an important event in the national artistic calendar. The long term aim is to reignite conversations of spirituality, placing them back in the mainstream of the art world.

It’s exciting to see more opportunities being created to intersect conversations of faith and art. We imagine that God Is will attract a broad range of artists.

If you want to get involved yourself, read more details over at the Chaiya Art Award website.

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Sharon Boothroyd exposes uncomfortable questions

Sharon Boothroyd Subtext of a Dream Sputnik Faith Art

Sharon Boothroyd is a London-based photographic artist whose work has been exhibited worldwide in many prestigious festivals and galleries, and is held in public collections such as the V&A Library, the Yale Centre for British Art and PhotoIreland Foundation.

Sharon also lectures at the Royal College of Art, where she is undertaking a PhD – and unsurprisingly, one of the first things you notice when talking to Sharon is her immensely deep and appreciative knowledge of her discipline, and wider art movements in general.

Sharon Boothroyd Photography SW Sputnik Art Faith
From ‘SW’

What stands out beyond even that is the beautifully empathetic nature of her work. One of the goals of her PhD research project is to reduce stigma and raise public awareness of psychosis; she describes it as an ‘urgent feminist enquiry’ seeking to subvert the gender power dynamics in the usage of labels such as ‘hysteria’ and ‘madness’. The ongoing process, as we learned from Sharon’s visit to the Birmingham Sputnik Hub, is also a research project into the world itself, the abuses of psychotherapy, the complicity of art in the mistreatment of women: and into Sharon herself.

But you needn’t be an academic to understand the power of Sharon’s work. A recent project, SW, is a simple documentation of the characters, buildings and wildlife that make up South West London; capturing respectfully the simple dignity of everyday ‘others’ in her local community. Even her more abstract or experimental work has, at its heart, a raw human-ness and humility, a breaking down of artifice in the pursuit of honesty, be that painful or otherwise.

See more of Sharon’s work at her website.

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Give someone a bundle of mind-bending faith-soaked art this Christmas

This year, we fully launched our Sputnik Patrons project: with the help of our Patrons, we funded several artistic projects by Sputnik practitioners. Midway through the year, our Patrons received the first-ever Sputnik Anthology, which is our bi-annual gift to those who support the arts this way.

While we work on the new Anthology for the New Year, we’re giving a one-off opportunity for you to buy the original Anthology package – a killer Christmas gift for your loved ones!

Sputnik Patrons Faith Art Anthology Namiko Lee
Sputnik Poetry & Visuals Vol. 1

Poetry + Visuals Vol. 1 is a tasty coffee-table book featuring poetry from a variety of Sputnik-affiliated talent, as well as 11 pull-out postcards of visual artwork from around the network. For the next 3 weeks, it’s £10 to buy. Get it here.

Sputnik Sounds Vol. 2 is a blast of electronic pop, rock, ambient and hip-hop: eclectic cuts from some of our favourites in the Sputnik community. If you snap it up now, it’s £5. Pick that up here.

You can also grab both together at a package-deal rate of £12. Of course, if you really want to spread some Christmas cheer, why not pay for somebody’s Sputnik Patrons subscription for a year?


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Filmmaker Luca Papa’s journey towards faith

Artists Pray One Hopera Rome Sputnik Faith Arts

I am an artist.

Before I came to know Jesus, I was already fighting against social injustice; but I was always the centre of my life, and self-centred in my aspirations and my desire to control things. I really liked the figure of Jesus, but only at the historical level. I was the artistic director of a company with my wife, Serena, who was an interpreter and took care of the organizational part.

Luca Papa Sputnik Faith Arts Hopera Rome
Luca and wife Serena Ansidoni

At the age of 26, I started to follow my very experimental artistic research, and this gave me some notoriety. But it also exposed some problems with my ego, as I started being very demanding with my students and interpreters. I began to shut myself up in my art more and more. Art was my God, and I lived in the continuous frustration of seeking results.

After my first film “Revolution” (a work of experimental video art made against abuses of power in Italy), stains began to emerge on my body. We thought it was a dermatological problem, but after a week, there was a big black bruise on my stomach. We went to the hospital and I was told that it could be leukemia. You are meant to have 240,000 platelets in your blood: it turned out that I only had 2,000!!

The doctors could not explain how I was even still alive! I was given a week to wait for further results and that week of waiting was crazy. I started thinking about my life, the things I took for granted such as walking, drinking, my wife’s eyes, her kisses, eating. I was letting my life pass without fully experiencing it.

I told the artists I was closest to that I wanted to create a work to thank God. They were incredulous

But, when the results arrived, I was told that it was nothing serious and after a short period of treatment, my blood levels were stable again and I was out of hospital. Incredible! The first thing I did, once I was out, was to cry for joy with my wife.

Immediately, I called all of the artists that I was closest to in my company and I told them I wanted to create a work to thank God for giving me a second chance in life. They were incredulous, they could not believe I was doing a work of thanksgiving to God. I completed the piece in one night and there, for the first time, I had an experience of God. After that experience I was like a different person. People did not recognize me anymore; I wanted to help people and my art took a very social turn, focusing on the suffering of the most needy.

We continued taking our art in this direction, and this led us to move to Tenerife for 5 years, where we partnered with a high school to develop an educational project. It was at this point that I decided to create some work that was more explicitly spiritual, focusing on Jesus. I wanted to find people with real faith for this project, and I spoke to our neighbours about it. Our neighbours were a 60-year-old couple, Raul and Olaya. Raul told me that he wasn’t religious, but he knew God personally and invited us to go with them the following Saturday to their church.

On 13 September 2014 we entered the church for the first time and were very perplexed. We were used to Catholic rituals, but at this church, the music was played in a modern style and the people prayed for their friends with ‘a free voice’. After the service, we met the pastor and talked to him about our proposed film project. He was immediately interested and put his church at our disposal both to use their space and to involve people from the church in the various roles.

After that time in church, I started to ask my neighbour Raul a thousand questions about God and about Christianity. He was a retired former Civil Guard agent, responsible for training the recruits, and even in the kingdom of God he was starting my training!

One day, Raul and Olaya invited us for dinner. Serena did not want to go because she knew that faith would be talked about the whole time, so she pretended to have a sore throat. When she found this out, Olaya asked me if she could go and talk to Serena and she ended up praying for her. Although we found this a bit strange, when she prayed, we felt an indescribable feeling of peace. Later that night Serena found herself crying for no reason, which was very unusual for her.

I had thought that the whole thing was a theatre, that it was all fake. Then, to my surprise, I saw my wife charging towards the preacher

During the time of worship, I realized that Serena was crying again. I did not understand. I said to myself: but she is an atheist! The preacher spoke in Spanish and I only understood about 25% of it, but at one point in the talk, he asked if anyone needed prayer. Many people started going forward and as he prayed, there were many strong reactions, people crying and falling over. I had seen some things online about extreme charismatic experiences and I thought that the whole thing was a theatre, that it was all fake. Then, to my surprise, I turned to see my wife charging towards the preacher. When he prayed with her, she started crying in a way I’d never seen her cry before.

It was clear that something extraordinary was happening, so I said to God: “if you are there, show me!” and I too went forward to the preacher. When he prayed for me I felt a great fire inside, I fell on the ground and began to laugh, full of joy. Looking up to the sky, I had the feeling that I had finally found it, that now I understood everything!

René Breuel Hopera Church Rome Sputnik Faith Arts
Artist believers meet at ‘One’, an offshoot of Hopera church

After all of this, Serena and I prayed with the pastor and we both accepted Jesus into our lives. I don’t think I even knew what I was saying, but I know that from that day, our lives have completely changed. I left behind my biggest fears and my obsessions. Serena and I looked at each other differently – our love was growing and improving every moment. After only a month I was baptized in the sea, and I was actually born again, to a new life.

A year later, we returned to Italy and began to talk about our experience to our friends, family and our entire artistic group. Many, seeing our passion and the real change in our lives, have decided to believe, and many young artists have come to the faith. Now we have a group called One, which started because we felt we needed to live out our faith in a completely new and fresh way.

At One, we aim to make God known to young artists. We do not use religious terms, we do not have a denomination, we focus on three things: Jesus, singing to him, and prayer. This has generated a unique love for God. Now in the group there are about twenty young people, some of whom also come to Hopera, our church. They still remain artists, but with a very healthy and passionate Christian imprint and their enthusiasm has a positive effect on the whole community.

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David McCulloch makes high-concept art feel inviting

“I am convinced that art is a relationship and not a commodity. This effects my decisions, motivations, output and income.”

Dundee-based conceptual artist David McCulloch (‘Cully’, to those in the know) is a maker and a curator, using multi-media formats and experimental galleries in the hopes of rediscovering a healthier role for artists in society: one defined, perhaps, by connection and communication, rather than a commodified experience within a ‘white cube’.

David’s work takes many tones: in Father and Son (video below), David’s own father and son are part of a ‘performance’ where they look at, and are interviewed about, Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, investigating knowledge, interpretation and faith through three generations. In the darkly comic Last One Standing (featured photo) a giant stone ‘book’ strung precariously from a scaffolding is imprinted with the slogan ‘You could die reading this’.

Whether it’s his own work, or involvement in wider circles with Nomas* Projects and Sharing Not Hoarding, David’s approach is both generous and generative; he lives up to his own artistic creed by creating work that manages to be inviting and personal while still being deeply conceptual – a harder feat than it looks.

Check out more of David’s work at

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How a Hub Works: the launch of Edinburgh Sputnik Hub

King’s Church, Edinburgh recently hosted their first Sputnik Hub gathering. We asked designer and Hub host Joanna Spreadbury to give us a rundown of the evening, as a way of looking at how a new Hub works.

On Friday 12th October we hosted a Sputnik Hub at King’s Church, Edinburgh.

Those arriving were from different churches around Edinburgh, with varying backgrounds in the arts and diverse interests in creative disciplines. We served a home-cooked meal and everyone ate and talked in various sofa/chair combinations, set up ready for the talk.

Jonny started the night off with an introduction into who Sputnik are and what we are aiming to do – I followed by welcoming everyone to the new Edinburgh Hub. I set out the vision for the Hub, with a desire to connect creatives who are Christian, encourage them, and offer an opportunity for critical reflection on their practice or work, as well as bring about a conversation about how God fuels creativity and how we can glorify Him in all things.

Stephanie Mann then took the floor. Having studied Sculpture at the Edinburgh College of Art and continuing to do a Masters in Contemporary Art Practice, Stephanie’s work is broad, colourful and often playful. Mann is a practicing visual artist, based in Edinburgh, and we were delighted to hear about the range of work she has produced including spoken word, film, graphic prints, paintings and sculpture. The diversity of her practice made for an engaging talk, particularly in relation to how her gut instincts act as a crucial role in the production of her work. Mann’s deep insights alongside humorous comments fed into thought-provoking questions from those attending and a dynamic discussion from many people followed.

We then split into discipline groups: Visual Arts, Writers and Misc. (the miscellaneous group being a wider range of creatives including rappers and broadcasters); opening up a space for those attending to share their work, ask for advice, offer an insight into their creative practice and opinions, as well as hearing about other peoples’ work. These groups of 6-8 created a relaxed environment to talk about how peoples’ faith works through their work, and we ended the night with prayer in these groups, lifting up our work to God from whom all our creativity comes.

The next Edinburgh Sputnik Hub will be towards the end of this year; keep an eye on our Facebook group for more information.

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Poet, priest and rock ‘n’ roller, Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite AOTW Poetry Sputnik Faith Arts

Malcolm Guite has called himself a “poet, priest, rock & roller: in any order you like, really.” It’s a succinct way to describe an otherwise indescribable character: a bearded bard from some other realm full of Tolkien-esque polymaths, and currently a lecturer and chaplain of the Divinity Faculty at Cambridge.

Guite is a generous interviewee, so full of words that he often runs breathless finishing his sentences (he’s somehow both intimidatingly sharp and amiably approachable at the same time); which makes his many interviews a good way to get acquainted with his style and process. We’d recommend his series of interviews with The Cultivating Project, this in-depth profile, or his appearance on Nomad Podcast, at Greenbelt.

Guite’s work, of course, is as thoughtful and thorough as his conversations, embracing the confrontations, confusions and mysticisms of faith. It hums with a deep belief in the goodness of poetry itself: poetry as a life-giving force, and as a means to give people confidence that their ‘inner’, spiritual lives are as real and revelatory as the material world.

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to his poetry and the rest, but let’s be contrary and begin with some of the most recent: Parable and Paradox, a book of poetry inspired by the sayings of Jesus; and a biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, called Mariner. But as an even simpler starting point, try reading this sonnet for our times, called The six days world transposing in an hour.

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Our new Sputnik intern: poet Jess Wood

Jess Wood Poetry Poet Sputnik Faith Arts

We’re excited to welcome Jess Wood into the Sputnik team, on our second year offering an internship programme to aspiring artists.We asked Jess a few questions to introduce herself to our readers, and she performed her poem ‘Precariat’ for us, which you can watch below.

Describe yourself in five words:

Compassionate conviction (that) laughs out loud.

Who are your creative inspirations?

I’m inspired by anyone who can use words well to make me really think about things I usually experience without consequence. Whether it be a good preach, a podcast (Krista Tippet anyone?) or a gorgeous piece of poetry. In terms of poets, I’m inspired by Kei Miller, Warsan Shire and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze.

Why are you interning for Sputnik?

Art can most often be placed on the back burner, and I figure that I’ll never have more freedom to explore, develop and get good at it than now!

I’m at the awkward post-grad state of not knowing what I want to do with my life, so during this year I will be exploring what it could look like for me to make a living as a poet, working within the arts sector and hosting workshops. I decided to intern with Sputnik specifically because of the way they intertwine faith and art which are two incredibly important aspects of my life. I know that the support I’ll receive, both as a Christian and as an artist will set me up well for the future.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m so thankful that I have a team of people behind me who are passionate about seeing me produce new work, and who will – if necessary – go the lengths of locking me in a room with only paper and pen to see it come about! I’m so aware of what a privilege it is to have a year dedicated to my art practice and having the flexibility of working my schedule around something I’m so passionate about.

Within the first month, it’s been inspiring to be surrounded by Christians who take art seriously and want to deeply engage with the issues we face in the world, and I’m so excited to learn more from them. Alongside all my artistic developments, the theology training from Impact was incredibly helpful and released me from a lot of anxieties and uncertainties I had about what a relationship with God can look like. I’m really looking forward to what we’ll learn in the next training block and how it will continue to develop my relationship with God.

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Femi Koleoso is shaping the new jazz vanguard

Femi Koleoso AOTW Sputnik Art Faith

The story goes like this: a tight-knit new generation of musicians in London is shaking up the jazz scene as you know it, turning the ‘establishment’ on its head via grassroots gigs, independent labels, and a wild spirit of frontier-breaking: not so much G&Ts on the lawn, much more Bitches Brew.

Between varied artists such as Binker & Moses, Yussef Dayes, Zara McFarlane, and the many faces of Shabaka Hutchings, UK jazz is, to put it lightly, having a ‘moment’ – birthing a multicultural form of jazz that incorporates Afrobeat, dub, garage and grime mixed up with top-notch chops. And at the centre of the cyclone is the five-piece troupe Ezra Collective, with their enigmatic powerhouse of a drummer, Femi Koleoso – who the New York Times recently tracked down to talk about the scene.

Alongside Ezra Collective, Femi mans the traps for the saxophonist Nubya Garcia, and R&B ‘new big thing’ Jorja Smith – and you may have also caught his blistering drum solo in this Champions League advert back in the summer. He’s a man years-deep in his craft, bringing people a next-level musical experience, and – as the NYT profile points out – he’s changing the scene for the better, as part of the new jazz vanguard breaking it open to younger and more diverse players.

Make no mistake, Femi Koleoso is an artist who’s exactly where he ought to be.

Check out Ezra Collective here, and follow Femi on Twitter.

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Removing unnecessary obstacles with Marlita Hill

Marlita Hill Faith Art Career Sputnik

Two weeks ago, we spoke to Los Angeles-based choreographer and teacher Marlita Hill about gracefully dismantling the expectations facing artists in churches. In part two of our interview, Marlita explains in more detail the groundwork that she works through when tutoring artists.

You can read the first part of this interview here.

Jonny Mellor: You talk about the importance of an artist’s whole art-life, rather than just the work they produce, could you explore this topic with us?

Marlita Hill: In the Kingdom Artist Initiative (KAI), one major question we answer is how do you serve God and build His kingdom working “out there” making “that kind” of art with “those people”? There is still a very present belief that Christians should only make art in church, for church, about God, and for worship. Any activity outside of that should be focused on evangelism; and the only reason to associate with non-Christians is to get them saved.

Well, I don’t share that belief. Church is wherever the people of God are. The Kingdom of God is bigger than a building and consists of so much more than evangelism. And, worship is practiced and offered up by what we do, as much as it is by what we say.

As an artist in Christ, you have a life in art, not just a message in art. Your life in art is a valid, God-honoring way that you participate in Kingdom citizenship and Christian community. In KAI, I teach about this life in art as three parts: Person, Process, and Product.


Person is who you are. The Bible says that you are the light of the world (Mt. 5:14). You are the salt of the earth (Mt. 5:14). You are the way that God diffuses His fragrance throughout the earth (2 Cor. 2:14). And you are an exhibitor and dispenser of His love. Before you ever do anything, and regardless of what your art talks about, this is who you are. This is how you show up in every space you enter in your art career. You are the representative and ambassador of the living God and of His Kingdom in the earth. You don’t have to do anything extra to accomplish that.


Process is how you do things: how you go about creating your art, how you make career decisions, and how you interact with the people around you. You honor God, make Him known, and demonstrate the Kingdom at work by the way you go about making these decisions, by your disposition in executing them, and by what leads and influences you in making them.


Product is the actual art work. A lot of us struggle trying to figure out what we can make art about. And we shouldn’t. Psalm 24 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.” 2 Peter tells us that God has “given us everything that pertains to life and godliness.” If this is true, what could there possibly be that we cannot talk about? Nothing! It’s all fair game. It doesn’t matter what you talk about in your art. What matters is the perspective you present on what you talk about.

Marlita Hill Class Combo Dance Sputnik Faith Art
Screenshot from Marlita’s Int/Adv Modern Class at Cortines High School

JM: But surely any Christian in any profession would share the first two of these in one respect. Focusing in on the product then, do you think that an artwork has any special value, beyond, say, a fruitful business deal, a well engineered bridge or a successful operation?

MH: As far as what art can uniquely do, I believe its singularity lies in its qualities of being stealth and efficient. Art operates on a frequency that cuts right to the essence of things. It communicates so deeply, so intimately, and so quickly, that people find themselves impacted before they’ve found the words to articulate what just happened to them. We can react to art once we’ve reoriented ourselves back in our intellectual fortresses; but we cannot deny that something got in. Art cuts right to places we would have to ask permission to enter through any other means.

We talk about salvation, but the salvation experience is an unrealistic to our actual faith lives as romantic movies are to real relationships. Where’s our mundane Tuesdays?

This is what’s so powerful about Christians being present and active in our art careers. As Kingdom citizens in the world, we have the opportunity to contribute the Kingdom perspective to cultural dialogue. We’re always told to focus on the salvation experience. But this is as unrealistic to our actual faith lives as romantic movies are to real relationships. The whole movie only goes up to the point of two people getting together, but we never see the reality of their mundane Tuesday. We talk about salvation, but what does life look like as a Christian once you’ve gotten saved? Where’s our mundane Tuesday?

Even though we’re Christians, we’re still sexual beings, we still have feelings, we still deal with loss and grief, have awe, fall in love, make mistakes, feel confused. We still engage in the human experience. So, what does that human experience look like from a Kingdom perspective? How do you address, confront, and look at being human and living in this earth in all its messiness from the other side of being saved?

Sputnik Faith Art Marlita Hill

JM: You specifically serve artists who have careers in the arts. What do you think are the key challenges that Christians who are professional artists face, and what advice would you give them to overcome these challenges?

MH: Three things artists of faith struggle with are liberty, identity, and fragmentation. I believe every artist struggles with these in some way but they manifest uniquely in the faith community. As the arts are slowly being accepted back into the church, artists of faith working in secular culture still have so few champions to tell them that all parts of who they are (as Christian, creative, and cultural participant) are from God, to assure them that they (right where they are, doing what they’re doing) are a needed and contributing part of the body of Christ, and to show them how to victoriously navigate their art life in God’s purpose. Without this, they’re left constantly struggling for permission and validation, constantly struggling with who they are and how they want to be seen and known, constantly feeling like they have to make the impossible choice about which part of themselves gets their attention. But none of these struggles are necessary.

This is why KAI focuses on the artist’s relationship with God, and between their faith, art, and career. To deal with these struggles we have to do three things:

One: We have to remember that we cannot necessarily equate our experiences with the church as being how God sees and feels about us. We have to go to Him for ourselves to find out how He actually sees us. That’s where true, unshakeable identity comes from.

Two: We have to forgive the church and other Christians for not knowing how to tell us who we are and where we fit. We just have to.

Three: We have to release the internal divide we’ve perpetuated, which most likely exists for good reason. Still, we have to allow them to coexist and thrive together in the same space because God never intended our faith, art, and career to be fragmented within us.

Read more about Marlita Hill’s work at

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Tongues. have the formula for hooky synth-rock

The brainchild of Glasgow’s Tim Kwant, Tongues. began as an electronic solo project that scored an unexpected hit across the blogosphere with its debut release, ‘Colours in the Dark’.

Since then, Kwant has been joined by a full band to give life to a sound that ranges from grungy riff-driven synthrock to sweet heartfelt refrains – and the band’s bass-heavy, visually immersive live shows have seen them pick up festival appearances, radio play, and prominent playlist slots, with their music getting compared to Alt-J, Hot Chip, MGMT and Caribou. 

We were thrilled to feature Tongues.’ latest single ‘Not Like the Real Thing’ on our Sputnik Sounds Vol. 2 compilation – a free giveaway to Sputnik Patrons – and its accompanying EP, ‘Fight’, is a tightly-sequenced, hook-laden listen that balances its glistening production with a fraught, emotional vocal delivery.

Tongues. have more music ready to release – allegedly before the end of the year – so it’s fair to say we’re intrigued to find out where Kwant and the band take things next.

Listen to more of Tongues. music at

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Stephanie Mann’s art defies the senses

Stephanie Mann A Dig Site Sputnik Faith Art

‘I do things involving things’. Edinburgh-based artist Stephanie Mann once described her art practice this way, and true enough, her bright and surreal work often defies easy description.

While Mann’s background is in sculpture, the main body of her work consists of photographs and videos, often featuring a dazzling array of brightly coloured objects with contrasting textures, at times being placed, pushed and manipulated by the artist herself.

Stephanie Mann Balancing Summit Sputnik Faith Art
‘Balancing Summit’ by Stephanie Mann

Her preoccupation throughout much of her work is on the subconscious; on what can be found there and how to unearth it (a process she acts out in her 2013 video ‘Sand Hands’). Whereas many explorations of the subconscious may focus on the darker side of life, Stephanie’s playful surrealism is refreshingly innocent and childlike, yet built around a deep familiarity with still life tradition and sculptural principles.

In 2013, she worked on a short film commissioned by the BBC in Japan and she has had solo exhibitions in both Summerhall, Edinburgh and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. She presently works out of her studio at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.

Stephanie Mann Exhibition Transparent Tortoiseshell Umbrella Sputnik Faith
Exhibition documentation from ‘The transparent tortoiseshell and the un-ripe umbrella’, Glasgow Sculpture Studios.

You can see more of Stephanie’s work on her website

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Marlita Hill helps artists to flourish

Marlita Hill is a dancer, teacher, choreographer, author – and much more – based in Los Angeles. We had the pleasure of talking to her about some foundational questions around her practice and approach to the worlds of faith and the arts.

Jonny Mellor: Hi Marlita. Could you introduce yourself to Sputnik’s illustrious readers?

Marlita Hill: Hello Sputnik! Thank you for having me. My name is Marlita Hill and I am a choreographer and author. I have a program called the Kingdom Artist Initiative that mentors professional artists of faith in building a healthy, undivided relationship between their faith and art career. I also produce a podcast called The Kingdom Art Life and in January, I published my third book, Defying Discord: Ending the divide between your faith and “secular” art career.

JM: There is an ongoing conversation about faith and art in the church at the moment, and in the UK at least it seems to be gaining some momentum. While this is good, I sometimes find that people are missing each other in this conversation and it can lead to churches supporting some forms of creativity, but at the same time actually alienating artists. I’ve found it helpful the way you frame this conversation to bring clarity to the different aspects of faith and art – could you share some of your thoughts on this?

MH: In the faith and art conversation, I believe it is important for us to recognize that when we say ‘artist,’ we are speaking to a remarkably diverse group of people – who are involved in different forms of art, who function in different contexts, who make art for different reasons and different audiences, who are in different seasons in their art life and have different needs. The artists in our churches have different experience levels, different expectations, and different ways they desire to be cared for and supported.

When we don’t acknowledge all this difference, we end up alienating artists. And while it is impossible for any one organization to serve all the needs of such a diverse group of people, acknowledging this diversity can help us approach the infrastructures we build to serve and support artists through a more inclusive lens.

Kingdom Artist Initiative Sputnik Faith Art
Kingdom Artist Initiative

JM: Not only are the arts often misunderstood in churches though, they are often simply not valued. Why do you think this is?

MH: I believe that the undervaluing of the arts in the church is due to several factors: value and usefulness, personal conviction and comfort level, and capacity.


In the local church, there’s generally a three-pronged focus: worship, evangelism, and doctrine. The church readily embraces activities and expressions that directly serve these three areas.  Because they are where the focus lies, most everything that is done in church is a means to these three ends. And with that, usefulness becomes the measurement for value.  So, if your activity is not a clear means to those three ends, the church struggles to find them useful. In struggling to find them useful, they struggle to find them valuable. If they have no usefulness and therefore no value, then the question becomes why should we engage with it?

Most everything that is done in church is a means to worship, evangelism, and doctrine.

This raises a question; because some artists of faith engage in their art in ways that do directly serve those three areas. They want to partner with the church in serving the congregation, using their art to lead and engage people in worship, to help illuminate Scripture, and to share the Gospel and make Christ known. Why, then, doesn’t the church embrace them? That, I believe, is where we get into the other two factors.

Personal conviction and comfort level.

Despite the presence of creativity and artistry in the Bible, and despite there being evidence that God communes with His people in and through the arts, there are those church leaders that simply don’t agree and don’t see the arts as a suitable activity for the church. They don’t see the arts as a credible medium for facilitating or engaging in the worship experience and spiritual growth.

Or, they only see certain artforms as credible mediums. Dancers face this a lot. Where pastors are comfortable having musicians and visual artists active in their churches, they are not comfortable with a dancer. Actors are only acceptable for Easter and Christmas plays. Even with musicians, only certain instruments, musical forms, and even musical notes are acceptable in different congregations.

But this has nothing to do with the artist. And it has nothing to do with God. Still, we both are subjected to the comfort levels of those in leadership.


There is the reality that you need infrastructure to incorporate any activity in the church, including the arts. Some church leaders don’t believe they have the capacity (time, resources, know-how, space, etc) to include the arts in their congregational life. Of those, some view the arts as a nice addition if it’s convenient; but it’s not a priority so there is never any real motivation to find a way to make it possible.

Very few artists are ever included in planning and infrastructural conversations, so their possibilities to contribute are never heard.

Also, it rarely seems to occur to leaders that their artists are very capable of expanding that capacity when they are empowered to do so. Very few artists are ever included in planning and infrastructural conversations, so their possibilities to contribute are never heard. As leaders feel like they already have much on their plate, it is much easier to exclude the arts than it is to take the time to work through how they can be made an integral part.

JM: Coming back to your own experience, how do you think your own art life has deepened your relationship with Jesus? What have you learnt about God that you wouldn’t have done if you’d never been a dancer?

MH: My life as an artist has been an integral part of my relationship with God. In fact, I’ve gotten to know Him as I’ve pursued this life in dance.

There are two huge things I’ve learned that have liberated my relationship with Him. The first thing I learned is that the church’s way of seeing and interacting with me as an artist is rarely representative of the way God sees and interacts with me. I learned not to try to understand how God thought about me as an artist through the church. I had to get that straight from Him. I love the church. I appreciate the church. But I also understand they don’t often know how to care for me.

The second huge thing I learned is that God is not in relationship with me because I’m useful to Him. Nor is He in relationship with me because my gifts are useful to Him. He is in relationship with me because He loves me, and He has gifted me as an expression of His love.

I have learned that He gave me art for my life, not just my Christian service. My art is something He’s given me to engage with, and take space in, this world. He gave it to me to shape and form me. He gave it to me to release and receive. He gave it to me to commune with Him, to learn about Him and learn from Him. He gave it to me to enjoy.

I’ve learned that there’s not one thing about my artist-ness that I have to apologize for. I’ve learned that He takes great pleasure in it and gives me so much liberty to live in all the fullness of these things He’s gifted me to do. And this is what I hope to help other artists experience from their relationship with Him.

Read the second part of this interview here, or read more about Marlita Hill’s work at

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Lakwena is brightening the world around her

Lakwena Visual Art Mafalda Silva Photography Faith

South London visual artist Lakwena is slowly transforming her home town – and other cities around the world – with her huge, kaleidoscopic murals, breathing life and energy into everyone who walks by.

It’s impossible to miss Lakwena’s work – it’s as eye-catching as it is uncompromising, a supremely confident matrix of bright colour, inspired by (amongst other things) messianic theology, mythology and Afrofuturism. Entwined with the colours are the messages – The Power of Girl. The Future is Gold. Do not relent in doing good. In a recent interview with Elephant magazine, Lakwena describes her work as a connection point to the spiritual world:

“I want [my paintings] to have something of the gospel in them… I want my life to have some good news in it. Adverts shout a mythology that if you buy a product your life will be complete. If I put a painting up then I’m doing the same.”

Lakwena Clinique Visual Art Painting Faith Beauty
Photo: Benjamin Madgwick for
Lakwena Mural Visual Art Ferdinand Feys
Photo: Ferdinand Feys

The expressive, eye-popping, myth-making work has caught its followers: Lakwena has been invited to create murals and installations in Miami, New York, Las Vegas, Arkansas, and her work can frequently spotted bursting through the grey in London suburbs. And for the thousands who walk past her work in different cities every day, Lakwena is an unseen force making her world a better place to be.

Follow Lakwena on Instagram, here.

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Marksteen Adamson brings a generous spirit to photography

In Artist of the Week, we celebrate faith-driven artists making quality work for universal audiences.

Photographer Marksteen Adamson is a force to be reckoned with. Previously the Global Creative Director of Interbrand, overseeing massive branding projects for well-known names, he set up Agency ASHA in 2002, as well as photography training programme Nimbus, and the Big Cold Turkey Foundation, set up to support youth suffering from either their own addictions or those of someone close.

As part of ASHA’s work, the PEEL project works with young people as a means to help their mental health, self-expression and sense of self-identity, through a mixture of poetry and photography. The results so far have been fantastic – both in terms of the work produced, and the response to the programme.

Sputnik Marksteen Adamson PEEL Poster Art
Displayed work from the PEEL project

With all these projects under the belt you might forget that Marksteen is also a brilliant photographer – and disarmingly humble about it, as if it’s an afterthought. And on the one hand, it’s true that Marksteen continually puts others first, using his time and his skills to celebrate their development rather than his own. But it’s also his creative zeal that underpins all his strategizing, and makes him an inspiring figure capable of driving forwards massive projects.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll often find him being a guest lecturer or conference speaker, writing articles, or appearing on radio or television. We don’t know where the man finds all the time, but his generosity and skill make him a great example of how faith and art co-exist and interact.

Check out Marksteen’s work here, or the PEEL project here.

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Dutchkid nail their impeccably packaged pop

Dutchkid Empires Sputnik Faith Art

In Artist of the Week, we celebrate faith-driven artists making quality work for universal audiences.

South London four-piece Dutchkid have been working on their pristine synth-pop sound for a while – it’s nearly a year since they first appeared with the sparse, atmospheric single ‘Temporary’ – but the process has finally culminated in the brand new EP ‘Empires’, which appeared at the end of August.

‘Empires’ is an impeccably packaged slice of pop, proudly wearing the influences of the XX, the 1975, Jack Garratt and others besides. Dutchkid go straight for the jugular throughout: every moment on the EP is a chiselled hook, a t-shirt ready slogan or an ethanol-clean synth sound, with barely a second wasted. These are the kind of radio-ready, hyper-earnest pop songs that take years of work to sound effortless, a magic trick that the band pulls off perfectly.

But it’s not so surprising, given that the group describe themselves as not just a band, but a creative collective, which includes members outside of the four musicians. That, in itself, is a savvy move: it reflects the fact that bands in 2018 are, more than ever, multimedia projects needing to be curated from every angle – dutchkid keep all their creative decisions in the family, and the approach pays off.

‘Empires’ is a strong opening gambit, and we’ll be watching keenly to see what happens next – we recommend you give them a follow, or if you can, go catch their first headline show in the New Year, at the Sebright Arms.

Buy/stream Empires here, or buy tickets for the Sebright Arms show here.

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Hannah Rose Thomas’s stunning portraits demonstrate art as advocacy

Hannah Rose Thomas Portraits Fine Art Sputnik Faith

Hannah Rose Thomas is an English artist creating stunning portrait paintings of refugees, whose work has been shown at the Saatchi Gallery, the Houses of Parliament and Durham Cathedral.

As part of the process, Hannah has organised art projects in Kurdistan with Yezidi women who had escaped ISIS captivity, and for Rohingya children in refugee camps on the Myanmar border. We asked Hannah to talk about her journey a little – if you’d like to find out more, see Hannah’s website, and follow her on Instagram.

You’ve said you’re influenced by Islamic art and poetry – and of course you’re an Arabic speaker. Where does that connection with Middle Eastern cultures stem from?

I studied History and Arabic at Durham due to a desire to understand different cultures. Arabic is a beautiful language, and the written script an artform in itself.

I first travelled to Iran when I was eighteen years old, and was captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the mosques of Isfahan and Shiraz. I draw inspiration from Islamic art and poetry to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Middle East which is so often forgotten and overshadowed by war.

You’ve been involved with humanitarian work for some time, and presumably painting for a while too. Have they always felt connected, or was there a particular event or story that caused you to bring them together?

I have always loved to paint ever since I was very young, but my interest in portraiture began as a result of my travels and humanitarian work in Africa and the Middle East. While living in Jordan as an Arabic student in 2014, I had an opportunity to organise art projects with Syrian refugees for UNHCR – an experience which opened my eyes to the magnitude of the refugee crisis confronting our world today. I began to paint the portraits of some of the refugees I had met, to show the people behind the global crisis, whose personal stories are otherwise often shrouded by statistics.

My unusual position as an English artist who is fluent in Arabic has enabled me to cross cultural barriers and communicate their stories, and I’ve been deeply moved by the stories of the refugees I’ve had the privilege of meeting. Each person I have spoken with has a story of suffering and remarkable resilience. It was to share their stories that I began painting their portraits.

Hannah Rose Thomas Yezidi Women: ISIS Survivors Art Sputnik Faith
Panels from ‘Yezidi Women: ISIS Survivors’

I love these words from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” What does it truly mean to imagine yourselves in another person’s skin, to feel what they feel? How can we begin to imagine how it feels to flee our homes and the unimaginable horrors of war? There is nothing more important than empathy for another’s suffering. We have to feel compassion for one another if we are going to survive with dignity.

“I don’t think I could go to these places if I didn’t have art as a way to process and express all that I have seen.”

The ‘art of empathy’ is a concept that has been on my heart while painting the portraits of Yezidi women and Rohingya women this last year. Often tears would fall while painting and thinking about their stories and ongoing suffering: the paintings are a way of offering a prayer for them to God.

I don’t think I could go to these places if I didn’t have art as a way to process and express all that I have seen. My work has taught me to look for the sacred beauty, dignity and value of the human spirit, even in places of darkness and suffering. I hope that these paintings remind us of our shared humanity and that we have more in common than what divides us.

Hannah Rose Thomas Yezidi Women Project Sputnik Faith Art
A Yezidi woman, former ISIS captive, paints a self-portrait

Who’s the primary audience in your mind: the portrait subjects themselves, or the folks far away?

The hope was to use the art projects and paintings as a tool for advocacy and a way to bring their stories to places of influence in the West. This year the paintings by Yezidi women from an art project I organised in Northern Iraq last year were shown alongside my paintings in the Houses of Parliament and DfID.

Ever since I was young I have wanted to be a voice for the voiceless somehow, and never imagined it could be through art.

The start of your process is so personal; have you also been able to share moments with your audience, to witness their reaction to your work?

There have been many times when people I’ve spoken to have been visibly moved by the paintings. I think that this is because a portrait painting is intensely personal, and also it provides space for people to contemplate and reflect. We are so frequently bombarded with tragic stories in the news that I think we become a little numb; however a portrait painting can bring us face to face with the human stories behind the refugee crisis, which makes it much more real.

The MPs and Peers who visited my exhibition Yezidi women: ISIS Survivors  in the houses of Parliament March 2018 were profoundly moved, and as a consequence the plight of Yezidi women was raised in the House on a number of occasions, including a mention by Theresa May during PMQs.  •  @hannahrosethomas

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Luke Tonge makes the print medium sing

Luke Tonge Graphic Design Visual Sputnik Faith Art

In Artist of the Week, we celebrate faith-driven artists making quality work for universal audiences.

Birmingham-based designer Luke Tonge is a man of many, many hats: chiefly a freelance graphic designer, Luke also lectures at BCU, art directs The Recorder magazine for Monotype, and founded CRTD, a network for Christian creative professionals to connect with one another.

Most recently, Luke was one of the directors of the inaugural Birmingham Design Festival – a stunning spread of talks, exhibitions and workshops across the city, over 4 days, drawing in huge, influential names and sponsors, and injecting some serious creative pride into the local design scene. It’s hard to overstate what Luke and his team pulled off – this was truly something for the city’s creative community to shout about, and most of the festival was totally free to attend. Check out Creative Review’s interview with Luke and co-director Dan Alcorn, here.

Birmingham Design Festival Thom Bartley
Photo: Thom Bartley for Birmingham Design Festival

The shiny new design festival aside, Luke’s work speaks for itself. He’s a man who makes the print medium sing, with a style that tastefully balances cleanliness and chaos – the right white space here, the right 120-pt typeface there – and a knack for celebrating and incorporating others’ work, as he does so well in The Recorder.

It’s symptomatic of what makes Luke such an asset to Brum at large: so good at connecting and collaborating, that you could almost miss the raw talent pulling it all together.

Luke Tonge Graphic Design Recorder Sputnik Visual Faith Art
Spreads from The Recorder.

Follow Luke Tonge on Twitter (his digital stomping ground of choice) to have a chance of keeping up with the man’s output and various projects.

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Deyah has the hunger for greatness

NoNameDisciple Sputnik Faith Art Music Hip-Hop

In Artist of the Week, we celebrate faith-driven artists making quality work for universal audiences.

Maybe more than any other music genre, faith is a real and vibrant topic within the world of hip-hop: some of the most critically acclaimed, high-profile rappers in the US make work that vibrates with spiritual questions and profess a multifaceted faith that reflects the complex and chaotic times we live in.

Things have changed in the UK too, with Stormzy’s gospel-influenced debut in particular breaking down cultural taboos: and if you heard the BBC’s 1XTRA show on Rap & Religion you’ll have come across London’s NoNameDisciple.

You could pick out all kinds of reference points in NoNameDisciple’s style – maybe K.Flay, Jamila Woods, Mr. Lamar himself; like her US counterparts, NoNameDisciple takes a raw, truthful approach to her music, using faith as a prism to look at the realities of life, and takes influence from the best in the game.

And while the US is setting the bar with Kendrick or Childish Gambino’s visual collaborators (Dave Meyers and Hiro Murai, respectively), NoNameDisciple clearly has the hunger and ambition to chase after them: her double-video ‘A Millennial’s Godfidence’ marks a step up on every level, from the cold, meter-busting instrumentals, and crisp vocal delivery, to Onismo Muhlanga’s enigmatic visuals. Give her enough time and there’s no telling what she could do.

Check out ‘A Millennial’s Godfidence’ above, or last year’s Therapy Sessions 77 EP on Soundcloud.

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Ruth Mary crafts beguiling, unorthodox jewellery

In Artist of the Week, we celebrate faith-driven artists making work for universal audiences.

Though a part of Sputnik for many years, we still felt honoured to have Birmingham-based jewellery-maker Ruth Mary running a ‘small business’ workshop at Catalyst Festival this summer. When it comes to making a living in the creative industries, Ruth has wisdom to spare; her home-run jewellery company was featured in the Guardian’s top 100 small businesses last year, and she was invited to speak at the Women in Business Expo 2017 at Birmingham Council House.

More to the point though, Ruth’s work is stunning: a genuinely unorthodox form of jewellery that is the result of her self-taught expertise as both a silversmith and lace maker. Ruth’s design concepts are hand-stitched in thread, then recreated in precious metal: the end result is both beguiling, and evidently popular!

Ruth Mary Jewellery Sputnik Paisley Necklace Gold
Paisley Handmade Silver Lace Necklace, by Ruth Mary Jewellery

We also hugely appreciate Ruth’s openness about her route into the industry: she trained originally as a chemist, but a bout of serious illness prompted a change in direction. No doubt it’s Ruth’s faith, in part, that enables her to be open with her story, where the pressure on the self-employed can be to present everything in the most positive light possible. It’s beautiful to see God work in her life this way, but Ruth’s work is worth celebrating regardless: a talented and unique craftsperson making waves in her industry.

You can see more of Ruth’s work, and order her jewellery, at her website.

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Artists: How to Get Involved with Sputnik

Artists Get Involved Sputnik Faith Art Joshua Coleman

1. Join the Online Conversation

Nothing beats real life, face-to-face camaraderie, but joining the online conversation is a good place to start with Sputnik. We update the website at least once a week with thinkpieces, features and news from our network and beyond.

We’ve been writing for a while – so there’s plenty in our ‘Think’ section to sink your teeth into. Try our series on ‘Beauty & Art’, or Sputnik founder Jonny Mellor‘s thoughts on whether Christians are called to influence culture. If you’re a writer of any kind yourself, why not join the conversation by writing something for us to share?

We keep things updated on Facebook and Twitter too, so be sure to follow us.

Sputnik Hubs Faith Art Visual
Birmingham Sputnik Hub

2. Get Involved in a Hub

Our Sputnik Hubs are opportunities for like-minded comrades, co-conspirators and collaborators to meet: an essential thing for any artistic practitioner, and perhaps even more so for Christians, who can feel particularly isolated in their creative activity.

Hubs meet on a termly basis. Usually, guest artists present their projects, we discuss issues of faith and art and we all get a chance to showcase what we’re working on. Our hope is that genuine friendships form to help you in your practice more broadly.

Join our mailing list to get a monthly email about Hubs and any other meetups. Our Hubs are in Birmingham and Bedford, but many more are in the pipeline. You can register your interest based on your location here.

Sputnik Patrons Faith Art Anthology Namiko Lee
Sputnik Poetry & Visuals Vol. 1

3. Get Hold of Work from Sputnik Artists

Finally, as well as getting to know one other, we think it’s important to provide an audience for each other too. To be part of Sputnik really means to be soaking in, getting challenged by and ultimately supporting the exceptional work being made in and around our network.

To this end, every 6 months, we compile some of the music, poetry and visual art from artists connected to Sputnik and put it together into a coffee table book. These are not for sale, but are available to anyone who subscribes to our Sputnik Patrons scheme at anything from £5 a month.

The funds all go towards supporting artistic projects, in some cases with direct funding, in other cases by paying for design, promotion, print/film/music production or more. Of course, you can apply for this support yourself, but we hope you’ll also spare a fiver a month to support fellow practitioners this way. And if you want a better idea about who’s out there in the network, start with our ‘Discover’ page.

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Huw Evans’ ‘Minor Monuments’ comes to life

Huw Evans Poetry Minor Monuments Sputnik Patrons

Newcastle-based poet and author Huw Evans has been an integral part of Sputnik for a long time, as our resident expert on writing and a regular contributor to our blog.

He’s also a fantastic writer and performer, and we were greatly pleased to support Huw’s work by helping him publish his debut poetry collection Minor Monuments with the help of our Sputnik Patrons.

Huw Evans Minor Monuments Poetry Sputnik Faith Art
‘Minor Monuments’ by Huw Evans

Minor Monuments is a collection of poems inspired by the district of Ardudwy in North Wales, the works of Sir Thomas Browne and the Welsh mythologies of the Mabinogion. You can read more about it, and buy a copy, from Huw’s website. You can also attend the official launch event at the Holy Biscuit in Newcastle, next week – more details here.

Minor Monuments is also available at:, Blackwells, Book Depository Ltd, Waterstones; (USA), Barnes and Noble; (AUS/NZ) Booktopia.

Subscribe to Sputnik Patrons to help more work like this to get made.

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Samuel John Butt brings love everywhere

Welcome to our new feature, Artist of the Week, in which we celebrate faith-driven artists making work for universal audiences.

SE Londoner Samuel John Butt is a photographic artist whose work has been featured on the pages of i-D magazine, used as album artwork by Michael Kiwanuka and hung on the walls of a small selection of galleries in East London. He’s currently working on a series of experimental floral images, and learning to write poetry. He’s also been developing a brand and clothing range called ‘More Love’, a way to cultivate and communicate the love that originates from God.

Samuel J Butt Can We Start Again Please Sputnik Faith Art
From SJB’s exhibition ‘Can We Start Again Please?’

It’s easy to be intimidated by the successes and the considerable talent of someone like Sam, but his humility and honesty in person debunks any Instagram fallacies before you even start. Being a photographer in the pressurized maelstrom of London is far from easy or glamorous, and it’s a vocation that has forced Sam to continually reevaluate what is important, what he can hope to achieve, and the best way to take care of himself and others.

Unsurprisingly, his creative process is well-thought out: earlier this year we featured his in-depth interview with Kodak on why he continues to use film, and the inner process that informs his work. You can see plenty of his work on Instagram or his website: from intimate, humanizing portraits and diaristic snaps to beautiful, abstract images.

We were privileged to feature an exclusive piece from ‘Experiments From the Garden’ in our first ever Sputnik Poetry & Visuals anthology – pick up a copy by joining Sputnik Patrons!

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Namiko Chan Takahashi is a master of portraits

Welcome to our new feature, Artist of the Week, in which we celebrate faith-driven artists making work for universal audiences.

Singapore-based, award-winning multidisciplinary artist Namiko Chan Takahashi is one of Singapore’s most accomplished portrait artists; her work is found in many private international collections as well as in public institutions such as the Istana and the National Gallery of Singapore.

Sputnik Patrons Faith Art Anthology Namiko Lee
Namiko Chan Takahashi’s ‘Beyond Belief’, featured in Sputnik Poetry & Visuals Vol 1.

Namiko specialises in seeing the Imago Dei in every person, and portraying their dignity and beauty in her oil paintings. For example, in 2015 she launched the 10,000 Profiles Project, rendering 35-minute profile portraits of friends and perfect strangers, in order to explore the assumptions we make about people when we first see them; eventually God worked through the project to serve the Orang Asli – the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia.

Along with her husband – prize-winning poet, community organiser and ethics lawyer Aaron Lee – Namiko runs the Laniakea Culture Collective, and is regularly invited to conduct painting and art exploration classes for the public. As if this wasn’t enough – she now directs, teaches and dances with Singapore’s first branch of a Hawaiian Hula dance school. In short, Namiko is an astoundingly talented, hard-working and empathetic artist doing fantastic things in Singapore.

We were privileged to feature Namiko in our first ever Sputnik Poetry & Visuals anthology, alongside her husband – pick up a copy by joining Sputnik Patrons!

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Joanna Karselis’s heart-wrenching ‘By the Lovely Shores’ EP

You may have missed the live debut of sing-songwriter/composer Joanna Karselis’s new EP By the Lovely Shores at Catalyst Festival, but the EP itself is available to stream/buy on Bandcamp, as well as YouTube.

By the Lovely Shores is an intimate EP documenting the heart-wrenching journey of watching a loved one struggle with dementia. It’s a fearlessly personal piece of art: Karselis lays out the experience with raw honesty, drawing empathy out of the listener and, for a moment, widening their frame on the world.

Listen to ‘Darling’, and see the cover artwork, below.

Thanks to our Patrons, Sputnik was able to contribute artwork for the EP and provide assistance with print production – subscribe to Sputnik Patrons now to help us assist more projects like this.

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Develop your craft, study the Bible & work with us as a Sputnik intern

Would you like to spend a year developing your art practice, getting to know the Bible better and working alongside the Sputnik team in Birmingham?

We are offering up to three Sputnik internships, starting in September 2018, linked in with the Newfrontiers Impact training program.

What does the year look like?

Developing your own art practice.

Spend time working on your own artistic projects, with supervision and mentoring from artists in your field. We’ll help you strategise and find some key goals to accomplish by the end of the year.

Studying the Bible.

There will be 30 days of practical theological training throughout the year, as well as an accompanying programme of study – in association with Newfrontiers’ Impact programme.

Working with the Brum Sputnik Team.

You’d be working closely with Jonny & Jemma Mellor, and the Brum Sputnik team to broaden your creative horizons and to help with the week by week running of the Sputnik arts network.

Getting stuck into a local church.

Part of the year would involve serving at Churchcentral, Birmingham, and getting stuck into the wider church community.

Who’s it for?

This is potentially for any Christian who is serious about their creative practice, and who wants to create work for a universal audience (not just for Christians).

The internship will be based in a church from the Catalyst Network, but you don’t have to be from a Catalyst church. You just need to love Jesus!

While we will take applications from creatives of any discipline, the internship would be best designed to serve writers, musicians, songwriters, rappers, photographers, graphic designers, fine artists or filmmakers. (If you’re not sure whether you fall into any of these pigeonholes but are still interested, contact us directly through Facebook or Twitter, and we can talk it through).

Applying for the internship

The cost for the year will be £1,350 (for the residential training). We will need to see examples of work, and there will be an interview. Check out the application form for more details.

Be advised, you’ll have to arrange a means of funding your living while interning with us. The internship is technically full-time, but if you’re working a part-time job we have a certain amount of flexibility to make that work for you.

The deadline for application is 20th July.

So, are you interested? Download the application form here.

Featured image: students at Leeds School of Theology, another training programme affiliated with Impact & the Catalyst Network.

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David Benjamin Blower’s new album takes on the art of timeless protest hymns

David Benjamin Blower Hymns Luke Sewell Sputnik

Apocalyptic folk artist David Benjamin Blower released his eighth record yesterday, Hymns for Nomads – a ‘compilation of spirituals, murder ballads and campfire songs’. Hymns emerged out of the process of creating meditative ‘devotional’ songs in Blower’s other guise as half of the excellent Nomad Podcast. The results are congregational songs, well suited to group singalongs – although probably more of a Tolkien-esque barroom romp than a modern church service.

David Benjamin Blower Hymns for Nomads Sputnik

From Minor Artists:

These are spirituals, but there is nothing much otherworldly in ‘Hymns…’ It is a record rooted in the soil and the struggle of material reality.

This is protest music, but ‘Hymns…’ shows a different kind of defiance. These are songs of weary, bone-deep, painful resistance. And they are songs reaching beyond anger toward mercy.

This is sacred music, but ‘Hymns…’ is no benign worship record. Here are sorrow, suffering and lament alongside faith, hope and love. These are songs for lives of love, prayer and resistance.

See Blower’s live performance of ‘Watching and Waiting’ below, and check out the whole record on Bandcamp or Minor Artists.

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Elisha Esquivel’s ‘From the Ground Up’ is a pop banger six years in the making

Coventry singer-songwriter and Sputnikeer Elisha Esquivel launched her brand new ‘From the Ground Up’ EP last week. It’s a set of songs six years in the making, but it doesn’t feel overwrought – in fact it’s remarkably immediate and catchy, with production indebted to the likes of London Grammar, Ellie Goulding and Adele.

Pop music like this is a tricky thing to pull off tastefully, but Elisha manages it, particularly on the opening one-two punch of ‘Meet Me Here’ and ‘Fire and Water’ (our personal highlights). Do check out the EP on Spotify, and follow Elisha on Twitter and Instagram.

Read our previous interview with Elisha, here.

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Kendrick Lamar wins historic Pultizer Prize for Music

Kendrick Lamar Pulitzer Prize Sputnik Rich Fury

Kendrick Lamar was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music for last year’s album DAMN.. The Pulitzer Prize primarily honours notable or landmark work in American journalism, which this year focused on Trump and sexual harassment in Hollywood. The Pulitzer Prize described DAMN. as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”

DAMN. is the first work of popular music (rather than classical or, occasionally, jazz) to win the prize since it was introduced in 1943. Pulitzer Prize Administrator Dana Canedy said in a Billboard interview that the decision was a unanimous one. It’s an unexpected change for Pulitzer, but a thoroughly well-deserved one for an artist whose incisive and uncompromising work is both critically revered, and hugely successful commercially. Read our reflections from last year on DAMN. and the theological depths behind it.

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London’s D&AD Festival addresses how ‘Creativity Shapes Culture’

D&AD Design Festival Sputnik

D&AD (Design and Art Direction) is a British educational charity, well known in the design and advertising worlds for their prestigious and fairly picky awards ceremony. They also run the D&AD Festival, taking place this year at the Old Truman Brewery in London from the 24-26 April.

The 2018 Festival’s theme is how ‘Creativity Shapes Culture‘ – exploring, amongst other things, how those in the creative industries might make positive change in the world, make culture more inclusive, and take ownership of their social influence. It’s a theme that will feel altogether pretty familiar to regular Sputnik readers, since it’s pretty central to our raison d’être; it also seems like a savvy decision for a year where the political and social influence of marketing and technology are coming under a lot of scrutiny.

Tickets for the renowned festival might stretch your pockets a bit, but the discussions look great. And we’re not above enjoying a moment of vindication.

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Dora Votin translates grace, loss and beauty into abstract paintings

Dora Votin On the Road to Damascus Sputnik Visual Art Faith
Please could you introduce yourself- who are you and what do you do?

I’m a Hungarian artist, a painter, born and raised in Budapest. Me, my husband and our three children moved to Budaörs in 1999, on the southern outskirts of Budapest. My workshop is there, too.

I had worked as a background painter for a cartoon animation company for years, and I was really happy to be there. After our three children were born, I became a freelancer. I studied drawing, painting, typography – and later, liberal arts/religious studies and philosophy.

You work in several different styles. Can you tell us a bit about these?

How I work, what I paint, what kind of texture I use depends on what I want to express. The way I put down the strokes – especially if I use thick paint – can add extra message to the picture. On the New Song series, I gave strength to the brush strokes, but the Threshold series are the opposite in terms of technique; I only used a few gesture-like brush strokes, and few colours.

My plank-pictures series is a recent favourite, and it uses at least three different styles. One is faint, sensitive drawings adding almost nothing to the wood; one is vivid and colourful; and one icon-like series uses metallic golds and silvers.

The most important thing is that these planks are from building sites: they are old, wasted pieces of wood which are knotted, cracked and stained. They’re wounded, like us.

I don’t cover the injured part of it; rather, I put gold next to the most painful part, to emphasize it. So finally the wounded part of the wood becomes the most beautiful part of the whole. For me, that is how we are changed when we are in God’s hand.


Dora Votin Mozes 2014 Sputnik Faith Art
Mozes, Dora Votin (2014)

Our readership is mainly from the English speaking world, and many of us would not know much about Hungarian artists. Who are your favourite Hungarian artists and why?

Judit Reigl and Simon Hantai would be the most known and famous ones. Reigl’s paintings are really close to my heart. Her works are powerful and reflect freedom and playfulness. There are just too many good painters and artists in Hungary. I mention only few of them.

Some contemporary artist I really appreciate: Eva Krajcsovics, Eszter Deli, Bea Zoltai, Gabor Erdelyi, Janos Aknay, Laszlo Gyemant, Laszlo Feher, Gabor Karatson, Lili Orszagh, Lajos Vajda, Endre Balint, Bela Kondor, Jeno Barcsay. – That is a long long line, already!

“I didn’t expect grace showing up from destruction [in my work]. That was a surprise.”

How does following Jesus make you a better artist and what challenges have you found being a Christian making art?

What makes the better art and artist is me, the real person, growing spiritually while following Christ, learning about God, life, myself and art.

For years I was afraid of calling myself a Christian artist. I felt it suggested my art is more a Christian thing than an art thing, and I didn’t want to reach people from that point. I didn’t want to be an old-fashioned kitsch painter, as I thought of it.

Please tell us about your ‘Removed Pictures’ project. Why did you make this and how did you come up with the idea?

‘Removed Pictures’ was created for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, last year. Thinking about reformation I had a sense of loss as an artist, because of the re-formation of the way of looking at art.

There are seven paintings, each showing a dramatic meeting in the life of Christ. I covered each painting with white wall paint, to experience that loss. The pain of loss was part of the honest relationship with the artworks and the only way of expressing the power of destruction.

What I had not planned was that I found a joy in it, greater than the loss. I realised I got new paintings, different from the originals, built upon them; they could only function because of that original, destroyed base. For me that has spoken about grace and renewal. That was a surprise. I didn’t expect grace showing up from destruction.

What projects are you working on at the moment and what do you hope to achieve in 2018?

Right now I am preparing for the next show. The title will be Scale Change, since I am painting in three sizes – small, medium and big – to discover how I can change the scale of a piece and still preserve its quality.


To see more of Dora’s work, visit her website. (For our English speaking audience, click on the ‘English’ button in the top right hand corner).


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Snoop Dogg curates an all-out Gospel opus, ‘Bible of Love’

Snoop Dogg Gospel of Love Sputnik Faith Art

ICYMI, Snoop Dogg recently dropped a 32-track, hand-on-heart Gospel album called ‘Bible of Love’, featuring about every big name in Gospel going, including Tye Tribbet, Fred Hammond, Faith Evans, the Clark Sisters, and many, many more. It’s now #1 on Billboard’s Gospel chart.

Although Gospel music is generally outside of the Sputnik remit, we’ve written before about the fascinating case of Christianity in American hip-hop. Snoop, unsurprisingly, has church roots – his mother, Beverley Broadus, is a travelling evangelist. While there are many different pockets of hip-hop that can’t all be pushed together, gospel music – ‘the music of black resilience and black fortitude’, as this Vulture review put it – is an inextricable influence on mainstream rap and R&B alike.

Though it’s stylistically broad, there’s little crossover in ‘Bible of Love’; it’s really a curated compilation of modern Gospel, resting entirely on your own personal taste for the genre. Musically speaking, it’s pure celebration of a subculture. But if it’s the result of Snoop’s personal journey, he keeps pretty quiet – he barely appears on the 2 hour album, which feels odd in the context. Whatever you make of it, the synergy of rap and modern gospel in the US carries on apace.


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Come to the inaugural Chaiya Arts Award exhibition

Chaiya Arts Award Exhibition Sputnik Faith Arts

The brand new Chaiya Arts Award opens its inaugural exhibition next week: a show of 40+ artists exploring the question ‘Where is God in our 21st Century World?’, bursting with diversity, vulnerability, exploration and fragility.

The exhibition promises a multitude of original and provocative responses to the titular question, through painting, sculpture and video; aimed at the curious and open-minded, for people of all faiths and none.

The exhibition runs from 29 March to 8 April 2018 (11am-6pm, or 8pm on Thursdays), at gallery@oxo in South Bank, London.  Admission is free, and the art is for sale – so if you get a chance, be sure to take a look.

Chaiya Arts Award Exhibition Poster Sputnik

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‘A Wrinkle in Time’ gets an early drubbing from the critics

Wrinkle in Time Film Sputnik Faith Art

In certain circles, it’s been hard to avoid the hype for ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, Ava DuVernay’s film adaptation of a beloved children’s novel by Madeleine L’Engle; not just because of the popular source material, but because it’s the first big-budget action film to be directed by a woman of colour, its protagonist is a young mixed-race girl, and its cast features some absurdly big names. (Oprah).

L’Engle described herself as a writer first – ‘Christian is secondary’ – but the ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ novel is relatably Christian, in a very C.S. Lewis way (church-goers and publishers in the 60s, predictably, bristled against the witches and dark forces in the book). So the film is an interesting case: because despite its philosophical core, the script and the film itself have been held up as totems of liberal, post-Christian values.

We could be thankful that the project has bypassed America’s ‘Christian’ film-making machine, but it looks as though the weight of expectation may become a bit of a curse for the film instead, as many early reviews have been doling out ‘hard truths’. And interestingly, there’s an undercurrent of conversation about ironing out L’Engle’s Christian faith into weak platitudes:

The film has the feel of an iPad video pawned off on a toddler so Dad can make comforting mac and cheese – here’s a bite-sized lesson about loving yourself and a jumble of pretty colors.  -The Guardian

Considering the changes that were made to the story and the schmaltzy platitudes liberally spooned out by screenwriter Jennifer Lee, one gets the feeling that she and the director either didn’t fully grasp the material or didn’t think the audience could. -Dark Horizons

It’s especially awkward around the good / evil, light / dark dichotomy, which is never really put into more relatable terms. [The book] is open about its religious imagery… [but] L’Engle never had her Mr. Murry standing in his lab shouting “Love is the frequency!”  -The Verge

Screenwriter Jennifer Lee had this to say:

[L’Engle’s] intention was looking at the ordinary real hero in an extraordinary situation. The power of love in this world, and we stayed very true to that. And her lens through it was Christianity and everyone has a different lens in.

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Support Geoff Hall’s new film project ‘Seeing Rachel’, addressing modern human trafficking

Geoff Hall Seeing Rachel Film Sputnik Art

Geoff Hall is a novelist, a film maker, an arts mentor and a Christian and he is working on a new film project that you could help bring to life. We caught up with him to find out more.

Hi Geoff. Please introduce yourself…

For 15 years I was an arts mentor in Bristol with a thing we called The Group. It started when I was approached to help a student at the local arts university, when she was told that her faith was “inappropriate for a student at the college!” From one to many as it turned out, as it was the experience of quite a few art students.

We held monthly meetings to discuss spirituality and art. We’d have an artist present their work and we looked at artistic practice and discussed any problems they were having. This developed into something we called ‘The Tree House’. We started meeting in a café, eating free tapas, listening to bands, hear artists of diverse media talk about their work.

At this time I met Chris Lorensson of Upptacka Press, who decided he’d like to publish me if I’d write about mentoring work. This became a series called Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape and included juicy titles like ‘The Wilderness and the Desert of the Real’ and ‘Translating the Invisible Wind’. In future we’ll publish my new novel – a supernatural political horror story called Owl:Believe about a group of artists and hackers who take on the Corporate State.

You have a new project in development. Could you talk us through it?

Seeing Rachel came out of a dream I had. I’m told you can’t mention this to investors as they freak out about it… allegedly! I then started to develop a story about human trafficking. It took a year to write and research and the research was pretty disturbing.

Now when most people think about this genre of film, they see sensationalised violence or a kind of linear docu-drama narrative, so I decided to buck expectations and look at the psychology of the characters and their inner world. The lead roles are two female characters, by the way.

It will be shot in Bristol, a city with historical roots in slavery, but also sadly nowadays it’s a distribution hub for trafficking. People like to think it’s someone else’s problem; in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or Thailand and Cambodia, but what I want to bring to people’s hearts is that it’s our problem. It happens in our cities. With Seeing Rachel the world of trafficking is squeezed into one location, to reveal what lies beneath the surface of even a beautiful city like Bristol.

What are your hopes and goals for the project?

We always start with raising awareness and then hope that people will become activists with the aim of eradicating modern slavery. With this in mind we’re looking for an international theatrical and digital release.

What I want to bring to people’s hearts is that trafficking isn’t someone else’s problem; it’s our problem.

We’re planning a campaign to work with NGO’s and charities, devoted to the abolition of slavery in all its forms: sexual, narcotic, indentured slavery and domestic servitude. There are great networks out there, like the worldwide community of Freedom Collaborative and the Jam Network based in London, who we’ll be looking to work with as the film moves in to production. We’re also planning on supporting a local charity in their work amongst the victims of sex trafficking.

How can people help in bringing Seeing Rachel to life?

At the moment we’re seeking development finance, so that we can start ‘packaging’ the film with a name in front of the camera. This will help attract the interests of a distribution company. Our target is £30k for this phase.

We need patrons/investors and also partners who’ll help spread the word, as we move into more interesting phases of production. We wish to find people who’ve a passion for social justice and understand that investing in a film is part of this battle and not just a bit of cultural tinsel-making.

A writer works in a lonely place. As artists we’re used to this isolation, but making the film can only be achieved through a community. Then some of the things I carry can be offloaded and shared with others. I’m looking forward to that day!

It’s been a spiritual and physical battle so far, a quite bruising affair, but you’ve got to be persistent, you have to complete the course otherwise all you’re left with is debt and you’re stuck with no place left to go! Perseverance is the key to any artistic endeavour and in particular I think with film, because it takes a lot of people to get the thing off the ground.

To find out more about Seeing Rachel, visit the film’s website. If you’d like to support the project, contact Geoff directly through the facebook page.

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Help Patrol to kickstart their next array of illustrated stories

Patrol are an illustration studio in LA dedicated to publishing fiction and non-fiction that is loosely inspired by the Gospel. They’ve just announced a new range that they’re looking to fund via Kickstarter.

Here’s some information about the books they’re hoping to prepare and print:

The Gospel in Color

“Designed to equip parents and kids to have helpful, honest conversations on racism. These two books give a biblical perspective on race and how the good news of Jesus Christ brings about reconciliation, through rich illustrations and approachable text.”

The Moonman Cometh

“A children’s Christmas fantasy unlike any other, vividly told with rich illustrations and an engaging narrative. This book depicts the story of a boy and his dog as they seek to save their dying Christmas tree farm.”

See more about Patrol’s previous output, or see the new Kickstarter campaign here.

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Common, Sufjan Stevens grace the Oscars with some under-appreciated class

Common Sufjan Stevens Oscars Sputnik Faith

US hip-hop artist Common and indie maestro Sufjan Stevens both turned in notable performances at the Oscars on Sunday night, despite both being ultimately snubbed for the ‘Best Original Song’ category.

It’s probably fair to say that the 90th Oscars ceremony was a bag of contradictions: its self-congratulatory nature and lack of diversity has seen the Oscars come under increasing scrutiny lately, with the #MeToo movement hanging noticeably over proceedings. Along with Jordan Peele’s win and Frances McDormand’s speech, the presence of Stevens and Common felt like small (but welcome) breaks in ‘business as usual’.

Of course, they were given a typically restrained spotlight. Stevens’s appearance was the more baffling, being given a scant two minutes to play ‘Mystery of Love’ with a barely-visible backup band of preposterous talent in St Vincent, Chris Thile, and Moses Sumney. But offstage Stevens has been increasingly outspoken about his faith, injustice in the States, and the evangelical support for the President.

Meanwhile, Common performed ‘Stand Up for Something’ from Marshall alongside Andra Day. He took the opportunity of an uncensored microphone to ad-lib over the fairly straightforward song, referring obliquely to 45 as “a president that trolls with hate,” calling on the audience to “stand up” for immigrants and ‘dreamers’ (a reference to undocumented child migrants).

Watch both performances, below.

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Samuel J Butt shares all with the Kodak podcast

We’ve featured South London photographer Samuel J Butt before, around his recent exhibition and his excellent work on Stewart Garry’s folk-film album, Sojourner. Sam produces stunning photography in portraiture and abstract imagery – and recently had the opportunity to ‘take over’ Kodak’s instagram feed for a week, posting images and stories from old and new work alike.

Kodak capped that off with an in-depth interview on their Kodakery podcast, where Sam explains why he continues to work with film, and the inner process that goes into his work – something incredibly challenging in the frequently demanding and exhausting media industry.

Stream the interview below, or here on Kodak’s site – and check out Sam’s own instagram here.

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For the UK economy, the creative industries are huge

John Kampfner, CE of the new Creative Industries Federation, shared some statistics in Creative Review that may (or may not) surprise you. Read the full article here – though it requires a free sign-up to access.

We’d be the last people to measure the value of something by its contribution to the economy, but it’s a thought-provoking read if you (like us) wonder about the future of post-industrial, semi-automated, pre-mid-??-Brexit Britain.

Whenever I recite the following stats in speeches across the country, audiences gasp. The creative industries contribute £92 bn net to the UK economy and directly employ two million people. A further million work in creative jobs in other sectors, for example designers in manufacturing. That’s one in every eleven jobs. Last year alone, employment in this sector grew at four times the rate of the general economy.

This is the one I like the most: the creative industries are now worth more to the UK than oil and gas, life sciences, aviation and the car industry combined. There’s nothing soft or superfluous about this sector, it’s not a ‘nice to have’.  This, alongside technology, is where 21st- century growth should come from.

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Writer and poet Sharon Clark launches new website of her work

Sharon J Clark Website Sputnik Faith Art

Sharon Clark contributed work to our first Sputnik writing anthology back in 2013 and it was great to see her new blog appear towards the end of last year. is the online home for Sharon’s short stories, poetry and blog – it’s already filling up with quality work, and that’s likely to continue apace.

Sharon recently spoke to us about rearranging her working schedule to set aside at least a day a week to her craft: something that’s especially significant when you consider Sharon is one of the leaders at New Life Church Milton Keynes and is a key administrator in the Catalyst network of churches. It is wonderful to see someone who continues to be committed at the heart of her church and family of churches, at the same time committing herself to her artistic practice.

We know that many Christian artists feel that when it comes to church and art, it’s become a ‘one or the other’ sort of deal. Sharon gives credence to a ‘both/and’ approach. So, when you’ve next got half an hour spare, give the website a thorough perusal and get to know a really promising new writer.

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Black Panther actors Sope Aluko and Letitia Wright keep their faith in the spotlight

Black Panther Sputnik Faith Letitia Wright

Black Panther is an indisputable phenomenon. The Ryan Coogler-helmed adaptation of the Marvel comic has one of the highest-grossing box office openings of all time, critical acclaim across the board, and a phenomenal word-of-mouth reputation.

That’s before you touch on its cultural significance as the biggest cinematic event by a black director and primarily black cast. The ‘Black Panther Challenge’, a fundraiser to make sure children of ethnic minority get to see the film, has a wild life of its own. Its afrofuturist design, Kendrick Lamar-curated soundtrack and a barbed script that tackles institutional bias, colonialism and more, catapult it into a whole other stratosphere of cultural conversation. It’s a film that made a South African audience so ecstatic at its celebration of black pride and culture that they danced outside the theatre.

And there’s another story alongside all of this: many of the cast are outspoken Christians. Actress Sope Aluko already alluded to actors sharing their testimonies and supporting each other on set. British star Letitia Wright spoke on This Morning about her faith. It may lie outside the scope of the film, but it’s simply great to hear Wright share her journey openly and eloquently; and in particular, how her faith affects her approach to the creative industry in which she works.

See Wright’s interview below (comments on faith at the 2:55 mark).

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Well Done You return with another fire-bellied pop-rock single

Mike Lawetto Well Done You Thank You George

Hot on the heels of the Perendiz single ‘Down’, Mike Lawetto is back, once again, with his Californian pop-rock project Well Done You.

‘Thank You Very Much George’ is more of what we’ve come to expect from the Manchester based rock outfit. On the surface, it’s all bright and breezy – playfully enigmatic lyrics and kooky pop-punk stylings – but what sets it apart is an underlying sense of menace that breaks through in occasional bursts of genuine heaviness.

How long can WDY continue banging out singles of this quality before an album materialises? If we just take the singles from the last year, we’ve already got half an album, and it’s all killer, no filler.

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Stormzy uses BRIT Award performance to call out Theresa May

Stormzy Speaks Truth to Power Grenfell Prophetic

After winning two titles at the 2018 BRIT Awards ceremony last night, UK grime artist Stormzy used his solo performance to call out the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, over the lack of response or justice for those displaced and affected by last year’s Grenfell Tower disaster.

Stormzy’s hugely acclaimed debut album ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ was a surprisingly gospel-influenced release from the grime star, featuring unabashed confessions of faith. ‘Gang Signs…’ brought home the ‘Best British Album’ award at the Brits, with Stormzy thanking God at the podium – adding “it seems such a strange thing [to say], but if you know God, you know it’s all him.”

But the rapper’s most talked-about moment was his final performance, using his ITV audience of 4.5 million to speak some truth to power: “just forgot about Grenfell, you criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages, you should do some jail time, you should pay some damages, we should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.

If that’s not some prophetic art in action, we don’t know what is.

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Mr Ekow’s new single ‘Heart of the Matter’ tackles modern love

Mr Ekow Heart Matter Sputnik Faith Art

In 2017, Mr Ekow brought out the EP ‘Between Haircuts’, and was featured in Salute Music’s top 100 independent UK artists. There was a multi discipline EP launch, featuring visual art, poetry and live music collabos, and then he topped it all off with a cheeky little Christmas single too.

But no rest for the wicked. So far this year, he’s started up a vlog to share some of his hard-earned wisdom on the struggles of being an independent artist, and now we have a new single. It’s a dissection of modern ideas on ‘love’, set to Dilla-esque keys and soulful vibes: and it’s already receiving positive press wherever it goes.

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Leftfield pop act Perendiz release new single ‘Down’

Mike Lawetto’s musical output over the last year has been largely through his rock band Well Done You, but, never one to settle into one groove for long, his leftfield pop project Perendiz has re-emerged with a new single ‘Down’.

Featuring Mrs Lawetto (Mike’s wife), it’s certainly a more compressed and electronic sound than WDY, but Mike’s familiar offbeat tendencies permeate as expected. Kicking things off with pounding drums and bass, overlaid with breathy near spoken word delivery, it breaks into his catchiest hook yet.

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London Rapper Mr Ekow Launches New Vlog for Independent Artists

Sputnik Mr Ekow Faith Art Hip-hop

Chris Gaisie, a.k.a. Mr Ekow, has long been a Sputnik favourite, both for his musical output and his tenacity, determination and creativity in getting his music into the public domain: now he’s upped the ante again, with a new vlog, aimed at sharing helpful tips he’s picked up on his journey so far with other independent artists.

The first installment focuses on strategy and offers a simple challenge to independent artists (especially musicians) to not just do their ‘own creative thing’ but to come up with a plan to ensure they connect with as many people as possible. As he points out, young independent artists often take their cues from more established artists and conclude that strategy is unimportant. Beyonce, for example, can drop an album with no promo at all, and still stream and sell by the million. This, however, doesn’t work quite so well for those of us who are somewhat less experienced and well-known.

Packed with tips and provocative challenges, Mr Ekow’s first vlog is well worth checking out for anyone looking to find an audience for your art, but particularly relevant for musicians, songwriters and bands, who are reasonably new to releasing music. So, give it a watch and subscribe to make sure you won’t miss how things develops from here.

Check out Mr Ekow’s single ‘Liberate’, below.

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Get Your Free Ticket to An Evening With South African Painter/Sculptor Duncan Stewart

On Thursday 18th January, Sputnik are hosting An Evening with Duncan Stewart, at Woodside Church, Bedford. Duncan, a South African painter and sculptor, is a Sputnik favourite and it is a delight to have him over in the UK.

What brings you to England, Duncan?

Short answer: God. Long answer: I applied to Artrooms Fair 2018, an art fair for independent artists around the globe, and was delighted to be selected to show some of my work here in London.

Talk to us about the exhibition…

For Artrooms Fair, selected artists are given a room at the Melia White House, where they are invited to show whatever work they want. The strength of this concept is that the public get to engage first hand with the artists, and vice versa; it’s also a fantastic opportunity for networking, and making new contacts with galleries, artists, critics etc.

What else are you looking to get up to on your stay?

The scripture I felt God wanted me to hold as I came was from 1 Cor 2:1-5 and, with that in mind, it seems good to connect to all opportunities God opens up, knowing that He is building his kingdom, by His Holy Spirit’s power and for His glory. So I’ve accepted this invitation, and another to be interviewed as part of a panel discussion with Artrooms Fair that I believe may be put on line or broadcast more broadly – God knows.

What else have you got in the pipeline for 2018?

I am excited for 2018. I have two workshops coming up: one is a three-day painting and drawing retreat on the beautiful Bushmens River/Kenton-on-Sea area; then I have been invited to Jo’burg, interestingly enough, to host a workshop for corporate/banking people on the need to be creative, and to overcome fear in the pursuit of meaningfulness and creativity. I’ve no idea what I am going to present, so don’t ask! Suggestions are welcome though. At some point I also want to paint and sculpt and hopefully will be down at the Cape Town International Boat show again later in the year.

If you’re in London over the weekend, the Artrooms fair will be at Meliá in Regent’s Park (here are all the details). And if you can make it to Bedford on Thursday evening, book your free tickets here.

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Well Done You celebrate the Great Christmas Feast

Mike Lawetto’s Manchester based rock outfit Well Done You had already had an excellent 2017, releasing two singles and featuring regularly on Kerrang Radio, when they dropped their Christmas single ‘Christmas Time’ last week.

Whereas Lawetto’s Captain Pinball project of 2015 was a frenzy of Yuletide ecstasy, this year’s paean to the Christmas season is slowed right down into a chugging, anarchic pop punk number that focuses on the joys of a good old Christmas dinner. It works superbly and it’s only drawback is that if you’re not careful, it may have you absent mindedly singing ‘Can you pass the sprouts around?’ on Christmas afternoon (which for many of us may not overly desirable!)

Keep a look out for more from Mike Lawetto in the New Year, with a new Well Done You single already doing the rounds on Alex Baker’s Kerrang show, and some Perendiz releases in the pipeline too.


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Rowan Williams, Elaine Storkey and David Benjamin Blower present a series of Advent Devotionals

Nomad Podcast is releasing a series of Advent ‘Devotionals’ for free: audio meditations that reflect on a particular topic, unpacking it with music, song, readings and prayers. Reflections are brought by philosopher and theologian Elaine Storkey; former archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams contributes the readings, and David Benjamin Blower, a good friend of Sputnik, provides the music and songs.

Nomad is an online podcast centred around Christian community – regularly interviewing renowned Christian thinkers and activists in the hope of understanding the church’s future in a post-Christendom culture. Nomad are supported in part by their listeners on Patreon – and their regular ‘Devotionals’ like these are a patrons-only perk, so if you enjoy the Advent series, why not support their work?

Find the free Advent series here, and listen to their excellent back-catalogue of interviews here.

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Catch ‘Da Art of Christmas Storytellin’ from Mr Ekow

Croydon rapper Mr Ekow has teamed up with regular collaborator, producer Prospect, to continue his ‘Art of Christmas Storytellin’ series. We’re now on Part 3, and it’s a strange tale of Cheetos, psychotic elves and broken toys, all over shuffling jazzy keys and jolting snares. It’s like ‘Christmas in Hollis’ produced by J Dilla and exactly what you need if you’re tiring of carols and High Street Christmas anthems.

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Remember when Churches made Great Art? This!

People often hark back to bygone ages when churches were the driving force behind the highest calibre of art. Art that affected you after you thought you’d left it behind. Art that perfectly complemented its content to warm your heart to Jesus and the Good News that he entrusted to us.

This year, King’s Church, Edinburgh have crafted a Christmas video that can give us confidence that those days are not entirely behind us. Following on from their excellent 2016 piece Threadbare, this year’s video is a collaboration between poet Jennifer Rawson,  composer Stu Kennedy and video maker and graphic designer George Gibson and features a load of peeps from the church. The visuals, sonics and lyricism are all exceptional, but the fact that they interplay so harmoniously is deeply impressive and creates a profound and powerful piece of art.

The poem is certainly the centrepiece though, and while it was written to be performed, it stands up as a very effective written piece too. Therefore here it is (reproduced with permission):

He Draws Near

A hymnal wind.

The quiet oratorio
sung by our common existence.

Earth’s heaving,
churning pulse
drew its breath
when Jesus came.

He is music.

He is the long silence
between stars
draped across the night
like fairy lights
like the heavens shout —

He is infinite.

He is galaxy upon galaxy,
a tapestry, the spark
that lit the sun.

Open your eyes and see—

The ridges of his fingertips
in every heather-dusted hill.

His voice in the roaring ocean—
constant and deep.

His reflection in the faces
we pass — His image

The very stones cry out
“He is with us.”

He draws near
to our daily rituals —
the baptism of cutlery
in soapy, sink water;
the crackle of oil
anointing kitchen surfaces;
fire smoke in winter
like incense offerings;
our commuter engine chorus
singing with angels.

All the while,
the carpenter King
knocks at the door
and waits.

His birth was just the beginning.


Jennifer Rawson


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See The Liturgists’ series of visual meditations on the Joyous Mysteries

For those unaware, The Liturgists is a mainly-online community led by writer “Science Mike” McHargue and musician Michael Gungor, which has grown out of their Liturgists Podcast. The Liturgists’ discussions often revolve around faith, art and science, particularly trying to gain an appreciation for the breadth of Christian faith and thought outside of one’s upbringing and culture.

As such, the podcast has a huge listenership among ex-Christians, non-Christians, struggling believers and everyone in between. Their new Christmas series of videos, ‘The Joyous Mysteries’, is arguably the Liturgists at their best: an inclusive, poetic and surprisingly Catholic invitation to Advent-related meditation.

Four visual artists created pieces based around ‘The Joyous Mysteries’, a Catholic term for a series of events before and during Christ’s life; the videos document their process, while outlining the “imago divina” methodology of meditation through art, before leaving it up to the viewer. In all, it’s an intriguing and thoughtfully curated series that gently suggests the deep truth behind some joy-filled mysteries.

See the introductory video, below:

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St. Paul’s Auckland Keep Up Their High Standard of Christmas Films

There are different elements of our Christmas celebrations that we particularly look forward to each year: mince pies; mulled wine; family board games; the Queen’s speech. One addition to our list over the last few years has been the St. Paul’s Auckland Christmas film.

After the Spike Jonze-esque ‘Good News of Great Joy’, the Michel Gondry channelling ‘An Unexpected Christmas’, and the subtle profundity of last year’s ‘Star of Wonder’, their 2017 offering, ‘Gold Frankincense Myrrh’ is now upon us:

Featuring spoken word-poet Dietrich Soakai, stage prodigy Antonia Robinson, and TV villain Aaron Jackson (Pete’s Dragon, Shortland Street), James Bowman and the team have crafted a simple, sweeping encapsulation of all that Jesus came to do.

James, who wrote the piece says:

“Our film aims to connect modern audiences with ancient Christian spirituality. And to present a fresh take on a familiar story and celebration. It doesn’t draw any conclusions, instead leaving audiences to make their own minds up.”

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Join Sputnik Patrons and get The Blood Magnetic’s new Christmas EP

For a limited time, any new sign-ups to Sputnik Patrons (at any tier) get a free CD+digital copy of the brand new ‘Epiphany’ EP by The Blood Magnetic. ‘Epiphany’ is a baroque-pop-indie collaboration between singer-songwriter Matt Tinsley and multi-instrumentalist Chris Donald, released through indie group Minor Artists.

From Minor Artists’ site:

Built on classic Christmas lyrics, adapted by English poet David Burton, ‘Epiphany’ overturns the familiar, the commercial and the saccharine into a rush of strange, ugly beauty: the kind of Christmas-themed music that Low, or the Mountain Goats, or Wovenhand might all tune in to.

A year-long project brought to life by a cast of collaborators, ‘Epiphany’ is guitars brawling with pianos, violins and drums: the mundane getting rough with the mysterious: the gorgeous sound of the sky falling in.

Enjoy the title track from the EP below, buy a copy on Minor Artists or Bandcamp, or why not sign up yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbours to Sputnik Patrons today?

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Help Musicians UK launches 24-hour mental health hotline for musicians

The charity Help Musicians UK has officially launched their 24/7 helpline, Music Minds Matter, after a recent study discovered that musicians were three times more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression compared to the general public – the world’s largest study into music and mental health to date.

Amongst other things, the study highlighted that music makers’ work is integral to their sense of self, that their precarious careers exist in an environment of constant critical feedback, and that guilt, insecurity and unsympathetic working conditions are rife in the industry.

The hotline on 0808 802 8008 operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A statement on the official website reads:

“Help Musicians UK understands the complexity of working in music and recognises the need for support to reflect the nature and unique challenges those in the industry can face. If you want someone to talk to, or even explore avenues for ongoing support, get in touch, anytime. We’re here to help.”

Read Chris Donald’s opinion piece on this subject from August, ‘Music Careers and Mental Health’.

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Sputnik Sounds Vol. 1 is now available to stream

Sputnik has released a number of music compilations as part of our exhibitions in the past, but Sputnik Sounds Vol. 1 is the first time we’re collating some of our favourite Sputnik-made music from across the last few years.

Sputnik Sounds Vol. 1 is a great introduction to the widespread talents in our network: the maximalist neo-soul of Strange Ghost, the murky lo-fi hip-hop of Mr Ekow, the raw, stripped-back folk of Joanna Karselis, the post-punk barrage of Barium. And all artists who excellently explore the deep waters of faith, mystery, the unseen, or the unknown.

Stream it here on Spotify.

If you’re a musician and you’re not yet connected to Sputnik, why not get in touch?

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Stream ReFlex the Architect’s album highlight ‘Lonely Pioneers’ now

London-based MC and producer ReFlex the Architect finally released his long-awaited debut LP ‘From the Highest’ in November. It’s a sprawling and collaborative beast, a forward-thinking boom-bap affair with all manner of international contributors making an impressively cohesive whole.

ReFlex and UK crew Scribbling Idiots are veterans of the London scene, but for those unfamiliar with them, ‘Lonely Pioneers’ is a fairly on-the-nose introduction to their industry experience as Christians facing suspicion from hip-hop fans and church folks alike.

Stream that below, find the full album here, or see our previous interview with ReFlex here.

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Reflections on the Everything Conference

Christian mission often focuses on spiritual and social renewal, but what about cultural renewal? That was the question raised at the Everything Conference, at St George’s Holborn, on Saturday 18th November. This was a day packed full of so much goodness that it would be hard for one person to adequately sum it all up. Therefore, we asked three. Here are Jess, Tanya and Ben’s reflections on a great  day out in the Big Smoke.

Jess Wood Artist Sputnik Poet
Jess Wood.

Jess Wood (poet)

“London is only bearable for a few days for a northerner. Taking a one day trip down, for the purpose of a conference on culture shaping seemed well worth it. The event consisted of a series of short talks from cultural influencers from all walks of life, from artists to politicians, rugby players to business men. Through this wide range of practitioners I was encouraged to broaden my understanding of the places in which culture is located and can be shaped by Christian influence, beyond just art and creative expression. The conference helpfully challenged my presumptions that politics, finance and business can’t be spheres of influence.

“Throughout the day, there was a continual call to push ourselves beyond the realm of our own comfort, by stepping into either places of power or places of oppression. For me, the biggest take-away came from Andy Crouch’s second talk of the day, in which he encouraged us to work through the ‘contingencies’ of our lives. He encouraged us to work through the circumstances in which we’ve been placed, and work to restore the image of God in these places. As a final year university student, thoughts of what I’ll be doing next year have been continually spinning in my head. One of the biggest things I’m coming to grapple with are the choices I could make. Will I go for the seemingly logical decision, a job or grad scheme which will allow me to live comfortably? Or will I take risks in my art form and push through with things that God has placed on my heart? Either way this conference has encouraged me to know that wherever I am and whatever contingencies I’m placed in, God has given me the potential to influence culture around me.”

Tanya Chitunhu Artist Sputnik Poet Intern
Tanya Chitunhu. Photo by Sputnik

Tanya Chitunhu (performance poet)

“The Everything conference was an interesting experience for me. Set in central London, it was an early start for us as we drove down. However it was worth it, if only to hear the smorgasboard of culture creators from artists to athletes, politicians to peace makers. It was a lot to take in but I was hugely inspired by them all as they seem to be at the top of their chosen fields. I was particularly encouraged by their honesty about how difficult it is to create culture.

“The main speaker, Andy Crouch, in one of his talks during the day said that the world requires that we are excellent. However, he went on to explain that excellence is not merely skill or achievement but ‘skill plus patience plus risk plus suffering’. Patience is required to create something that lasts beyond having an immediate impact. Risk is also necessary as there is no guarantee of success. Finally, suffering is a crucial part of creating culture, that is, to be willing to go to the pain and to be uncomfortable in the process. These things together usher in true transformation. I think what I took away the most from the conference was that as Christians we can partner with God to create culture that restores the image of God in the world. However, this will cost us and we must be willing to embrace both the joy and the pain in order to leave a lasting legacy.”

Benjamin Harris Artist Sputnik Patrons
Benjamin Harris. Photo by Murmuration Films

Benjamin Harris (fine artist)

“The Everything conference was a little bizarre for me: an intimate gathering in a medium sized church of no more than 200 believers, yet headlined by some heavyweight speakers, from Sputnik favourite Andy Crouch to Nims Obunge MBE DL, CEO of The Peace Alliance.

“There was so much content to muse on that I feel a little pre-emptive writing this reflection so soon. I think that what stood out to me most was how diverse the speakers were. Despite working in different sectors, the guests all had a unified vision of changing and cultivating culture for the better.

“It is most natural for me to speak of Hannah Rose Thomas, artist and peace activist. Thomas presented a recent collection of works in which she painted the portraits of persecuted Yazidi women. These stunning paintings utilise early Renaissance techniques in order to reference the Virgin Mary while depicting the plight of these Kurdish women.

“Thomas is creating compassionate and sincere work to a high quality. Her portraits have received positive press, including an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. I found it refreshing to see work which is, at the same time, considered, crafted and Christocentric.

“If the Everything conference achieved one thing it was to get me itching to create some new work. And also to don a cravat in the style of Nims Obunge.”

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Jessamy Shreeves presents a new kind of Arts Festival

Last week we caught up with Keir Shreeves on the back of his booklet ‘Art for Mission’s Sake’. However, Keir is only half of team Shreeves. Jessamy Shreeves is an artist and the founder of Christian arts festival ‘Thou Art’, and today, it’s over to her.

Hi Jessamy, who are you and what do you do?

I’m someone who is having a messy but fun go at following Jesus. At this stage of my life, I’m also doing a lot of following toddlers (I have a busy three-year-old who I’m always chasing, mostly with my 4-month-old baby dangling in one arm). I studied History of Art and English Lit at Edinburgh University but always got a bit of cash in from painting (mostly portraits). Via art school, a digital start up and trying my hand as a headhunter, I then found my way towards fundraising, which I now do for a number of charities as a consultant. I still paint though – a few commissions, but mostly for pleasure- or because I get itchy fingers if I don’t!

How do you and Keir work together in your artistic pursuits?

Our mutual interest in creativity and faith is one of the things that drew us together. We first went on a date after getting to know each other when I was organising an exhibition in the church where Keir was working. He came over and said “I’d love to take you out for lunch” and I turned to the whole hanging team and said: “Everyone, Keir is very kindly taking us out for lunch!”

Broadly speaking Keir’s the thinker and I’m the doer. Keir’s got a perfectionist streak whereas I just tend to go for things and hope that optimism and a few late nights mean I’ll pull them off!

When we first met we realised we both have bi-polar bookshelves. Stuff like The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher, Buckminster Fuller books & Scottish Colourist catalogues on one side and the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Phillip Yancey on the other. Until recently there hasn’t been much to plug the gap- but now the tide is turning and it feels like the arts are coming back into playing their part in announcing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thou Art Festival

Tell us about ‘Thou Art’. What is it? How did it come about? How is it different from other exhibitions/festivals?

Thou Art is part exhibition, part gig, part festival- a general celebration of creativity and its source.

Beauty has always helped me connect with God. When I was at university I found other people who felt the same, so we ended up doing a few exhibitions of the art we’d made and inviting our friends who weren’t into God stuff to see.

Thou Art was a natural extension of this- putting our art into God’s epic art work (a stunning, wild garden) so you might find a Nick Fiddian-Green huge bronze head of Christ amidst the bluebells, bump into an insightful portrait peeping round a tree, spot a bike-powered cinema in a bush or hear some fresh new music as you enjoy a local cider.

“The tide is turning – the arts are coming back into playing their part in announcing the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

There seem to be loads of festival type things for Christians and obviously lots which are in no way Christian, but there doesn’t seem to be a space to just ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’- to hang out with people who are trying to love like Jesus did, to experience art work that points to God, to be in a place that is beautiful but comfortable, normal but prayed in, and open oneself up a bit.

Thou Art Festival

How do you hope that the world will be a little different through ‘Thou Art’?

I guess just a little more colourful, creative and open. At the last Thou Art, an atheist friend of mine was moved to tears looking at a sculpture down by the lake. I don’t know what was going on for him but I hope it was a helpful release of emotions and engagement with his feelings at the very least.

For those who aren’t into God stuff, I hope it’s a chance to encounter something of God’s love, beauty & truth- whether that’s through the people, the artwork, the music or the garden itself. And for those who already know and love Jesus, I hope that the arts help them find new depths, get beyond the rational and into a new place of freedom, acceptance and joy.

Thou Art Festival

How can artists get involved with ‘Thou Art’?

Have a look at and if you are interested please do make contact, telling me what you and your work are about and pinging a few images and the curating team and I would love to have you involved I’m sure!


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Keir Shreeves sees the arts as a journey of Faith

Last week, we posted about Keir Shreeves’ excellent booklet ‘Art for Missions Sake’, a helpful introduction to some of the points of intersection between the arts and the church. Behind the booklet is not just the author though, but a husband and wife team, who are well experienced in these matters and we thought it would be great to catch up with both of them to pick their brains further. Today, we’re starting with Keir, and next week, we’ll let Jessamy have her say.

So, Keir, introduce yourself…

I’m on the clergy team at St Peter’s Brighton and pursuing doctoral studies in theology. I previously studied theology at St Mellitus College and King’s College London. I’m also Chair of Shift ( Before ordination, I qualified as an Industrial Designer and had a career in manufacturing management. I’m married to Jessamy, a painter, and together we have two young children.

The ‘Art For Missions Sake’ booklet is concise but packed with a great depth of understanding about the arts and their place within the church. What has your experience been of art and the church and the mysterious place where the two things meet (or perhaps don’t!)?

My background is Design and Dieter Rams is my favourite designer. I studied Industrial design being part of the last cohort to train at a little campus of Brunel University in Runnymede, Surrey, which closed in 2004 and which we all considered to be our own Bauhaus. After graduating I project managed the acquisition and relocation of a company that makes the London Underground signs, re-designing the manufacturing process. Whilst I was on the Senior Management Team of the company, God called me into full-time Christian ministry. After studying theology, being ordained and on the back of conversations with my wife Jessamy (who is a great thinker and practitioner of art in mission) I became fascinated about theological aesthetics. The booklet is one of the results. It’s a recapitulation of my Master’s dissertation. I’m grateful that I’ve always been in churches that haven’t been suspicious of the arts but I’ve also been aware of a general lack of theological confidence; it’s that, which I hope the booklet might spark in some small way.

What I really like about the booklet is that it contains both why and how the church should engage with the arts. If you could deal with the ‘why’ first: in short, why do you think this is such a big deal? 

The wonder of the arts is that they can take us beyond conventional or established patterns of reason, drawing with a subversive quality. When words might bounce off, image, music or drama can impact in a different way with evangelism coming as something of a surprise. However, the arts have been a neglected theme in the life and mission of the evangelical church because of its Protestant roots and its residual mistrust of art, especially the visual. William Dyrness, Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, warns: ‘It is possible that we might actually win the battle of words but lose the battle of images. And losing that battle could well cost us this generation.’  Thankfully, the evangelical church has increased its engagement with the arts over the last fifteen to twenty years and this booklet seeks to help support this by offering theological foundations, a consideration of the role of the artist in the church and the world, and examples of how the creative arts are faithfully contributing to Christian mission.

“whilst the arts are non-utilitarian, they are also a wonderful starting point for many in a journey of faith”

As regards the ‘how’ then. If you could outlaw one common practice in churches and enforce one new practice, both in a bid to improve the church’s engagement with the arts, what would they be and why?

I would outlaw treating the arts as purely decorative because whilst the arts are non-utilitarian, they are also a wonderful starting point for many in a journey of faith, something Hans Urs von Balthasar and Tom Wright affirm. One thing I would encourage is artists and church leadership teams working together to evoke wonder because in doing so we bear witness to the deep reality of something more.

How can we get our hands on ‘Art for Mission’s Sake’ and who is it specifically for?

You can purchase a print copy or digital copy for only £3.95 here.

It’s aimed at artists in the church and those in leadership positions in the church. Whilst, the booklet seeks to encourage artists by affirming their value, it also urges church leaders to support a fresh generation of artists in expressing passion, pain, hope and glory in both the church and the world.

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Lost Da Vinci becomes most expensive painting ever sold

Leonardo da Vinci’s long-lost ‘Salvator Mundi’, a painting of Jesus Christ commissioned over 500 years ago, has become the highest-valued work of art ever sold at auction. Unusually, the painting was sold as part of a contemporary art sale, and has a back-story of theft, amateur patch-ups and scandal worthy of a Donna Tartt novel.

It’s a buzz-worthy story for a number of reasons, but it also gives us a lot to unpack. Yes, someone paid over $400 million for a painting of Jesus – but it’s safe to assume they’re paying for da Vinci, not the subject matter. And of course it’s not exactly Jesus, anyway – it’s another unhistoric portrayal of the much-misrepresented rabbi. Is it just a valuable asset for a rich buyer – or does it really hold some kind of special substance and mystique? Does any of this matter? Let us know, below.

Leonardo, as you may know, had a long and prosperous career thanks to his rich patrons, so this seems a good moment to say joining Sputnik Patrons might help the next $400m masterpiece get made.

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Pristine synth-pop from London newcomers Dutchkid

‘Temporary’ is the debut single by the South London band Dutchkid, a collaboration between some familiar South London faces that you may recognise from the Creative Arts Network.

A pristine example of synth-led whisper-pop, ‘Temporary’ centers around a breathy hook, sparse electronics, and a lumbering sense of fear that culminates in a looping refrain and some gorgeous atmospherics.

Band member Jack Kircher also filmed and directed the excellent time-warping video, a glitchy Groundhog Day affair that recalls Bison‘s fear-inducing work for Bonobo and Jon Hopkins, and matches the subtle threat of the track perfectly. Watch that below, and follow the band here.

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Richard’s Immaculata Cosmica project now available online

Newcastle-based mononymous artist Richard has published his Immaculata Cosmica project online; a collection of collages combining classic images from religious art history with images of space. Richard explains:

Immaculata Cosmica (The Immaculate Cosmos) invites you… to explore that inner universe, the inner cosmos that is within us all and its relation to our creator God in a series of artworks and collaged material that ponders on these questions of 1. What is God doing and creating inside of us? and 2. How does this relate to and connect us to the world we occupy?

Richard’s ‘Pecha Kucha’ presentation of the project was one of the highlights of the arts study day we attended at the Holy Biscuit in Newcastle, and we’re glad to see it’s now available to all. See this intriguing set of image at their online home, here.

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New Photographic Exhibition in London by Samuel J Butt

Samuel J Butt Can We Start Again Please Sputnik Faith Art

‘Can We Start Again Please?’ is a collection of work from the last 7 years of Samuel John Butt‘s photographic career, including experimental studies, commissioned fashion and music work, and self-portraiture – much of it previously unpublished.

Samuel is a good friend of Sputnik and currently a part of ChristChurch London – we previously featured his work as Director of Photography on Stewart Garry’s folk-film album, ‘Sojourner’. In his day job, Samuel has worked with personalities like Pharrell Williams, Blondie and Michael Kiwanuka, and on projects with Tate Modern, Chanel, i-D, Dazed, Clash, Polydor Records and Wonderland.

The exhibition is free, and runs from 15 November – 3 December at Four Corners in Bethnal Green, London – you can also register for a visit on Eventbrite.

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A Handy Introduction to Church & The Arts by Keir Shreeves

Don’t be put off by the utilitarian overtones of the title: ‘Art For Missions Sake: Announcing the Gospel Through The Creative Arts’ is a very succinct but surprisingly thorough introduction to the importance of the arts for local churches. Written by Brighton-based church leader Keir Shreeves, the booklet is published by Grove Books – whose aim is to stimulate and equip Christian community by providing clear and concise explorations of Christian living and ministry.

Shreeves draws from his experience (and that of his wife Jessamy, who runs the Brighton art festival ‘Thou Art’) to tackle the ‘why’, but also the ‘how’ questions for churches thinking about meaningful engagement with the arts. If you’re in church leadership and would like a good introduction to this topic that will only take you about half an hour to read, then this is for you. If you’re not in church leadership, but would like to be encouraged again about the place of the arts in the 21st century church, this may well be for you too. Click away to purchase a copy for a mere £3.95.

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Book in to the 2017 Everything Conference

The Everything Conference 2017

The Everything Conference is a day of thought-provoking TED-style talks for Christians concerned with calling, culture, and ‘everything’ – taking its name from Psalm 24: “the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it”. Its aim is to break churches out of the confines of Christian culture, erase the secular/sacred divide and inspire Christians to serve God anywhere – in everything.

The 2012 Everything Conference was a massive encouragement and significant inspiration for us in the formation of Sputnik. We’re anticipating this year’s Conference will be equally inspiring again: keynote speaker Andy Crouch is already a firm Sputnik favourite; other speakers include an opera singer, a slam poet, and a rugby player.

Mostly, though, we’re looking forward to sharing a room with Christians who are passionate about affecting our culture with the hope of Jesus, and sparking new initiatives, projects and ideas off the back of it. Click here to book in to the conference – and come and say hello.

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Katriona Beales’ latest exhibit explores digital hyper-connectivity

Katriona Beales - Are We All Addicts Now?

London-based conceptual artist – and friend of Sputnik – Katriona Beales takes a considered look at internet addiction and digital capitalism in her latest exhibition, ‘Are We All Addicts Now?’ The exhibition is open at Furtherfield, London, until this Sunday, but you can also buy the accompanying book here.

This excellent interview by Studio International delves into Katriona’s thoughts behind the project, where she talks about making visible the invisible, drawing the viewer’s attention to pathological behaviours that have been normalised, and the intentionally coercive behavioural psychology that lies behind the simple idea of a device being ‘addictive’.

Watch Furtherfield’s explanation of the project, below:


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New Illuminated Bible by Dana Tanamachi

Joining the recent trend for tastefully-designed, hardback Bibles is the stunning ESV Illuminated Bible, with over a hundred full-page illustrations (in gold, no less) by renowned Seattle-based illustrator Dana Tanamachi. While obviously a project for the Christian market, Tanamachi’s previous work has been featured by Google, The Wall Street Journal, and plenty of others.

Tanamachi and her team describe the seven-month project, commissioned by Crossway, as a throwback to the Middle Age-practice of illumination – the painstaking illustration of Bible manuscripts typically undertaken by monks, which fell out of favour and practice after the Reformation and invention of the printing press.

You can see more about it in the video, below:

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Elisha Esquivel, Musical Roots & Successful Crowdfunding

Two of the most effective incubators of creativity and craft that we’ve stumbled upon have been Jubilee Church, Coventry and Nexus Institute of Creative Arts. Elisha Esquivel happens to have been nurtured by both. Having performed on the live music scene for several years, she has an EP ready to drop in Spring 2018, and we thought it was time we caught up with her and found out more.

Hi Elisha, tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Elisha. I grew up along the south coast in Dorset, and have been writing songs for as long as I can remember. I am an avid tea-drinker, deep-thinker, wannabe-nutritionist, lover of all things outdoors, and wife to my lovely husband, Ollie.

You have been writing songs for a long time already. What was your musical upbringing? Who have been your key influences?

I had a musical family growing up I suppose. My Grandma was an opera singer and my Grandad worked for the radio. My Mum and Dad both played the guitar, and though it wasn’t in any professional capacity, we all loved music and my parents always encouraged music in our family. I remember being part of musical theatre groups growing up, taking piano lessons, being taxied around to singing competitions, and for Christmases and Birthdays, my mum would often buy me a couple of hours in a friends’ studio as a present. I’m so thankful for the way I was encouraged in my creativity. I was probably about 10 when I started writing simple songs that were nothing special – something I’m sure lots of kids do – and it could have been so easy for my parents to laugh it off or just ignore it completely, but they really took note of what I was interested in, believed in me, and nurtured my creativity, which I think was so vital in giving me the confidence to do a lot of the things I’ve done in my life.

You have been studying at Nexus in Coventry- could you briefly explain what Nexus is and how you’ve found your time studying there?

Yes! I came to Nexus Institute of Creative Arts when I was 16 and stayed for three years. When I was there in 2011, Nexus were offering gap years (or three…) for Christian musicians to come and grow in their faith, as well as train in a music specialism. I chose Vocals. It was a life-transforming 3 years for me full of incredible musical opportunities and training, meeting some of the best people I know, and also an amazing opportunity to solidify my faith and strengthen my relationship with God. Lots has changed since then for Nexus though – they are now a fully-fledged Institute of Higher Education and offer degrees in Popular Music and Worship! Shameless plug… (Ed: Plug away. We love Nexus. For more info here)

Your upcoming EP comes on the back of a very successful Kickstarter campaign in which you raised over £4,000 with nearly 50 backers. Tell us about it. 

This was an incredible and also extremely nerve-wracking experience! There are a lot of Crowdfunding platforms out there where you can keep whatever you raise, but I chose a Kickstarter campaign which runs on an all-or-nothing basis. I mainly chose this because I wanted to take a bit of a risk and trust God with the outcome. I’d say the process has taught me not to be limited by my own perception of what is possible, and that God is faithful to provide when we step out in faith. To me, setting a target of raising £4000 in 30 days really did seem quite impossible – I’m still amazed it’s all actually happening.

Can you share some tips on how to use platforms like this successfully?

3 tips I would give to anyone thinking of doing a Kickstarter is:

1) Do it with other people. Get a small team of key people around you that are willing to help and support you in small ways throughout the process – ie: proof-reading your page before it goes live, coming up with ideas for the rewards, helping to shoot your video, taking photos etc etc. It means that from the beginning you have a core group of people who are invested in you and believe in what you’re doing – the encouragement goes a long way!

2) Prepare well. I read loads of articles about what makes a successful campaign and talked to anyone I knew who had run a Kickstarter that had been successful to find out how they had gone about it. This was so useful.

3) Use it as a genuine opportunity to let people into your creative process and journey, not just as a way to get something out of them. Take the time to write regular updates, contact people personally, thank them etc. etc – it’s lots more fun this way and much more rewarding!

So, on to the EP. What can we expect from ‘From The Ground Up’?

So far, the EP has quite an urban electronic flavour with elements of raw, stripped back singer/songwriter. I’m excited to be crafting a sound for the first time that I feel really represents me as an artist. It’s still very much in the process of morphing and evolving, so you’ll have to wait and see when it comes out! The release date hasn’t been announced yet, but keep your eyes peeled for dates in 2018.

Thanks Elisha. Our eyes are officially peeled. For the time being though, her recent gig for the Treehouse Sessions is all up on youtube. Here’s a taster:

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Katrina Moss & The Chaiya Arts Awards

One of the great things about working in the realms of Christianity and the arts is that you get to connect with some very interesting and inspirational people. The other day, I got to add Katrina Moss to this ever growing list. Katrina has just launched the Chaiya Arts Awards, which is an open submission arts exhibition, in a fantastic venue and with a series of very appealing incentives. Seriously peeps you don’t want to miss out on this one. Katrina over to you…

Hi Katrina, please introduce yourself…

I like to try everything and believe life should be lived to the full.  My career has been varied, but my skill base falls into three main categories, event management, selling and design.  I have run big projects from producing a feature film; implementing large healthcare projects to starting local craft fayres. The selling and design skills have complimented and enabled the management side. Administrative skills are of paramount importance as you need skills and vision to think outside of the box, take studied risks and aim high to get big projects off the ground and complete them on time and on budget.  Very similar to those artists require.

Passionate about God, I love finding new, exciting and relevant ways to encourage others.  I believe creativity is embedded in all of us, but for some it is a precious gift and craft that needs to be opened, honed and used to glorify God.

You have just launched the Chaiya Arts Awards. Talk us through it. What is it and who is it for?

The Chaiya Art Awards is the UK’s newest theme based biennial art awards with a top prize of £10,000.  The awards and exhibition will be held at London’s prestigious gallery@oxo on the busy Southbank riverside and will celebrate inspiring art on the first intriguing theme: Where is God in our 21st century world?

It’s about continuing an age old conversation with an age old medium, in a modern setting through contemporary eyes.  It’s about asking a big question and looking for inspiration from the wealth of our nation’s creatives.

How did you get the idea for this project?

I was at New Wine conference in 2016 and was inspired through a number of things, including a piece of art (which I bought), a book I read and my mother’s death to cancer, to ask God for a fresh vision for this time in my life, and the vision for these awards was born.

I know that the plan is to run these awards for several years. Fast forward to 2028, by then, what do you hope will be different because of the awards?

I would like to think that the Chaiya Art Awards would play its part and return spirituality back into the mainstream art arena. We would uncover some gifted and visionary new artists and perhaps kickstart or highlight their careers. This would be accepted as a credible and significant event in the art calendar.

So can you give some tips as to what you’re looking for? Not wanting to give anyone an unfair advantage (okay, then, just a little) but how can the Sputnik readers maximise the chances of getting the prize?  

Degas said “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”  I would encourage all participants to mine the depths of their imagination and fly creatively.  The judges will be looking for originality, technical excellence and emotional impact.  Be authentic and be daring.

You can submit fine art to graffiti, mixed media to textile art, sculpture in any medium, 2D, 3D, video, photography. The art categories are simple. There are none. Your piece can be in any artistic medium but must be able to be displayed in the gallery. You can submit whether a professional, student, amateur, individual or a group.  Be sure to consider the theme and the constraints of the gallery@oxo first.  Visit the website at and secure your place.

* * *

Thanks Katrina. You’ll be hearing much more about this from us at Sputnik, but the deadline for submissions is 31st January 2018, so if you want a head start, I’d get to work.

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Our New Sputnik Intern: Tanya Chitunhu

Two weeks ago, our first ever intern started work at Sputnik HQ. Her name is Tanya, and we thought it would be amiss of us not to introduce her to you all. So, Tanya…

Describe yourself in 5 words.

Compassionate, opinionated, determined, introverted and surprising

Why are you interning for Sputnik this year?

I have been performing spoken word poetry on and off for years in my local church and other places and I just felt I needed to dedicate time and effort to explore and hone the craft. I also wanted to see if or how I can turn professional or semi professional at it. The internship seems perfect to do that.

What are you going to be doing this year?

I will be mentored or coached by other writers and poets. That translates practically into working on lots of new poems and getting feedback on my work as well as regularly performing at different venues across Birmingham and beyond. I will also be meeting artists from different fields to get a wider perspective on the arts as inspiration. Alongside that, I will be assisting Sputnik with their day to day administration and whatever they need. Lastly, I am participating in Impact training which is a basic theology course for a great foundation in growing in relationship with God.

As for your artistic practice, what are your goals and who are your main inspirations?

My main goal is to be a better writer and performer of spoken word poetry. I believe God has given me a gift and the best way to honour him is to be the best I can be at using it. I have set myself an incredibly high bar of becoming the next Birmingham Poet Laureate! I hope participating in the competition will push me to the next level of my craft and it will be fun trying to achieve it.

My main inspirations are a little known spoken word poetry collective from America called The Strivers Row – their work is probably why I believe this art form is worth doing – it is deeply personal, incredibly powerful and absolutely passionate. Whenever I listen to or read their poetry, I feel alive and so inspired which are the greatest gifts I hope to give as an artist.


It’s an absolute pleasure having Tanya on board this year. If the first fortnight is anything to go by, she’s going to be a fantastic addition to the Sputnik team. I’m sure you’ll hear much more from her as the year goes on, but for the time being, I’ll leave you with a taster of what she does:

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Patronage in Practice

As we continue our series looking at arts patronage and all the hows, whats and whys thereof, we thought it would be good to give a concrete, practical example of patronage in the 21st century for those of you who don’t happen to have Charles Saatchi’s expendible income. Therefore, I asked my friend Adam Haywood, from Woodside Church, Bedford, to share how he became an arts patron.

I’ve been to a lot of gigs, seen a lot of bands. Most of them now I don’t remember too much of; just a loose memory of what happened and a lasting resonance of the emotions stirred at the time. Some great. Some good. Some bad.

I remember seeing Green Day at V98, when the band set their drum kit alight as Bille-Joe closed out their set with ‘Good Riddance’. I remember the next band (The Seahorses, I think) trying really hard to follow it with their slow melodic brit-rock, whilst trying to coax the audience into creating some semblance of an atmosphere. They didn’t. And their attempts were joyously hilarious. Me and my friend Rob were still laughing as we made our way back to our tent. That was a good memory.

I remember watching Gomez in Leicester in the early 2000s as I stood bored for 2 hours whilst they refused to play the songs which everyone loved (‘Tijuana Lady’, anyone?) Why? Because they were now loved songs. And that meant they couldn’t play them anymore. Musicians, huh? That was a bad memory.

But a great memory? One of the best? Well, watching ‘The Augustines’ take their post encore-encore (muscians, huh?) outside of the venue, on to the high street in Oxford because the curfew at the venue had passed. That has to be up there. Standing there on the pavement, singing along with 100 other people as pedestrians slalomed around us in to the oncoming traffic and watching then, as the lead singer, aware of the increasing likelihood of an imminent fatality, took the sing-along to a low-lit, real ale serving, traditional pub, not 10 feet away- which my friend Dan got a back-row view to by clambering through a half-open window – yeah, that was a great memory.

Thing is, maybe a year after that, the band broke up.

Now bands break up all the time: band members can’t get on, the trappings of rock and roll decadence, the inability to write any good new songs, but this wasn’t that. It was financial. The lead singer posted a very honest explanation of the situation which ultimately said that because of the current state of the music industry, with content being consumed through mediums such as Spotify, Music Unlimited and what-not, people are not buying albums like they used to. When this is coupled with the increasing challenge of touring and making money- financially it just wasn’t viable for them as a smaller band. Therefore for them, breaking up was the only option.

When bands that I’ve enjoyed have broken up previously, even for those reasons named earlier, it’s got to me a little. But to have broken up because of financial challenges, whilst making sense, felt really unjust- like I’d been robbed of something unfairly. These bands we listen to are a part of our lives; our childhoods, our teenage years onto adulthood and beyond. These bands who write these songs spark memories of events, people and personal feelings that really are a massive part of you. And as such, they’re priceless.

I often checked in with the band’s online profiles, just in the hope that something would change- and after about a year the lead singer of the band posted that he was going to try something different; a new way to try and release music again that might be more financially viable. It was through something called Patreon.

Now, at 38, and not being on the digital graveyard quite yet, I was already aware of what this was- an online method of personally supporting artists financially so that they can make their art for others to continue to appreciate. So this is what I did- I supported him financially. I signed up for a monthly amount simply because this music is something that is important to me. And it feels good knowing that I’m part of continuing to keep this music going.

Two months ago, at Bush Hall in London, me and my friend Dan saw the lead singer again; we got a grossly overpriced Mexican meal prior and caught up on all things ‘life’; stood in one of the most impressive venues around as the lead singer told stories which we laughed at and sometimes pretended to laugh at; sung at the top of our voices to new and old songs and tried at the very end to steal the set-list that was stuck to the stage (unsuccessfully). The beer was overpriced. The journey back overlong due to roadworks. A great memory. And one I can genuinely say I had a part in making happen.

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Dan Crook is breaking genre boundaries

A couple of weeks ago, ‘Sign of the Times’ arrived in my inbox. It’s a collaboration between long time Sputnik favourite, Mike Lawetto, and Dan Crook. Dan is a singer songwriter and spoken word artist from Southend-on-sea, whose passionate folky sound has always threatened to brim over into something a little more visceral. Well, the new single does just that and is one of my favourite songs of the year so far. Obviously, this called for an introduction to Mr Crook for Sputnikmagazine…

Introduce yourself. Who is Dan Crook?

Morning Sputnik. How long you got?! I love being the centre of attention (too much so). I’m a songwriter, I’m a husband, I work for or with young people most days, I like an extra cold Guiness, I’m inspired daily by Jesus, I’m a big West Ham United fan and I live in Southend-on-sea.

Musically, I’m currently performing around Essex with a loop pedal and my electric guitar.

What does success look like to you as an artist?

Writing and releasing music that I still stand by a year after releasing it. I’d also really like to tour 2 months every year, opening for artists that make great music.

How does your faith affect your art?

I believe God created nature and I believe humans are made in his image so i believe creativity is a gift from him.

If we have a smidgeon of the creative power God used when he created clouds…That should give us all confidence.

I was really impressed with the Uppah Records Christmas project in 2015, when they released 3 very different festive songs, including one by yourself. How did that project come about and what’s Uppah up to at the moment? 

I was invited to be one of their first artists when they started out and jumped on it. I had a lot of fun making Christmas Lights and those months around December were my favourite times with the label. It’s been a year since we last collaborated, so I’m not up to date!

Your back catalogue is reasonably diverse and your music is often passionate and direct. However, your new project seems to take this up a notch. Talk us through the change of style on ‘Sign of The Times’.

I know vocally it’s the harshest thing I’ve put out but it doesn’t feel like a huge shift. I’ve ostracised plenty of potential fans at solo gigs cos I sing too aggressively- just ask my dear mum. For some reason it’s much more accepted to sing like that when you call yourself a rock outfit…

Mike (Lawetto) has always encouraged me to ‘give it some’ vocally when we record together which I’ve really appreciated.

Both of us love guitars/rock music and so we have found ourselves naturally inclining to write tracks like Sign of the Times.

James LouisK. Stevenson-2

What have CROOK & LAWETTO got in store for us in the future?

We’ve got a least one more big track coming your way before Christmas. If someone wants to fund us touring, we’re game for that too.

What 3 things have you learnt from your journey so far as a Christian making art that you’d want to share with other Christian artists?

I would say this to any artist, regardless of their beliefs- be authentic in what you write about, be confident in your ability to create something original (see question 3 ) and don’t compromise what you believe for the sake of opportunities. Ultimately music is one part of life- a person’s integrity is much more important.


Thanks Dan. To keep in touch with what’s Dan’s up to…

To go directly to the tunes, check him out on Spotify and there are a few gems floating around on youtube too. I’ll leave you with this one. Thanks Dan.


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Ruth Chipperfield at Women In Business Expo 2017

Ruth Mary Jewellery Sputnik Faith Art

In June, Ruth Chipperfield, an active member of Sputnik since about 2012, was one of the speakers at the ‘Women in Business Expo 2017’ at Birmingham Council House. One of the event’s goals was to showcase successful women-led businesses, and so as part of the fashion show, Ruth took to the catwalk to tell her remarkable story, talk about her work and profile her business Ruth Mary Jewellery.

We thought you may like to see how she did, and with just one click and in a mere 7 minutes, you can find out…

Great work Ruth. Looking forward to those D&G style crowns coming to the Sputnik shop some time soon 😉

To keep up to date with Ruth Mary Jewellery, twitter and facebook will help, and for a more thorough introduction to her work, her website’s got what you need.

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Heard: A Short Film From NewCom Studio

What a nice surprise! Trawling through my inbox after a couple of weeks of email neglect, what should I find, but a new short film from my good friend Chris Smyth.

Chris is the founder of Creative Arts Network, and he helped us get this very website up and running about a year ago. He now also runs the South East London based film and design studio, NewCom (based out of New Community Church, Sidcup)

Their new film ‘Heard’ explores the subject of prayer in a subtle and moving manner. This is how they describe it:

NewCom studio’s latest film ‘Heard’ uses the stunning Scottish Highlands and a unique method of visual storytelling to express a range of spiritual themes. Depicted through the lens of three characters; Fear, Loss and Anxiety, desperation leads them to cry out to the unknown. While they may not have seen or heard a response, something has changed in the world behind.

NewCom studio was created by a London church with the intention of using film and design to express spiritual experiences common to all. Describing ‘Heard’, Writer and Director Chris Smyth said “In every human is a cry that reaches out to something or someone in the hardest parts of life. We may not know why or who we are asking, and yet we still find ourselves asking.”

The team considered a range of locations including a disused tube station and a burnt out church before deciding on Torridon, Scotland. “Shooting in the Scottish Highlands was a challenging undertaking” explained Director of Photography, Pete Coggan “The snowy peaks, wind and rain created the perfect backdrop for this emotionally charged story of hope.”

Great work guys. If you want to see what else Chris and the gang have got up their sleeves, check out their website. And of course, check out the video below…

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Mr Ekow transmitting from Planet Croydon

I came across Chris ‘Mr Ekow’ Gaisie a couple of years ago. Hip hop has changed a lot in the last 15 years and the boom bap sound of the 90s that defined the genre has evolved and mutated in all sorts of directions.

From a first listen to tracks like ‘When Space Stares Back’ or ‘Lift Off’ it is clear that Mr Ekow is part of this evolution. It’s refreshing to hear MCs who aren’t clinging on to the tropes of yesteryear, and with the release of his new EP ‘Between Haircuts’, we thought we’d catch up with the man himself.

So, introduce yourself, my good sir!

I’m Mr Ekow, a 25 year old rapper from Croydon who stands by the opinion that The Last Action Hero is a great film that was too ahead of its time – people weren’t ready for the satire!

Your style clearly shows a love for hiphop generally, but draws quite noticeably from some more recent developments in the genre.

Thanks, I’m glad that comes across. I’ve got a love for that 90s golden age of hip hop sound, but I think we’re in another one now!

The great stuff might not be all over the radio but there are so many incredible artists making dope and innovative hip hop around the globe – you just have to look a bit harder.

Who are your main influences and why? (One MC, one beatmaker, one album)

I’ll say Andre 3000 (Outkast) is a big one for me. On a purely technical level, I’ve always loved how he puts his rhymes together- his flow, his delivery and his wordplay. On top of that, his versatility and inclination to go completely left and try something different is inspiring.

Beatmaker is a tough one, but I’ll go for Flying Lotus. I was put on to him quite late in 2012, but it was like opening up a new world to my ears! Clearly inspired himself by the soulful swing of legends like Dilla and Madlib, but then completely owns his style as he injects his own insane electronic, nu jazz vibe.

As for album, I’ll go for Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In Da Corner. It’s easily one of the most personally influential albums of my early teens. Not only is it sonically a beast, but it’s full of incredible, honest songwriting that’s stayed with me to this day. Mad to think he was only 18 when he released it and for me, it’s yet to be topped in the grime genre.

Although you are essentially a solo artist, your work is very collaborative, working with different beat makers, singers and rappers? What have you learnt about collaboration so far, and how do you choose who to work with?

I love collaboration! I think the whole focus on the ‘auteur’ does a bit of a disservice to the creative process – very rarely is it just one person doing everything. Most of my collaborations have just been through natural friendships and people who I personally admire artistically. Every now and then I’ll reach out to someone outside of my immediate network, just because I think what they do creatively is dope.

From collaborating, I’ve learnt that when you’re working with other people you have to develop a trust that allows them to truly add to the overall creative perspective. That looks different case-to-case and there are times where I’m more prescriptive in what I’m looking for or times I may have a creative disagreement, but it’s important that everyone feels at ease enough to have those conversations.


Your new EP, Between Haircuts is out now. What’s the thought behind that title? What themes do you address on the project?

In a broad sense it’s about dealing with the weird transitional periods of life. Especially as a Christian you get introduced to Jesus and the hope of heaven… but then you still have to deal with a lot of not-so-great stuff in-between. I just wanted to do something real.

In society, especially in the Instagram age, we’re constantly trying to show our best side. Even in church, we’re super quick to dance around our problems with small chat and the usual “I’m blessed” rhetoric. I wanted to do away with the pretence and try to tackle some difficult subjects that I think a lot of people relate to.

The EP covers existential doubts around purpose, dealing with lust, escapism, losing faith and coming to terms with brokenness. I hope listeners are encouraged to face their issues and know that whatever stage they’re at in their journey, it is a journey, and you’ve got to keep going.


When do we get another Mr Ekow LP and what other plans do you have for the future?

Hopefully a 2018 LP release is doable, but in the meantime I plan to keep gigging. I usually play in an acoustic trio setup, which has worked really well. However the EP launch was the first time I had my own full band and I’d love to do more of that!

I may potentially look into running my own regular nights in Croydon too as the EP launch was a lot of fun– I got a ton of visual artists to exhibit their work that linked to the theme, as well as holding an open mic and support from local artist Ruth-Ellen. It was a really good vibe and I think Croydon is (finally) becoming quite the hotspot for arts scene.

Thanks Mr Ekow. To buy the new EP, visit Mr Ekow’s bandcamp, or to give it a listen check out his Soundcloud. Here’s EP closer ‘On Top’ to entice you onward:

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An Interview With the Perfect Summer Band

Have you noticed the days elongating in a very satisfying manner? Wouldn’t it be good if there was some new music to accompany this happy seasonal change? Well, rarely are a band as well named as Midsummer. The Mellor family has just been on holiday and Midsummer’s new album ‘The Stories You Tell’ even managed to bring joy to a ponderous crawl up the M5. I caught up with Chris to fill us in on all things Midsummer.

Do introduce the band, Chris…

Midsummer is a band/collective of 6 musicians based in Birmingham.  We’re acoustic singer-songwriters with a folk edge.

Our songwriting core is Chris Taylor (me) and Lizzy Daniel-Sam.  Lizzy’s the main singer, although I sing on a few songs too.  I also play guitar, mandolin and percussion.  Then there’s Ben Kyte (bass), Jenny Chen (violin), J Clay (trumpet and percussion) and Andy Gordon (guitar, accordion, ukulele and pretty much everything else). Everyone joins in on the singing too!

How did Midsummer come about?

At the end of 2014 Lizzy and I got a small band together to play some folky carols as a one-off at the Oasis Church carol service.  It was really good fun and worked well.  Afterwards, Danielle Wilson asked if we’d be up for supporting her band Eeek! at a gig the following October.  We didn’t have a set or any original songs, but since it was 10 months away it seemed like a fun challenge and we said yes!

So we spent the next 6 months or so writing songs together and building a short set. Our original band from the carol service was made up of students who were coming to the end of their time in Birmingham, so in August we started to gather a new set of musicians, mainly from church and from other bands I’d played with in the past.

The gig with Eeek! went well and Lizzy and I carried on writing songs together and looking for gigs and things went from there.

Oasis Church, Birmingham seems to propel musicians into the local music scene more effectively than any other church I’ve come across (The Broken. Joanna Karselis. Thinktank. Ticking Boxes. You guys) What’s your church’s secret?

Firstly, I think collaboration and helping each other out is a big part of it. Out of the bands/artists you’ve mentioned, we’ve all been in other bands together, played with each other live or remixed each other’s music.

Secondly, I also think we help inspire each other as to what can be achieved. When Thinktank recorded their triple EPs Faith, Hope and Love, I saw Rod and Collin taking their time over it to make it as good as they could.  If I hadn’t already seen someone I know do that, it would have been hard to have the vision to write and record the Midsummer album.

Thirdly, Impact definitely plays a big part too. (Ed: Impact is the live music promotion team that has come out of the church). Although Impact doesn’t exist to promote Christian musicians, we’ve all played at Impact gigs, and they’re useful stepping stones to try out new ideas, show other people what we can do, and to use as a platform to get other gigs (as well as being really good events in their own right).

And finally, Oasis Church is also good at inviting its musicians to be creative within church life.  I’m particularly thinking about the carol services where we’ve been invited to create something different – you never know where that could lead.

I know that the album has gone through a lot of honing and crafting, and Chris, I hope you don’t mind, but you have a bit of a reputation as a perfectionist. What advice can you give on how to make a good album even better?

First off, I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist(!)  But some things I think helped improve the album are:

  • We practised the songs a lot, gigged with them and made demo tracks before recording. That helped us to know our parts and the feel and flow of the song before we started recording.
  • Once we decided to record 10 songs, we set a deadline for a release date. I worked backwards from there to work out when we needed to finish each stage of the process and worked hard to meet those deadlines.
  • When we were mixing the songs we spent a lot of time going through them with a fine tooth-comb, but we also regularly took a step back to listen to the whole thing to make sure it still worked as a whole.
  • We compared the sound to other records we liked and we asked for feedback from people we knew who we felt could give an objective opinion.

I’m really proud of the album, and I’m also aware of its limitations.  There was a phrase someone posted in the Sputnik group, which I really liked: ‘finished, not perfect’, and it was really helpful to keep that in mind as we were getting towards the end of the project.

Talk us through the album then. What are your influences? What themes do you explore in the songs?

When Lizzy and I started writing, I really wanted to write songs like Frank Turner, which everyone can sing along to.  Lizzy had wanted to sing songs like Eva Cassidy.  I think you can hear those influences a little.  But we also sound a bit like early Mumford and Sons, Goodnight Lenin and maybe Fleetwood Mac’s Buckingham/Nicks songwriting partnership.

The things we write about tend to be a search for home, dealing with loss and enjoying community; there’s an underlying sense of hope in most of our songs.

Can you break down one of the songs on the album for us?

The idea behind the song ‘Summer’s Over’ was sparked by Pip Piper’s film ‘Mountain Biking – The Untold British Story’, and the interview with mountain biker Martyn Aston.  After breaking his back he thought he’d never ride again, but was able to find a way to keep riding.  He said ‘I never knew, on the day I had my accident, my best day on a bike was yet to come’.  It’s a really inspiring story.  Something he said ‘you don’t know what lies ahead, you only know what’s happening in this moment’.  That line became the heart of the song.


Thanks Chris. And thanks Midsummer.

To get a flavour of the music, ‘You Got It Then’ is free to stream to your heart’s content:

To buy digital and physical copies, visit

And to keep up with Midsummer generally, try their facebooktwitter or soundcloud.





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Minor Artists: a label led by its patrons

If you’ve been checking this blog for any length of time, I’m sure Chris Donald will be familiar to you. He is a key part of the Sputnik team and I thought it was about time we caught up with him to spill the beans on his art, Minor Artists and his newest musical project Strange Ghost.

Who are you and what do you do, Chris?

I’m a 30 year old human, a lapsed capitalist, an introvert who loves company, a confused over-thinker. I write and produce music, run a record label, try to be a good friend, husband and brother, write music reviews (and occasional fiction) and I’m a self-employed graphic designer. That makes me sound super busy, but they’re all pretty slow paced. I regularly confess to the cultural sin of not being busy.


What is success to you as an artist?

Success at the moment is making and sharing something in a way that gets beyond the roles of product and a consumer. For the player and the listener to see each other as equally complex people who are generously giving each other their time in that moment of performance (or re-played performance). A human moment and not just a commercial transaction. That doesn’t have to be deeply profound or gut-wrenching, but simply getting outside the pre-defined roles and platforms is surprisingly difficult, even just in my own head. At the same time, I’m always drawn to crafting something of a high quality and beauty – it’s so simple it’s almost redundant, but success is making something that I would honestly want to listen to. I think it’s possible to do that without it becoming some elitist or self-negating exercise.

Tell us about Minor Artists. What is it and how can people get involved?

Minor Artists is a record label that puts out unconventional, non-church music made by Christians (check website here). We tell stories of oppression, injustice, revelation or mystery; avoid the Christian vernacular as best we can; keep you on your toes like Christ’s parables did, and sound great doing it. We’re also trying to level the field between musicians and their audience. Part of how we do that is the Record Club, a ‘per-product’ subscription service; essentially you agree to pre-order two or three albums across the course of a year. And that makes it possible for us to properly commit to making them. It’s an experiment. I hope subscribers feel personally engaged with it; at the least, we’re trying to re-frame this transaction that’s taking place. I appreciate it’s weird to subscribe to music you’ve never heard bStrut I think a certain type of listener will really like that, and will trust that we’re going to make it interesting. And perhaps now that we have the history of recorded music at our fingertips, we’ll want to reclaim a bit of personal investment in the music we buy. That’s my hope, anyway.

(The video above will fill you in on all the details and how to get involved)

What would you like to see change among Christian artists and artistry?

I’d love to see more reaction to the absolute absurdity of our times. Since the abject failure of modernism, Western culture is like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, pretending the ground’s not gone beneath it. We want what’s good for the economy, but we can’t answer why that even matters. The West is absurd, and in constant crisis. Our art is going to need to be disruptive, because Jesus is disruptive. He’s not the icing on the bourgeois cake. I don’t mean disruptive in a ‘Modern Art’ way, where we absolve ourselves of responsibility for answers, or can’t be understood by your average observer. Quite the opposite. Disruptive storytelling can be fantastic art – the film ‘Get Out’ being a recent example.

You balance out earning a living from your creative skills and working on more self-initiated and passion projects. How do you find this balance?

Paradoxically, when I have lots of work it’s easier to find time for other things. When I’m low on work, it’s hard to do passion projects because I’m stressed about my income, even though I technically have the time. But I’m sure anyone self-employed knows about these crazy mind games. I don’t think the balance is much different from, say, going part-time to raise a kid. We all do recognise that the relationship between being paid for something, and that something being actually valuable to us, or society, is pretty weak. A YouGov poll said 37% of UK workers think their own job is pointless – I often think of Ron Livingston in ‘Office Space’, who finds salvation from his mindless tech job in becoming a construction worker. Surely people want to trade their time for something they care about, but I assume they feel like they can’t.

I’m not pretending I could just waltz into a high-paying job tomorrow, but ultimately I make a choice to value time more than money. I want to be radically generous like Christ, but I’d rather have lots of time to give to people than lots of money. But it’s easy to forget my own story. When I get swallowed by the neoliberal capitalist story, I begin to doubt myself.

Strange Ghost 2

Your latest project is ‘Strange Ghost’, a collaboration between you and your wife Wumi. How did this come about and what are your plans for this?

Wumi has a fantastic voice, and I’m sure we chatted about making music pretty early on in our relationship – which makes it sound so simple! It’s a new and intimidating thing for Wumi, and for my part I had a creatively tough spell while we were living in London. So it’s come about with a lot of deliberation and time. I think the time has been worth it, as I’m much clearer on what this project is for. I’ve had so many projects burn or fizzle out; I want Strange Ghost to be a vehicle for us to make music the rest of our lives – so, to be honest, I am just enjoying having completed the first step. As a friend said to me yesterday, if I had £20,000 for PR we could be famous next week, but as it is, I’m just going to share it and enjoy it, start figuring out how we might play this stuff live, and in what context we’d do that.

Thanks Chris. The Strange Ghost EP ‘Stagger’ is out on 18th May and we are proud to be among the first to announce that the first song is live to stream from this very page! Check it out, and save up your pennies for Thursday.

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Pip Piper: The Dog & The Hippo

If you’ve been checking out the blog over the last week or so, you’ll be up to date with Pip Piper’s past– the journeys he’s been on and some of the lessons he’s learnt along the way. To finish our interview, I wanted to find out a bit more about the present and future for Pip.

You head up two companies: Blue Hippo Media and One Small Barking Dog. What do the Hippo and the Dog have in common and how are they different? 

Sounds like we are running a small zoo!

Ok. So OSBD began out of the youth work I was doing at Riverside church, Birmingham back in the 1990’s. At the time I felt there was very little around media wise that helped youth workers communicate with both young people inside and more importantly outside of the church. After finishing work with the church in 1997, OSBD really began to take root.

It was just on the cusp of the digital revolution and we were making short films around issues that spoke into contemporary culture. We were also creating moving image “visuals” to enhance events and worship experiences. I once overheard a nun who was watching one of our “visuals” films describe what she was seeing up on a video screen “Oh yes, its like a stained glass window, only it moves“!

The “Images for Worship” video series was one of the things that helped OSBD become well known. Over time we made many, many video resources and short documentaries both for ourselves and other organizations and helped many young people to find an outlet for their creativity. The journey took us as far afield as Peru and Ukraine.

After several years I found myself being asked to look at feature film scripts and ideas for larger film projects. Rob Taylor (who was chair of the charity at the time) and myself decided to establish a new company that could be more focused on bigger commercial projects that told bigger stories on bigger screens.

Blue Hippo Media came into being in 2008 and since then we have made 6 feature length films, many of which have won awards and been distributed into cinemas and on TV around the world. As an indie film production company we have had some hard lessons to learn around just how tough it is to compete in that market as well as secure ways to earn a living! It’s a roller coaster ride for sure.

One Small Barking Dog is both the older of the two and, in a way, the newer, in that it took a hiatus, but is now back. Why did you bring ‘The Dog’ back from the dead, and what are your immediate plans?

It has been a long while thinking, exploring and praying about whether “The Dog”, as OSBD became affectionately known, should live or die.

However, over the past 18 months, others and I have felt increasingly that it should be engaged again in creating meaningful media and content that can speak into contemporary culture as it works with and for young people. Media that has the DNA of the kingdom embedded in it but isn’t pushy or trite but has real meaning.

We also believe that the newly revived OSBD can gain wider traction and impact based on the great strides Blue Hippo Media has made.

Our core areas are:

  1. Engage young people through training and development in film-making.
  2. Create innovative media to explore and communicate.
  3. Connect disparate groups and individuals interested in creativity and contemporary culture.

The specific projects we want to develop include;

  1. A feature documentary about what it means to be a young person in 21st century Britain. An ambitious film that we hope will have a really big impact on society.
  2. A series of FREE on line/downloadable visual meditations, that help those within and outside of Church explore and engage with spirituality.
  3. A series of FREE provocative and thought provoking short viral films aimed at on-line sharing. Issues around contemporary and spiritual themes that help us all explore what it means to be connected and engaged with our world.
  4. A pilot scheme to run a film school for young people who want to be filmmakers and make a difference in their world. This will become an on-line virtual school that aims to enable young people both here in the UK but also from countries facing real challenges through war and conflict and natural disaster.

So, how can we get involved?

To do all of this and max out our potential impact we need support.

We are hoping to build a bedrock of monthly givers who believe in what we are doing and can stand with us for the next 12 months. We are also hoping that we will get some one off gifts and find some partners who want to work alongside us on some specific projects.

This support will give us the “oxygen” to develop and create the key areas of work, pay some part time salaries and very small overheads ( we have no office base and very little outgoings that detract from the core work ). The difference it will make will be in enabling media to be made that really does have an impact both in and outside of the Church, helping young people to engage in those processes and learn skills to become filmmakers themselves.

If you can help that would be awesome.


For a third time, then, thanks a lot Pip. If you’d like more information about Blue Hippo Media or One Small Barking Dog, those words aren’t underlined for nothing. To support what Pip is doing and give to the work of OSBD, click here


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Pip Piper on Art, Faith & Church

Following on from last week’s introduction to Pip Piper, today we continue our interview with the Birmingham based film maker, focusing on art, faith and church and how the three can combine.

What lessons have you learnt about living out the duality of being a Christian and being an artist?

The simple answer is, there is no duality.

I am not a Christian filmmaker nor am I a secular one.

I am a filmmaker period. I am also a follower of Jesus and that creates a life defining, distinct and deep DNA in who I am and how that outworks in what I do and say and engage with. Those two dynamics are intertwined and co-existent. There may at times be inner conflict but that is more the reality of the spiritual walk in this world rather than defined by being a creative, it’s just a reality in my opinion!

In many ways I think artists and creatives have been misunderstood at best and largely ignored and even ostracized by the church, particularly the evangelical segment. The focus on the rational and mechanics of faith have over time in certain quarters pushed creativity away from the mainstream Christian experience.

You also see creative people who have faith being “boxed” and defined by having to create within the context of a narrow world view on what is relevant “Christian” art and that is very damaging.

I believe that at His core, God is super creative, dynamic and diverse. Simply look at the world around you. In this created diversity is a multiplex of paradoxes and dynamics at work that can make us struggle, question and even doubt but ultimately if we commit to the quest, it is beautiful and life giving.

Our creativity should be no less.

Your relationship with church has been interesting through the last few years. Can you talk us through the journey you’re on with the local church?

Well, like many I began to question the reality of just what is core to faith and what is a manufactured and a culture based interpretation.

This was borne out of hurt, which I think is often the case and at the time can be very destructive. Yet in many ways I am very grateful for it, how it has shaped me and also looking back aware of my culpability in the reality of just what was happening. As a passionate and dare-to-take-risks youth pastor I was probably a little difficult to manage!

One of the areas I was struggling with was the focus on the church as a “machine” which I often feel it ends up being rather than the upside down world changing kingdom Jesus was ushering in.

The “machine” consumes all around into its shape and making rather than releasing and empowering its “people” to be partakers of the revolution that is Jesus.

I guess in that questioning I ended up on the margins and at times way outside of the mainstream Church. At times it was a very lonely and painful place. To be honest having to fend for myself outside of regular church attendance meant I had to find ways to journey with my faith and in that I found some very positive ways to connect with God and have an honest and open journey with Him.

I certainly went on a journey! And it continues, but in many ways I have come to a place of peace and self-awareness of what matters most in my faith walk. My wife and I currently attend Oasis church in Birmingham. I still struggle, but in Oasis I have found a very honest and transparent space. A church full of people, all aware of their own struggles, and helping one another to find the most positive way forward.


Thanks again Pip. Next time, we’ll find out what Pip is up to at the moment and how we can get involved, but for now, check out the trailer for Blue Hippo Media’s ‘Last Shop Standing’, which Pip directed (and which you can purchase here)



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Pip Piper on ‘The Insatiable Moon’ and becoming a filmmaker

Pip Piper Insatiable Moon Film Sputnik Faith Art

One of my favourite mornings of 2017 so far was spent having brunch with Pip Piper. Pip is a Brum based film maker (with an IMDB profile and everything), and I knew a bit of his story already. However, I’d never properly picked his brains before – and what brains they were to pick! I was hugely impressed by both his wisdom and integrity and as soon as the opportunity to interview him for the blog came up, I was delighted to take it so as to share the wealth a little wider. So without further ado…

Jonny Mellor: Hi Pip, could you introduce yourself to the Sputnik readers?

Pip Piper: I am a film producer, a charity director, a film company co-director, a documentary director and involved in several initiatives including being CEO of the Producers Forum and part time lecturer on an MA in film distribution and marketing that I helped set up. I have been married 27 years and have 3 grown up sons.

Originally, I was a full time youth worker and did that for many years in different guises. From 1997 I began developing the emerging work around OSBD (One Small Barking Dog), a media outfit that had grown out of the youth work and would become a formal charity in 2001. Alongside my wife Debbie and whilst raising our kids we also set up many initiatives to support young people and youth workers across the city and nationally. The first few years we just relied on God providing what we needed which was very exciting but terrifying at times to be honest! But I have often said that over 20+ years of not having a salary we have never missed a mortgage payment or a meal for the kids! God is good. TBH we all rely on the Father’s goodness no matter what our fragile circumstances!

In many ways since really pushing OSBD, making films has been the main passion and focus. So: 20 years+ of making and creating, enabling others, communicating and engaging.

JM: You made the strange journey from church youth worker to internationally acclaimed film director. How did this work out?

PP: Ha ha acclaimed! That’s nice…well yep I’m very appreciative- we have won some awards along the way, that is always great to get some recognition for what most of the time is very hard work by everyone involved.

As mentioned above in many ways it was a very natural journey that simply embraced the direction we felt we should be heading and combined with that cool mix of spiritual yearning, opportunity, passion and evolving support it found its way organically.

I’ve always been very keen to advise people to go for their dreams and accept perceived failure as lessons along the way. I am not afraid of perceived failure and, I guess from my mountain climber/instructor background, I love taking risks!

I have been very fortunate to have support from my wife and kids and also from friends and colleagues. That counts for so much.

JM: If you had to pick 3 highlights of your career so far (and one lowlight) what would they be?

PP: That’s tough!…

Well let’s maybe start with a lowlight and then build up from there.

I guess when you have spent an incredible amount of time, effort, money and goodwill on getting films made, when something really bad happens it really hurts. The Insatiable Moon is a feature film shot in New Zealand which I produced and took 10 years to make with massive sacrifices from many involved. The film was amazing and did really well, winning several awards. When a very well known film outfit brought the film out on DVD for global release, after a good run in cinemas, it was out of sync (lips didn’t match the spoken words) and that destroyed the film’s potential to break out. That was so gutting on so many levels. BUT, I believe the film is still to have its day!

Now for the 3 highlights!

1: Making The Insatiable Moon with an incredible team of people and having the stamina and determination to do so over a 10 year period. It is a film I am very very proud of.

2: Seeing young people I have helped to mentor, train and encourage flourish in the creative and film industry. That’s a huge bonus for me. Some, I have spent decades working with and others, just a few months, but it makes so much of what I do worthwhile.

“True success is in the success of others”, a very wise person once advised me.

3: The whole journey- if that’s not too much of a cliché. But I am amazed that both myself and key others involved in this journey are still going! There have been numerous set backs and tough times alongside amazing seasons too. The combination of God’s good grace, friendship and support, my family’s patience and love and never ending new opportunities for creating/collaboration and meaningful engagement is a truly marvelous thing.

Thanks Pip. We’ll continue the interview next time, but for the time being, this will give you a flavour of The Insatiable Moon

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Author Mike French Creates Unorthodox Sci-Fi Narratives

When I first started sniffing around for artists in our particular network of churches in 2012, it was pretty tricky to find artists in any discipline who were making work that would be viewed as credible outside the church.

When it came to fiction writers, this scarcity was most pronounced. A few children’s authors slowly crept out of the shadows, but for about 3 years I failed to find one published novelist in any of our churches who was writing for an adult audience outside the church. Now, I in no way want to undervalue children’s authors- writing well for kids is at least as hard as writing for adults. However, this imbalance is worth reflecting upon.

A culture is shaped by its stories and its storytellers. If my experience is indicative of the wider Christian scene, our vacancy from this area should be a cause for considerable concern. To put it slightly differently, what does it say about us, as Christians, if we can only write stories that engage with children? Is it true that modern evangelical Christianity cannot engage over 18s who don’t follow Jesus in imaginative conversation?

I’d been perplexing myself with such concerns for some time when, with some relief, I met Mike French last year. Mike was the owner and senior editor of the prestigious literary magazine, The View From Here, and is the author of the novels, The Ascent of Isaac Steward, Blue Friday, Convergence and An Android Awakes (all published by Elsewhen). He is also amazingly a real life follower of Jesus and was part of a Catalyst church!

Being of such a rare breed, I’d recommend any of us who have an interest in making art that engages with a universal audience to consider what Mike has to say very carefully. I’ll be honest with you, some of you guys will struggle with his style and content (we’ll get on to what I mean by this shortly) but it’s a struggle I think it would be well worth undertaking. The choice is reasonably stark in this area: we can either continue to play it safe and remove ourselves completely from the main plot line of our culture’s evolution or we can, like Mike, seek to navigate the treacherous path of honestly and authentically sharing our stories in a way that people will hear.

With all that said and done then, Mike, over to you…

How does writing fit into your life? 

I work normally between nine in the morning to about three in the afternoon. Outside those hours I keep busy in home dad mode running the house and looking after my three kids. Although of course secretly my subconscious is at work 24/7 on my latest writing project. It normally wakes me up at 3AM and downloads all the stuff it’s been working on. It’s basically highly annoying.

Since reading Android, I’ve also read ‘Isaac Steward’ and hugely enjoyed them both. They seem similar in structure in that there are quite defined alternate stories going on in both books that actually tie in to a larger narrative. What comes first- the alternate stories or the narrative that pulls them together and how do they work together as you write? Are there particular influences that you draw upon in this specific style of writing? 

Normally the larger narrative is the starting place. With An Android Awakes this was definitely the case, although after I started I realised that I had made a lot of work for myself: Each story contained within the overall story is very short and so I frequently had to come up with a whole new concept and story to go with it.

I’m not aware of any influences in this format other than concept albums from bands like Pink Floyd, which have had a big influence on me. The Dark Side of the Moon for example has very distinct musical elements within it but they become more than the sum of their parts by feeding into a larger conceptual landscape.

The thing that makes you different to any other Christian writer I’ve read is the amount of sex in your novels! This is something that most other Christian writers wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, and many Christian readers would find really unsettling. How would you respond to a Christian critic who thought that your novels were too graphic in this regard (or even in terms of violence or swearing)?

Well I wouldn’t call myself a Christian writer, rather a Christian that writes novels. I think there is a difference, certainly to me.  When I first started writing I got professional help from a literary consultancy and they liked my style but pointed out that I used very flowery Christian language whenever I covered adult themes. I studied other writers like Julian Barnes and Iain M. Banks and after a lot of soul searching decided that if I wanted to be good at my craft then I should use clear language when describing sex or violence. Always making the right word choice is something I try and do as a writer and if you can’t do that because you are afraid of what people might think of you, then you are probably in the wrong job.

As to going there in the first place…

I think as a writer you are trying to emotionally connect with people and deal with human struggles and challenges and a major part of being a human is your sexual identity and desires. If as a writer that is off limits, then that severely restricts a writer’s ability to cover the whole spectrum of what it is to be a human on this planet.

I also think as Christians we should really be in this arena, rather than being afraid of it.  Part of the problem is we often confuse the cultural sensitivities of the society we live in with Christian ethics. Often they have nothing to do with each other.  It was culturally acceptable for example for the Minoan woman in Crete thousands of years ago to wear clothes that left their breasts exposed. If we were to time jump them forward to today then people would find that highly offensive. At the time it wasn’t.

Your 4 novels have all been published by Elsewhen. What advice would you give writers looking to be published or looking to self-publish? 

Prepare for rejection, pain and heartache. Visualise a wall before you and then run repeatedly into it until you become unconscious.

If you can survive that then good, you are made of the right stuff and the following might be of interest.

  1. Don’t scatter gun all the agents and publishers with your novel. Approach it like a job application. Do some research on who might like your kind of work and then contact two or three of them.
  2. Look for junior agents that have just started their own lists of clients.
  3. Email specific agents and publishers and ask if they would like to see your work. (Make this very short and do not attach your work.) If they don’t advertise their email then take a leaf out of Sherlock’s book and do some detective work.  Many editors are always looking for new work even if their company says they do not take unsolicited work.
  4. Make sure you have a decent one page synopsis.
  5. If you are considering self-publishing then do not believe any of the hype you might read. Unless you already have an established fan base the chances of you selling loads of copies is very small.

You are presently working on the sequel to Android. How’s it going and can you give us any teasers?

I’ve finished the first draft and I’m very excited about it! It’s called Fictional Alignment and will be out early next year.  I’ve really enjoyed writing it and it deals (amongst a lot of other things) with the importance of stories in shaping and forming our society. In the novel, androids have decided that fiction is evil and they want to eradicate it.  What follows from this really pits fiction against fact.  They are two very different world views and so I throw them at each other – what happens isn’t pretty!


Thank you Mike. To get hold of any of his work, there is a South American River that can help you. If that doesn’t ring any bells, just click here.

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Jemma Mellor will be Leading Our Intern Team!

In September, we’re hoping to start out first ever Sputnik Intern Scheme. You may have heard of this already, this may be new to you, but just to bring us all up to speed, we thought we’d get Jemma Mellor, who’ll be leading the intern team to explain the plan.

Hello Jemma, tell us a bit about yourself…

Hello. My name is Jemma Mellor and i have been involved in the arts in one way or another for my whole life. My dad was a talented amateur painter, but his father had told him that a career as an artist wasn’t a real career, and so he ended up becoming an engineer. Probably because of this, he enthusiastically encouraged me down the path that he’d not been able to take himself.

As any artist with a Christian faith will know, you are struck almost immediately with decisions about how to integrate your art and faith. Dilemmas like ‘Should I join a life drawing class or the banner making class at church instead?’ become a really big deal. As I excelled at my art in education and this appeared to take me further away from art that would be displayed in church buildings or meetings, I began to ask myself whether I was doing the right thing.

Therefore, after my A-Levels I took a year out to do what was then called Frontier Year Project, feeling a bit lost and hoping God would straighten me out and put me on the right path. He did! On my year team, I wasn’t being asked to produce art each week and I realised that I missed it, and in fact started creating my own self initiated work throughout the year. I also had the privilege of meeting loads of Christians involved in the arts who were practising their work out in the world, not just in church meetings, and for the first time I could see a way that art could start conversations that led people towards God.

Because of all this, I did a Foundation year, leading into a Photography degree. I really enjoyed it and got a first. The three main things I loved about my degree were exploring a brief, learning to communicate visually powerful messages and working with people in a way that led us to discuss why we did what we did and to have real conversations about it.

Since university, I’ve had the privilege of exhibiting work at various places across the country, of working with some fantastic artists and more recently, throughout my time as a full time mum, enjoying the steady drip of regular artistic work in one form or another that continues to excite me and financially provide to a degree.

Also, during this time, my husband and I founded Sputnik…

Sputnik, eh? That rings a bell! So, what are the plans then for this Sputnik Intern Scheme and how does it fit into what Sputnik is up to at the moment?

Over the last 5 years, Sputnik has been supporting and encouraging artists who want to make work for those outside the church. We’ve run networking events and hosted exhibitions across the country and we are still expanding. One of the ways we wish to do this is by offering our first Sputnik Internship Scheme.

The plan is to run a year team along similar lines to a traditional church year out, but with lots of time given over to the interns developing their own artistic practice, being mentored by other artists in their field, and helping Sputnik in its day to day running. Of course, the year will also help you get to know the Bible more and get stuck into the local church, but we will be putting aside significant time to help you to develop as an artist in whatever creative field you work (painter, song writer, poet, writer, film maker, whatever).

What kind of person would this internship be for?

We are looking for self motivated artists who are looking to develop their practice, and grow in excellence in their craft. I think this would be a perfect opportunity for at least three types of people:

If you’re just finishing at university and want to grow in your artistic gifting. Maybe your degree was in the arts (for example music, film or creative writing), maybe you’ve just maintained an interest in a specific artistic field and have started to practice that in different ways alongside your education.

If you’ve put your art on the back burner for a while but now want to pick it up again. Maybe you’ve got a possibility for a break in your career or perhaps your career is coming to an end, and you feel like God is prompting you to pick up where you left off in your creative practice.

If you’re already developing your practice well but want to take things up a notch. We are increasingly working with artists who are at the top of their game, and a good number of these would love to give their time to any of you guys who would like to move from being good at what you do, to being excellent.

Just to be clear though, we are looking for practitioners not just enthusiasts. We’ll want to see examples of work you’ve done and evidence that you’ve already been pushing doors in these areas, not just that you have the desire to do such things.

 To finish then Jemma, why would you recommend this opportunity to someone?

I’d recommend this year because God is able to speak powerfully into our country, our society, our communities and our friends through the arts. At various times in history He’s done this and we believe he wants to do it again in our lifetimes. We think that’s really exciting and we’d love for you to be involved in that.


Thanks Jemma. If you’d like to apply to join the Sputnik Internship scheme or would like further information please follow this link to find the application form or if you have any questions, please email Jonny or Jemma at

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David Benjamin Blower And The Book Of Jonah

It’s always a pleasure to catch up with Dave Blower. Last time we met up, it came with the added bonus of hand ground coffee from a funny little machine he had lying about in his kitchen! Upon drinking said coffee, he agreed to do a short interview about his latest project ‘The Book Of Jonah’ which, I would argue is his most ambitious project yet, and is about to be released on the unsuspecting world on 13th March, through our friends at Minor Artists.

So, here it is. If you’ve not come across Mr Blower before, you may want to pick up the story so far here, here or even here.

With the formalities done then and now that we’re all on the same page…


Jonny Mellor: Before we get on to your new release, could you fill us in on what’s been going on since we last heard from you. ‘Welcome the Stranger’ seemed like a very important release- has it opened any new doors for you or even changed your practice or methodology?

David Benjamin Blower: Welcome the Stranger is a collection of folk protest songs about the refugee crisis. Of course, since last Spring when the record came out, the world has changed and countries like ours have become very unwelcoming. The record is themed around Jesus’ story of the sheep and the goats, and the notion that to reject the suffering stranger is reject Jesus himself. The last year has been hard to watch.

This is the first record where I’ve used songs to tell real people’s stories, of living and dying as refugees. Having played these stories in different places, so many people have come up to me and asked, “What can I do? Where can I send money? Where can I volunteer?” I’ve been struck by the importance of telling people’s stories as an artist. We can do things the news can’t.

JM: Your new release ‘The Book Of Jonah’ follows the path set by ‘Kingdom vs Empire’ and is a book and album (the book is called ‘Sympathy For Jonah’). How did this project come about?

DBB: This happened haphazardly. I started writing a musical of the story of Jonah, mostly out of a fondness for the Bible, Moby Dick, Pinocchio etc. and while I was putting together songs about how terrible things were in Nineveh, I saw on the news footage of ISIS blowing up the tomb of Jonah in modern day Nineveh; that is, Mosul, in northern Iraq. I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t want to go to Nineveh either.” The news about ISIS (back in 2014/15) became so disturbing that I lost all taste for the musical and started, wide-eyed, writing a book about how frightening real enemy love might actually be. Everyone picks on Jonah for his lack of warm feeling towards the enemy, but I don’t see many of his pious critics marching off to Mosul to make peace with the regime there. And any historian will tell that the Ninevites (Neo-Assyrians) were more dreadful than ISIS, by a long way.

The book was published last summer, and then after that, rather more soberly, I finished recording the musical retelling.


JM: I know it has been gestating for a while and I imagine that there has been a weight to living with these ideas for so long before being able to finally unleash them on the world. How do you manage to contain such a strong prophetic vision (alongside the accompanying passion and restlessness) without it eating you up?

DBB: I think it probably does eat me up. I don’t know if you can make good art about something without allowing yourself to swallowed up by it. If you’re not battered by the journey, then where did you go, and what do you have to tell? Perhaps this is why artists have often been considered dangerous by controlling societies. We’re unhinged openings for dangerous and unpredictable kinds of power to enter the orderliness and disrupt it: in this case, grace, forgiveness, re-humanisation of the enemy, redemption of the irredeemably evil, etc. The prophetic job is to bring in this dangerous new thing, not, I suppose, to always come out in one piece.

Living with this story over the last few years has also been interesting, because the contemporary subject matter has changed. When I began, the monster of public discourse was ISIS. Today, many struggle to see people like Trump, Farage and Le Pen as human beings – an attitude which is quietly and dangerously transferred onto all those who support them. I also know people on the right who can only talk with disgust about “liberals” and people on the left. Who wants to go Jonah-ing over to the terrible other now?

JM: At Sputnik, we usually draw quite a thick line between art that is made for Christians and art that is made for a universal audience. You are something of an exception to this rule, as you are one of the few artists that people who aren’t Christians still want to eavesdrop on, even when you’re speaking primarily to Christians. ‘The Book Of Jonah’ would be a project like this as your focus here does seem to be Christians and the church. Can you tell us about about how you see the Christian artist’s responsibilities to speak to the church and to the world and how that works for you?

DBB: You mean that our art is best when it speak to a universal audience, and not into the Christian bubble, I think?

I agree. But of course, stained glass windows, cathedrals, orthodox icons, choral evensong and the KJV were made for Christians, and yet they’re also delighted in by a universal audience, because they have integrity. When we look uneasily on art made for Christians, I think we usually mean the sort of art made by evangelicals for evangelicals in decades past, which we’ve come to distrust as a sort of matrix designed to keep us in the fold. But for me it would be dishonest to make art stripped of Judaeo-Christian aesthetics. This is the well I drink from, and plenty of outsiders want to drink from it too.

I feel I’ve always been trying to make work for a post-secular audience. I could never accept the sacred/secular divide, and I’ve always been trying to bring these two realms together: trying to bring religious discourse back to earth, and trying to reveal how religious the secular world always has been. The prophets have always been my model as an artist, and they simply addressed their people, whether they worshipped this or that, something or nothing.

I find the present moment a very exciting one to work in, because the post-secular mishmash has now become the fact (where it is accepted that religious narratives of all sorts are sloshing everywhere, and nothing is neatly contained or separable). Meanwhile, the old sacred / secular divide is collapsing. We could gone on about what all that might mean for a long time.


JM: The Book Of Jonah then- give us the hard sell. Why should this release be added to our bookshelves and Itunes libraries?

DBB: The Book of Jonah is a radiophonic production of the biblical story, read in it’s entirety from the old King James bible by the deep voice of theologian Professor N. T. Wright, whose wisdom and wit illuminates the narrative. Jonah himself is played by the theologian and activist Professor Alastair McIntosh, in his wheezing Hebridean sea-dog’s tones. The story is punctuated with dark folk ballads and awash in spaghetti western soundscapes.

Sympathy for Jonah is a series of meditations on the biblical tale, delving into the necessity, and the dreadful cost, of enemy-love, for all of us. Especially in these divided times. It’s short. I’m told it’s funny, though I didn’t particularly mean it to be. And it gives theologically digestible exploration of both the Book of Jonah and of the cross of Jesus.

JM: What’s next for you? How are you going to promote this project and have you got anything else in the pipeline?

DBB: I’ll be spending time performing The Book of Jonah where I can; lounges, bars, churches and gatherings, and holding discussions around the themes of the book. There’s always something new in the pipeline, but I’ll focus myself on planting our community garden and gathering some theological learning groups in the coming months.

* * *

Thanks Dave. As always a pleasure. And if you can’t wait until the 13th March, here is an exclusive little preview of a track called ‘Sackcloth and Ashes’to whet your appetite…

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Mike Lawetto and Messing With Musical Expectations

Just before Christmas, I got wind of the fact that Mike was lining up a Well Done You project for release this year. Soon after this revelation, I found out that that there were a number of Perendiz tracks ready for release too. The eagle eared amongst you would have noticed the first evidence of this flurry, Part Wolf, that we profiled on the blog last week, and I thought that we should probably catch up with the man himself before the floodgates really opened. So, Sputnikmagazine, it’s my pleasure to introduce Mike Lawetto…

So, Mike, Introduce yourself.

My name is Mike Lawetto, and I sing, play, mix, and produce. And my first project to be released is Well Done You. WDY has been in my head since 2015 – two years of tinkering, thinking and trying to dream it right. It’s not a band, it’s a collaboration – I write and produce and bring in the right people for each song. It’s an exciting process and gives me the freedom to explore whatever the song needs.

Tell us about the single ‘Part Wolf’

Part Wolf is one of the oldest tracks from the upcoming album, it is an introduction to how the rest of the record will sound to listeners. The track itself is complete mayhem. It’s relentless, never let’s up, and that’s what I wanted people’s first experience of WDY to be. It’s funny how Part Wolf came about. Initially, musically speaking, I was aiming for more a Weezer vibe (Blue Album, Pinkerton) than what actually was created. It took me awhile to realise that Part Wolf was more me than what I thought I wanted it to be. Once I was confident in the new direction, it was game on and the whole album started to take shape because of it. Also on a tech note, Part Wolf was my first outing with Marshall amps (which I now adore). I explored the track with different guitars rather then sticking with just my Strat so all in all it was a freeing experience as a writer and producer. Also wanna give a special shout out to Kelani for drumming on that track way back in a sweaty hot room in summer 2015.

What does success look like for you in your art?

There are two ways I look at success:

The first one is getting the record done right. Regarding WDY I’ve been demoing seriously since summer 2016 and now have 38 songs under my belt. I’ve nearly got the album done, I’m tracking the last bit of drums in a week which is exciting. With Perendiz it’s getting everything ready as well. I’ve got two singles ready to go, so I’m currently looking at how I will release them. So my first real success is getting everything written, recorded, produced and mixed to the right level across the board. It was very important to me to take my time to learn how to finish a record by myself. For many years I was on other people’s time to get my records done because I didn’t possess the skills and though I am grateful for the time they put into my stuff it was very frustrating waiting. Finishing any form of art is a hard thing to do but it’s something I’ve purposely been working on over the last year.

Secondly, I want people to enjoy the music. It will be a major success hearing that people love what I’m doing.

You have several different musical projects bubbling away at a time and seem to operate under a number of personas (welldoneyou, PERENDIZ, Captain Pinball, etc). How does this work?

As my day job I’m Mike Lawetto, a freelance producer, songwriter and mix engineer. When I’m not doing that, I split my time between Well Done You – my rock side and Perendiz – my pop side. I don’t feel on a Tuesday how I did on a Sunday. Some days I rock, some days I pop. For me, music is at its greatest when it’s screwed around with, messed expectations, a noisy evolution – that’s what makes it beautiful. And that’s how Well Done You and Perendiz came about. Captain Pinball was just a crazy one-off, a track that I wrote with a team for a record label, it was mega-fun, but definitely more of a one-off project. I love pop music, we just unfortunately live in a time where a lot of pop music isn’t about exploring anymore rather regurgitating what’s worked in the past. Perendiz is all about trying to put the exploration back into Pop music and hoping people think it’s good. You’ll never hear Perendiz do the same genre – a few songs from the same ball park, sound wise, but ultimately I’m gonna keep moving. You’ve got to stay fresh, exciting and innovative. Oh and also I get bored quickly.

It’s the same with Well Done You. I’m a rocker at heart, my first true love, yet I’ve just been bored by the majority of rock music for years. I’m lucky if there’s more then two new good rock albums a year now I like. I’ve made a conscious effort to keep my colours wide and open. As a producer I’ll never say no until I’ve tried it a few times. That’s how I approach everything I do musically, which is why this year you will get a wide and genre-less bag of music from Mike Lawetto.

So, what exactly have you got in store for us in 2017?

Perendiz will releases a few singles (potentially an e.p) and a lot of collaborations. I’ll be releasing and producing with other artists such as Jamison, Alix Original, Dan Crook and a few others that are nearly confirmed. Well Done You will be releasing quite a few singles, an EP, album and a Christmas single. It’s gonna be busy year and I’m super excited.


Moi aussi.

Thanks Mike.

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Would You Like To Be A Sputnik Intern For A Year?

Would you like to spend a year developing your art practice, getting to know the Bible better and working alongside the Sputnik team in Birmingham?

I am excited to announce our first ever Sputnik internship! (Drums. Fanfare. General maniacal whooping.) We are offering up to three Sputnik internships, starting in September 2017, linked in with the Newfrontiers Impact training program.

What would the year look like?

Developing your own art practice

There will be good time given to work on your own projects under supervision from artists in your field

Studying the Bible

There will be 30 days of practical theological training throughout the year, as well as an accompanying programme of study (in association with Newfrontiers’ Impact programme)

Working with the Brum Sputnik Team

You’d be working closely with Jonny and Jemma Mellor, and the Brum Sputnik team to broaden your creative horizons and to help with the week by week running of the Sputnik arts network.

Getting stuck into a local church

Part of the year would involve serving at Churchcentral, Birmingham, and getting stuck into the wider church community.

Who’s it for?

This is potentially for any Christian creative who is keen to strive towards excellence in their practice and would like to create work for a universal audience (not just for Christians).

The internship will be based in a church from Catalyst (part of Newfrontiers) but you don’t have to be from a Catalyst church. You just need to love Jesus!

While we will take applications from creatives of any discipline, the internship would be best designed to serve writers, musicians, songwriters, rappers, photographers, graphic designers, fine artists or film makers. (If you’re not sure whether you fall into any of these pigeon holes but are still interested, contact us directly through facebook or twitter, and we can talk it through).

How do you apply?

The cost for the year will be £1350 (for the residential training). We will need to see examples of work and there will be an interview. Check out the application form for more details.

The deadline for application is July (although we’re pretty flexible). The main issue will be that once the 3 places are gone, that will be that, so please contact us as soon as possible if you’re interested.

So, are you interested? Click on the link below to download the application form.



Image credit: . See more of his work at, follow him on twitter @giloscope 


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Artists’ Art of 2016

So Christmas is behind us and we are mere days from 2017 and a chance to finally put this strange old year to bed. Now, whatever else you can say about 2016, it has certainly been a year of artistic endeavour and productivity. Therefore, I waited till everyone had got their Facebook top 10s out of their system and then approached a few of Sputnik’s favourite practitioners to ask them what their one favourite piece of art was this year. These are their responses:

Luke Tonge- Stage Four by Touché Amoré

What a year! The ‘piece of art’ that has impacted me most in 2016 is an album by a band I probably wouldn’t even list in my top 20 artists, and who I’ve never seen live, which as a music fan feels odd – but there you go. It dropped into my ears in September and hasn’t left me since. The record is ‘Stage Four’ by post-hardcore LA-based punk quintet Touché Amoré, their fourth full length (the dual meaning of the name – it’s also the highest level of cancer staging — a reference to the fact that leader singer Jeremy Bolm’s mother died of cancer in 2014). For an intense and cacophonous hardcore band such private emotion was only ever going to sit front and centre in their art…and while its not quite a concept album, the theme of grief runs throughout. Stylistically I saw it perfectly described as like “slam poetry set to hardcore.” This is an album of searching, as Bolm sorts through his childhood memories and feelings that have amassed since his mother’s passing. This isn’t a feel-good record, but it’s also not at all as depressing as it sounds! There is hope within. All sounds pretty emo right? Well I guess it is. But it’s full of big hooks, musical cohesion and just the right amount of raw energy to keep you coming back for repeated listens. Pitchfork’s 8.1 scoring review states “Bolm’s hyper-confessional lyrics are a beacon of hope to anyone plagued by anxiety, depression, toxic relationships, and general self-doubt.” and in the year that we’ve all just had – who doesn’t need a bit of that?

You can listen to this brief cathartic 35 minute masterpiece in full here:

Benjamin Harris- Imperial Federation Map of the World (Walter Crane)

At the TATE’s Artist and Empire early this year I came across Walter Crane’s ever-so slightly subversive Imperial Federation Map of The World (1886). This work embodies both what I have begun to study more in 2016 (Politics of Race and Colonisation) and the quiet socialistic defiance within the system (which Crane achieved in his ornate representation of the inequalities of Empire surrounding the cartography). It has certainly been the biggest formal impact on my creative output this year.


Jo Cogle (Joanna Karselis)- Notes on Blindness

What a year for cinema. We’ve had Room, Spotlight, Hell or High Water, Son Of Saul, Love and Friendship, Kubo And The Two Strings, and Hail, Caesar! to name a few, not to mention films I haven’t caught up with yet like Captain Fantastic, Embrace of The Serpent, and Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Special mention for my runner up film of the year goes to Ken Loach’s social commentary I, Daniel Blake; but my film of the year, 2016, is the revolutionary documentary Notes On Blindness.

Notes on Blindness is made up of the audio recordings theologian John Hull created over the period in which he lost his sight. The film uses actors to lip sync along to the tapes, putting the audio alongside arresting visual images of rain and tidal waves and snow to illustrate Aussie-come-Brummie Hull’s story. Although actors lip syncing to audio tapes isn’t a new technique (see The Arbor, 2010), this felt very different to any documentary I’d ever seen before. It was natural, horrifying, and thrilling, honest, raw and brave, all at the same time. Hull’s words have made me completely reassess not only how “blind people and sighted people must see other” in the physical world, but also in the spiritual one. Notes doesn’t shy away from Hull’s Christian faith, and how he wrestles with God as he becomes blind. It ends up being a film about a real man facing real struggle with a real God, and coming through that struggle to find peace. Notes has truly raised the bar for making faith filled films which accurately and honestly depict the difficulties of real Christian life; and it managed to break my heart and put it back together again along the way.

If anyone is interested in finding out more, Hull’s book Touching The Rock is an assimilation of his recordings. For additional viewing, the film’s directors have produced a similarly insightful new documentary called Life, Animated which is about autism and is currently showing in limited screens around the UK.


Chris Donald- Luke Cage

‘Luke Cage’ is far from perfect. Like all Marvel Netflix shows so far, it starts incredibly strong, but the pacing is far too slow, and there are some just-plain-dumb scripting and directing moments. But Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Rosario Dawson and so on brought grace and messy humanity to the reluctant black superhero; and amid the dark cultural brouhaha of 2016, the fictionalised lives of non-white America got airtime, made their mark, and even crashed the Netflix servers – or so the mythology goes. It’s been a year where my heart has sometimes been heavy with what my (future!) kids’ lives and experiences will be, but from ‘Luke Cage’ to ‘Atlanta’, Mike Kiwanuka to Lianne La Havas, it moved me to remember that they will have stories that honestly, artfully, and heroically embrace their colour.


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Christmas Videos: Kings Church Edinburgh & St Pauls Auckland

On Tuesday we highlighted some music to get you in the Christmas mood. Today we have some videos- 2 to be precise. Christmas always gets Christian creatives motivated and there are plenty of good videos out there, retelling the Christmas story or exploring the questions it raises.

To stand out from the melee, you’ve got to be good. You’ve got to come in at a different angle, you’ve got to exhibit a level of quality that will stand up even discounting the seasonal good cheer. These two videos do just that. So here goes:

Threadbare (King’s Church, Edinburgh)

Kings Church, Edinburgh, is a church that I’d love to get to know better. They’re in the New Ground bit of Newfrontiers, we’re in the Catalyst bit, so we’re like siblings, or at worst cousins. My good friend Luke Davydaitis is one of the leaders (and he’s a great bloke) and they’ve got all sorts of exceptional artists in the church and Jennifer Rawson is one of them.

Jennifer Rawson used to be called Jennifer Taylor and featured in our very first Sputnik Anthology back in 2014. Her poems were some of the highlights of that particular publication but I’d heard nothing from her since. Until this video. I don’t think that Jennifer is the lady in the video, but she certainly wrote the poem that it is built around.

To put it simply, this is how to do a church Christmas video. Forget all the wrappings and just go for the heart of things. This will work in a carol service, but it stands up in its own right as an excellent piece of work at any time of the year (inside or outside a church meeting). It’s well shot, well edited and well recorded. I get the impression that Kings church folk were also responsible for the soundtrack too. Phew!

As Christians left, right and centre fill Youtube with earnest and deeply mediocre ‘spoken words’, it is so refreshing to hear someone who knows how to wield the English language with subtlety and skill.

Take note: this is what happens when you get an actual poet to do a church video, rather than getting a pastor,student worker, or just some good looking member of your congregation to do it.

Seriously guys. This is awesome.

Star of Wonder (St Pauls, Auckland)

I’ve rather selfishly kept this up my sleeve for the last week or so, and noticed that none of my Facebook pals or twitter cronies have cottoned on to it yet. I LOVE this video.

When Sputnik began, St Pauls, Auckland were a huge source of inspiration to me. They are most renowned for their Christmas videos, particularly the Spike Jonze-y ‘Good News of Great Joy’ and Michel Gondry-esque ‘An Unexpected Christmas’. They then dropped off most people’s radars (although their subsequent offerings were also fantastic).

Upon a little investigation, I soon found out that, while Christmas seems to be their shop window, St Pauls is more than a sanctified Santa’s grotto. These guys don’t just have a creative streak, they seem to be something of a creative powerhouse in their city. They put on art exhibitions, gather thousands to their creative services and basically put the rest of us to shame (or spur us onwards, depending how you’re feeling that day).

Behind all of this is a guy called James Bowman. He was senior art director at Saatchi until 2013, but has since moved to New Zealand based advertising and communications company bcg2. We exchanged some emails early on and he was really encouraging in those early days, for which I am still very grateful.

Therefore, it was excellent to see a link from him in my inbox to the new SPAM (St Pauls Arts and Media) Christmas video. What was more excellent though was the video itself. After the full on cuteness of GNoGJ and AUC, this is more of a stealth attack. It is a masterful piece of work- drawing you in, with a light smile here and a furtive glance there, until the understated, but still grand, reveal.

Whereas most Christmas videos talk and talk at you, this features just one Bible verse. But there is a simple profundity here that should not be missed.

City crowds are a helpful window into modern life. We walk through our lives increasingly isolated and individualistic, cut off from those around us, in our iPod dream chambers, augmented reality games or just swapping emojis with people on Whatsapp. But, even in such a world, Christmas has something to say. Christmas is about the one who can still grab our attention and he can turn our vacant stares and world weary frowns into huge beaming smiles.

More than any other video I’ve seen this year, this one boils Christmas down to its most crucial component: Joy to the world.

Happy Christmas!

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A Sputnik Christmas Playlist

Okay. I am now firmly gripped in the clutches of Christmas, and I won’t be escaping any time before Boxing Day!

I’d considered putting up some esoteric posts about whether fishmongery is art or bemoaning the overuse of teal in church website banners, but even I couldn’t be that obtuse. It’s Christmas in under a week so my one goal this week is to help you get in the Christmas mood.

It’s great that this year more than ever, there are artists we’re connected with who are queuing up to prepare you for the big day.

First up, the playlist! Pretty important I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m happy to say that for the first time ever, I’ve managed to see Sufjan Stevens’ 4 CD Christmas album through from start to finish. This is either creative progress or the sign that I have passed some sort of point of no return.

For me, Zang productions’ 2008 classic ‘A Zang Christmas’ is still my benchmark Christmas carol album. But this year, both of these albums are getting a run from their money from within the Sputnik stable.

First up, Christchurch Manchester have put together a very pleasant EP of carols. Very pleasant indeed!

For anyone who has been around Sputnik for a while, all I need to say to pique your interest is that the brilliant Michael Bradley (welldoneyou, PERENDIZ) is heavily involved. As I see it, Michael is a master of making music that, while it has a pop polish, consistently houses genuine chaos. There are a whole load of others involved here for sure, but this EP is in the trademark Bradley vein. It’s produced, engineered and arranged excellently and on first listen might remind you of Maroon 5 on a more rocky day. However a more careful listen will highlight the ominous threat that lies underneath ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and the frenzied guitars and drums that just about remain contained in ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’. It will be great to see how Christchurch Manchester build on this with some promised original releases this year (we’ll keep you posted).

However good this EP is though, I can’t resist pointing you towards Mr Bradley’s seasonal magnum opus (in this case under the guise of Captain Pinball) from last year. This is what happens when the chaos is allowed full rein. Believe it or not, in the Mellor household this song has been played most weeks this year and consistently sends all 3 of our children into a blind frenzy (in a good way) whether it’s December or July. This is the sound of genius!

Okay. If you have the good taste and endurance to make it to the end of that, it’s likely that you will now see the world in a different light from this point onwards, but you may temporarily need a bit of a rest. Cue Joanna Karselis.

We highlighted Jo’s excellent ‘Oceans’ release a couple of weeks ago, well she has followed that up with a charity single, a reworking of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ and a beautiful instrumental piece, composed for Oasis Church, Birmingham’s carol service.

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 track=1072609514 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small]

On ‘In The Town Of Bethlehem or In The Bleak Midwinter’ Jo’s distinctive, pining voice sits snugly on a bed of piano and violin (Jo too!) and it all adds up to a very worthwhile variation on the old carol classic.

‘Joy’ may lack the vocals or the safe familiarity of a carol cover, but it would be a perfect intro or interlude track on a carol mix CD. On first listen, the title may seem odd, as there is definitely a melancholy feel about this instrumental track, but as you go with it, you’ll get it. This is not ‘happiness’ or ‘jolliness’, this is ‘joy’, and rippling up from beneath the reflective synth arrangement is a sense of hopeful determination that leaves you feeling strangely contented. Joyful even.

So much so that you’ll probably now be ready for more Captain Pinball. And then more.

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Advent 2016 by Bernard Davis

A couple of weeks ago, we directed you towards Luke Sewell’s excellent Orbital blog, a result of Luke’s wrestlings with the year that is now drawing to a close. Today, I thought I’d point you towards a different response to 2016, from Bernard Davis. Bernard is a stalwart of the Birmingham poetry scene and part of our Brum Sputnik Hub and his poem ‘Advent 2016’ is another excellent reflection on the year.

Advent 2016

The present keeps colliding with the future.
We are the flies too near the windscreen,
we need to create some distance before 
our heads explode. This year choreographed by
Heironymus Bosch, this garden of earthly disasters.
We need the perspective he refused,
to break through the canvas of his eternal present,
back into our fractured reality to reset time.
To still the compass he used as a spinning toy,
and if we are to take our bearings,
locate some ground, some rock, that
hasn’t been hollowed into echo chambers,
where each group who know they are right,
sooth themselves with the returning sound
of their own voices. Mutually Assured Stupidity.
With these lullabies in our ears, it’s no surprise
the crib no longer comforts, the holy family
cling to wreckage in the Aegean sea,
Herod stalks the streets of Syria and North Iraq,
everywhere Rachael, inconsolable,
weeps for her children. The only sane voice
is a madman crying in the desert.
Make a straight path, fill in the bomb craters,
tear down the barricades, let through the ambulances,
treat the injured, feed the starving
emerging from their basement prisons.
We have to start making a way out of here.
Out of here? First of all we have to find
out where we are. The frontlines, the signposts,
the borders, every line we drew, obliterated.

© Bernard.S.Davis

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Sputnik Stocking Fillers

Jemma, my wife, is a force of nature when it comes to Christmas shopping. She started about a month ago and I think has pretty much nailed it already.

Now, I like to think that she is the exception rather than the rule in this regard, and if this is true, then most of you reading this will still be in search of some prezzies for your loved ones this Chrimbo.

Well, Sputnik can help. It’s great to see the quality work out there emanating from guys connected to our collective, and it could just be what you need to complete your gift buying mission.

Here are 6 Sputnik stocking fillers that we’d thoroughly recommend:

An Android Awakes by Mike French

filmcomicconbrightonJust over a year ago, Mike French released this, his fourth novel- a collaboration with illustrator Karl Brown. It’s set in a future where our culture is shaped by machines, and part of that shaping is done through the Android Publishing Program. In short, robots provide people with their reading material. The catch is that each android only gets 42 attempts to get their work published before they are deactivated.

‘An Android Awakes’ is the story of Android Writer PN121928  who, after a series of rejections, only has 14 attempts left before deactivation. What follows then are these attempts, intertwined with the narrative about the android novelist’s life and particularly his fears as he gets closer and closer to the potentially definitive rejection. Therefore, it’s partly a short story collection and partly an extended exploration of a dystopian future.

And it scores on both fronts. The short stories are consistently bizarre, funny and poignant and give Mike full rein to let his imagination really go to town. On the other hand, the whole set up is coherent and well fleshed out and both serves as an interesting and disturbing vision of the future and a fable about the plight of very human writers in the here and now.

“The questions of what makes us truly human and what life means isn’t anything new within the genre, but the presentation of those timeless questions here is exemplary and fresh” (AMO MAGAZINE)

Who’d like it in their stocking? Anyone into Philip K Dick or 2000AD. I’d also probably better add a 15 rating on to it too, in case some over eager parents were expecting Hagbane’s Doom with robots (anyone remember Hagbane’s Doom? Oh, it’s just me then).

How can I get it? An Android Awakes is available on paperback or on kindle from amazon, and if you want to find out more visit the website.


The Parables of Pythagoras by The Praying Mantis

The Praying Mantis is an exceptional wordsmith and vocalist. His lyrical ingenuity and authoritative delivery have been apparent for years both in his live shows and through his previous releases, but I don’t think that they’ve ever been showcased as effectively as on The Parables of Pythagoras, his latest album. The beats are gritty and hard hitting (lots of ominous strings and snapping snares) and the rhymes are classic Mantis.

Who’d like it in their stocking? Within the rap genre, there is an opportunity for in your face unapologetic statements of faith and Mantis seizes that opportunity with both hands. However, whereas many Christian rappers fill their verses with such theological detail that they ensure that only Christians will connect with their material, Mantis crafts his work in such a way that anyone into gritty, street hiphop a la late 90s Wu Tang Clan will be happy to see in the New Year to The Parables of Pythagoras.

How can I get it? It’s on band camp. It’s also available on a physical CD (I know because I’ve got one) however Mantis is hiding them all away in his warchest, so you’ll have to put some work in to get your hands on one.


Humanization (Issues 1 and 2) by Josh and Steve Whitehouse


Nothing says Happy Christmas like some dystopian sci fi. An Android Awakes is a case in point, as are the first two issues of Josh and Steve Whitehouse’s Humanization comics. Issue 1 came out about a year ago, but the second issue has crept into being under most people’s radar. Not any more!

Humanization is set in a world where humans are extinct, but the internet that they left behind has developed consciousness. Servers, websites and programs of all kinds have become living beings and the comic follows their adventures focusing on CADRA, a common farm girl working on the code fields and her pet dragon, Mutt.

The story opens up in an intriguing manner and, as you’d expect from Josh, the illustration is crazily good. And as for detail! Seriously, if you ever get the chance, get him to talk you through the bar scene in issue 2- for every item on every shelf has a meaning and significance. Every item!

Who’d like it in their stocking? Um… who wouldn’t like it in their stocking? It’s got a cute dragon sidekick, a a zombie Paul Simon, and Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple personified as dictatorial overlords. Can I narrow it down? People who like things that are good. (Actually, people who like things that are good who are over 15. Same reasons as above)

How can I get it? You can get issues 1 and 2 for a mere fiver from jowybean’s etsy page. Bargain.


Sojourner by Stewart Garry

If you’ve been following this blog at all this year, you should have caught up on this one already, but if not, Sojourner is one of my favourite projects of the year full stop. Stewart is an insanely nimble fingered acoustic guitarist par excellence and was ready to record his second album some time a year or so back. However, it wasn’t coming together in a recording studio. Cue Chris Donald, head honcho of Minor Artists, musical super producer, and more often than not a man with a plan. Chris suggested that the two of them should record the album in some of the places which inspired Stewart in his craft. So they did. One song is recorded in a whiskey distillery, one in a lighthouse, another in an old church. And all the songs are recorded visually too, making the album actually a series of music videos, with commentary from Stewart, letting us in a little on his creative process.

The music is beautiful. The visuals let us into the physicality of Stewart’s skills. The whole package is a wonderful example of how to do a creative project properly.

Is it a film? Is it an album? Both, of course, and Sojourner is also a unique presentation of an artist and his music. (

Who’d like it in their stocking? I’ll be honest, I’m not usually a fan of instrumental acoustic guitar music, but I love this. The videos made Stewart’s music accessible to me, but even without these, it is a great album. ‘Patience is a virtue’ even made it on to a Mellor Holiday mix CD. That’s a high bar, right there!

How can I get it? It’s available from Minor Artists’ website either as a download or as a physical CD/DVD.


Ocean by Joanna Karselis

img_2803Did I say mix CD? Well, if you, like me, partake in the creation of such things for holiday jaunts to see family or just to compile favourite tunes of the year, this is a shoe in. Jo has never sounded more vital and arresting. Just listen to the intro and it will come as no surprise that this is the lady whose brutal strumming was responsible for slicing the top off one of her fingers while performing earlier this year. Hardcore!

Who’d like it on their Christmas mix CD? The intro reminds me of early Ani Defranco, and anyone who likes their music passionate and authentic will value this highly.

How can I get it? Bandcamp once again. Don’t be shy to give a bit more than the required amount either. (You don’t want 3 ghosts to visit you at night do you?)


Customised pencil sketches by Benjamin Harris

img_3013In september, Ben’s bike got nicked, so to fund a new one (and his upcoming volunteer work in Tanzania) he has started doing pencil sketches of basically anything you’d like. Rather geekily, we got him to make a piece of GK Chesterton. My mum got him to draw my sister’s dogs (yes, he really will stoop that low). They range from £30 (A5) to £40 (A3) and you won’t be disappointed.

Who’d like it in their stocking? We commissioned a piece of GK Chesterton (see above). My mum got him to draw my sister’s dogs. So basically anyone.

How can I get it? Here’s the deets.



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An Interview with Josh Whitehouse (Pt 2)

So, if you caught the first part of our interview, you’ll know that Josh (aka jowybean) has a pretty standard story. Brought to faith through Veggie Tales, brought back to Jesus through My Little Pony. You know, the usual!

As well as catching up on his artistic and spiritual journey though, he shared with me something of the substance to his work, the themes he likes to explore and also how he handles the different challenges that his particular art form throws up for him as a Christian.

Two major themes in Josh’s work are juxtaposition and a love for place and one’s local environment. One of Josh’s favourite pass times is watching youtube videos taken by people driving around major cities in the world. It’s like he drinks in the different environments, architecture and people, then filters them through his world-creating imagination to create new and hybrid cityscapes. Perhaps one will be an image of London and Tokyo combined. Perhaps New York and Amsterdam. Perhaps it will be an African and European city merged together or even a Middle Eastern city, imagined 50 years in the future.


This juxtaposition can be seen very clearly in almost all of us his work as well, as he combines very diverse styles of illustration in single pieces. One of his most recent projects is, a series of comics in an imagined world where humans are all dead, but the internet has become alive. The main character, Cadra, is drawn with a sense of realism, whereas other characters are more influenced by Japanese manga styles, and others will have the wide eyes and podgy noses of Warner Bros characters. And the impressive thing is that these different styles all combine to create a coherent world.

As he puts it:

One of the themes I do in my art is juxtaposition and that doesn’t always mean juxtaposition of subject matter. I’ve tried doing political things but… it was something I never really got a connection with. But if I started doing whimsical things with dragons and ogres next to butterflies- just cute things next to ugly things, that’s the best way I can try to describe it- I got more of a kick out of that… I enjoyed that more..


Now, he’d see the purpose of his art first and foremost as a challenge to people’s creative horizons rather than an attempt to change people’s worldview:

Although I’m not like a deep conceptual artist… I prefer to talk about the world both in the good and the bad, but mostly in a positive light, not always to challenge people in the world but maybe to challenge them creatively. To say to young generations, you don’t need to draw Spiderman characters, or Batman looking heroes or draw Japanese girls in the same uniform to be successful- you can, but it’s better if you try to do something different with it.

But, even with this said, he definitely has the power to communicate clearly through his work. Since starting coming to our church two years ago, he would regularly respond to the Sunday morning sermons by drawing (each piece is started and completed in the duration of the sermon). We then stick these up on the church blog, mainly to encourage creativity in the church and to remind people of the sermon’s message, but increasingly, his pieces contain spiritual insights that add helpful and personal layers to what was said. At our midweek groups, he draws people’s prayers. You know when someone says to you ‘I’ve got a picture for you.’ That kind of thing, only Josh really has a picture for you!


If you have even a passing interest in animation and illustration, you’ll be aware that this genre moves away from cute pictures for children reasonably quickly. In fact, maybe as a reaction against the traditional view of comics and cartoons, there is a deliberate corruption and sexualisation of cuteness everywhere. I personally would find it very difficult to delve deeply into this culture, knowing the temptations that are real to me. However, this is the world that Josh has grown up in, and while he recognises that he has to tread carefully, there is something of an immunity he seems to have developed to some of the culture’s more twisted manifestations.


His work reflects this and if you flick through the second issue of you see this quite quickly. You’ve got prostitutes. Serial killers. A whole scene depicting one character’s prodigal son like descent into depravity. We’ve talked at length about these sort of depictions and I asked him how he would justify such images to a Christian who felt them unwholesome. His point is quite simply that this is the world we live in and to engage with people in this world, we cannot avoid such subject matter:

We live in an age where this is the majority of society’s attitude to material processions and the notion of love, with the wealth of information we have produced in the last decade a lot has come from very weird/dark places that have gone beyond anything you could have discovered from a play boy magazine or risky news report in the news paper. This particular page you mentioned (the aforementioned montage depicting a character’s moral slide) is just a window to highlight these issues, not glorify them or encourage practising them. I think this quote from the page will help sum up my point “But I mistook taking as living, and lived as fully as I could, takin’ what I wanted, when I wanted, however I wanted”

Whatever your feeling about that particular image (you’ll have to buy the comic for that) I think that Josh is absolutely on to something. Christian artists must become better at depicting the ugliness of the fallen world or we will fail to connect with the people who live squarely in that reality. If we simply present a hope to come, without a realisation of the grime that’s here, it will seem to many like wishful thinking disconnected with reality. This is clearly very murky territory, but I think that it’s murky territory some of us have to explore. I think Josh is a great example of someone working right on ‘the line’, and honestly working through how he imbues his art with his faith and deepens his faith through his art and uses his talent to communicate powerfully to those around him.

It is also worth noting that the world of geekdom and comics is not exactly overspilling with Christians.  I asked him about this and he recognised that there weren’t many other Christians around but that people responded to the fact that he’s a Christian positively and with curiosity.

In his work itself, he’s certainly moved past the preachy images of his childhood. (‘…It would be weird to plug every picture (at a My Little Pony Convention) by telling people that Jesus loves them.’) For Josh, the best way he can be a witness in his world and work is to be ‘nice to people, do the best I can and stay very positive.’  He expresses his aim succinctly and simply, but as usual gets it totally on the button in my opinion- he wants people who meet him to go away saying:

‘That Jowybean guy, there’s something about him that was different.’

He’s come a long way since Veggie Tales and I’m very excited to see where he’s going to go next. He’s already working on the third issue of and is also looking to continue working as a freelancer in everything from children’s picture books to comics to animations to continuing vending at geek conventions. The project he is most excited about though is working with local historians to document the story behind towns and villages around Birmingham and further afield (building on his Bearwood Art and History Project). He sums this up like this:

I believe that this ambitious endeavour of mine would be a way of giving a spotlight, not to just me as a creative, but mostly to the unsung heroes that God has made… God has blessed me with a wacky but beautiful imagination and I know he wants me to share that with as many people… both in faith or not.

I couldn’t agree more.

To see more of Josh’s work, check this link. To buy, go here.

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An Interview with Josh Whitehouse (pt 1)

Who are the people in your life who energise you?

We all need people like that. People who inspire us, encourage and provoke us. People who you come away from feeling fresher than you felt before you met up. I have the pleasure of meeting up with Josh Whitehouse every couple of weeks and he is certainly such a person.

If you’ve been involved in Sputnik for any length of time, you’ll probably have met Josh. For Josh, illustration is less a skill, more a superpower. I’ve met many artists who can do things I know I’ll never be able to do, but with Josh, often I don’t even know how he is able to do the things he does. His mastery of his craft is breathtaking, but more than that, he thinks in a way that I particularly appreciate and it means that Friday morning catch ups are always highlights in my week.

On one such morning recently, in the middle of a typically involved and fascinating conversation about Japanese animation, I thought that I should really stop being so selfish and share some of Josh’s insights a bit wider. It was never going to be a particularly linear interview, but via a few Facebook messages, a chat recorded on my phone and some other conversations over coffee, I think I’ve got enough to give you a bit of a window into the world of Jowybean. Next time, we’ll go into some of the themes in his work and how he wrestles with the challenges he faces as a Christian illustrator, today I’ll let him guide you through his rather unique artistic and spiritual journey…


It all started with singing vegetables…

Josh, like so many of us, was brought up with Christianity all around him. However, that is probably one of the sole points of common ground most of us will have with his spiritual journey. Growing up, his faith was seen through a very specific lens: Veggie Tales! Such was the influence of Larry and his talking vegetable chums that, as a child, Josh found church quite dull (I mean, singing cucumbers are quite a hard act to follow) and started life with a strong feeling that there was something intrinsically sacred about vegetables!

The basic foundations were set right there- Christianity and cartoons. Working through how to combine the two in any non-vegetable related way was tricky though. Josh was prodigiously good with a pen from childhood. At 9, he got his first exhibition for Disability Art in London (Josh was diagnosed with autism at an early age) and was the official artist at the opening of Millennium Point, Birmingham, when he was asked to produce an original piece of art for The Queen.

Regarding content, he initially drew what he refers to as ‘propaganda, sort of preachy pictures’– devils getting beat up by angels, that sort of thing. However, even then, his artistic vision didn’t quite fit in with expectations. Sometimes the content would be deemed a bit scary by folk at church, but more generally his drawing was just seen as a bit of a distraction. ‘Why was Josh sitting drawing and not listening to the preacher?’ That was how he felt people responded to him in church. They didn’t get what he was doing and more than that felt that his art was somehow unhealthy, and partly because of this, he stopped going to church as a teenager. (Josh was keen for me to point out that another contributing factor to his church absence was a burgeoning obsession with Sonic the Hedgehog which was taking up a lot of his time!)

And perhaps there were unhealthy elements to his work. Josh is the first to admit his own weaknesses and his work (and the imagination behind it) has been a blessing and a curse:

‘For much of my life I felt I was a cartoon character trapped in a human body, I felt I wasn’t real- a Roger Rabbit type character…’

When I first met him, I remember talking at length about how he feared that he lived too much in the imaginative worlds he created and not enough in the real world. I understand his concern, but to be honest, having heard about some of the worlds he’s created, I’d probably quite like to live in them too! It’s always reminded me a bit of JRR Tolkien, who not only constructed the entire history of Middle Earth while writing Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but created the elvish language too.


Brought back to faith by My Little Pony?!

Whereas Veggie Tales provided Josh’s Christian foundations, his route back to Jesus was through another animated series, and this is a little more surreal. Josh was brought back to faith through My Little Pony.

When I first met Josh, I discovered almost immediately that he was a Brony. Bronies, for the uninitiated are adult male fans of My Little Pony, and I do use the term in the plural, as Josh is far from the only one. When My Little Pony relaunched in 2010, its TV show ‘Friendship is Magic’ was primarily aimed at young girls, but it unexpectedly gained an eager audience among young and middle aged men (as well as women). Maybe it’s a cosplay sort of thing, maybe it’s just a strange offshoot of geekdom, but whatever it is, it’s a thing, and it seems to be the thing that God used to bring Josh Whitehouse back to faith in Jesus.

The world it was based in, the way it was told, and just the visuals- it just had this essence of heaven in there, and at some point I suddenly started hearing God again, coming through there, through the interaction between the characters, the storylines and even the catchy songs, to the point that even some of my pony pieces actually have names of Christian songs in there… And again I do feel strange even now as a Christian talking about this and saying that ponies was a way of sort of getting back into talking with Jesus but in a way that was where the faith grew.


As well as kickstarting his faith, MLP provided Josh with his widest platform as an artist. He is a renowned MLP fan artist and regularly displays and sells work at conventions across the world. But to label Josh, or jowybean to use his artist moniker, simply a Pony artist, would be a huge discredit to him, whatever you think of Hasbro’s colourful horses. Next time, I’ll divulge a little more why that might be.

In the mean time, check out his work. Perhaps his instagram is a good place to start.

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Daniel Blake: How can Christian arts professionals do their work for Jesus?

I’m really looking forward to meeting Daniel Blake at our Catalyst4theworkplace day. Daniel is a fashion designer with a couple of fashion labels under his belt as well as some pretty tasty freelance credits and a teaching role at the London college of fashion. In short, he’s the real deal! We’re delighted that he’s agreed to come and share his expertise and make himself available to help you guys who are working in the arts on 8th October.

But why wait til then?

This video is a great introduction and encouragement on its own. The whole thing is worth watching but Daniel’s bit about working in the fashion industry as a Christian is particularly helpful for any of you guys working professionally in the arts who really want to shine brightly for Jesus in your work. It’s only a minute as well.


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Interview with Colin Veysey of The Wick Trimmers

One of the most instructive moments for me at this year’s Catalyst Festival was when, during our live music afternoon, we segued from Prestwood based folk band, The Wick Trimmers, to Birmingham rapper, Mantis.

In many ways the two sets couldn’t have been more different: from Tin Whistle refrains to grubby Wu Tang beats, from jaunty acoustic guitar to a direct and confrontational verbal assault. But if you listened carefully, it was hard to miss the fact that the two acts, while sonically poles apart, were almost identical in their goals and intention. They were both artists drawing on deep musical traditions to engage with their local audience- one speaking into a rural village setting, the other into the inner cities.

As a city dweller for two decades, I often allow my environment to dictate my view of what art is engaging and relevant, but as I watched ‘The Wick Trimmers’ perform, I realised again that to do so is a serious mistake. To that end then, I decided to catch up with The Wick Trimmers’ Colin to pick his brains about what he’s up to in Prestwood and learn from how he, and his church, connects with his community through the arts.

Hi Colin, can you introduce yourself…

I live in Prestwood, Bucks and planted a church 20 years ago after a  fascinating three years at London Bible College. Before that I spent many years as a clinical chemist running a pathology lab in the NHS, whilst helping to lead a Baptist church. In terms of artistic influences I suppose my little old violin teacher at age 6 – Miss Dowding, and an history teacher who submitted my first (atrocious) song to some competition, and a protein specialist from The Westminster Hospital who taught science as an art. Oh and Mendelssohn, and The Barley Mow folk club on Burton, and The Beatles.

I really enjoyed your performance at the Catalyst Festival- you and Philippa did a great job. I know that you both normally play with a larger band, The Wick Trimmers- could you tell us about the band and how they came about?

We are now a six piece folk band. Gerard plays accordions, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, his wife Pauline plays the bodhran, Ken on fiddle, Philippa plays flute, whistle and fife, I play guitar and mandolin and John plays bass. The band originates from the Lighthouse Christian Children’s holiday club which began in 1988 and we played as a Barn Dance band for many years. When the King’s Church Prestwood was planted the majority of the band were part of the plant and were the basis for the worship team for the church. That was 1996, and my ministry in worship, song writing and role in outreach led to the band growing in the local area and developing a good reputation for dances and entertainment. As a church we developed song writing in worship, in other musical genres and developed younger musicians too. It was probably after playing as a support for Wendy Craig on one occasion that we began to develop a concert repertoire, writing songs and dance music in the folk tradition.

How have you continued to use your musical skills to serve your local community?

Well, again, it’s not monochromatic, there was the creative process, of writing, arranging, rehearsing, learning as well as the invitations to go and enable communities to celebrate in music and dance. Realising that dancing together is a counter-cultural statement – yet with profound theological and spiritual meaning is quite a revelation to many folk – God’s intrinsic being dances together in a multicoloured dynamic of rhythm, melody and perfect harmony. Then, we realized that whilst we were helping build community and church in other places – we were not finding it easy to make relationships and start conversations within the community where God had placed us. So we set up a monthly folk club in our own village in 2011, with The Wick Trimmers as the resident band. We have a faithful following of around 80-100 meeting either in the local pub, or the local micro-brewery, and encourage other local musicians too and play and sing about places and happenings in our locality. One great thing is that around 10-15 of my neighbours come along regularly.

In what other ways does your church seek to serve Prestwood through the arts?

In terms of the arts we found that some of us were playing regularly in elderly care homes and for residents with acute dementia – playing songs, hymns and storytelling God’s word. We developed a community choir with village people singing worship and positive songs, now the choir includes members from 5 local churches and others with no church connections. One particular work, a song cycle, written here is a celebration of what scripture says about heaven – the choir will be performing the premiere of this, called  ‘A day is coming’ in one of the local Anglican churches in October.

Another part of our serving the community is to transform culture – to change the direction of people’s thinking. Anyone who’s read the Bible knows that isn’t a quick fix, and when we were challenged by God that people in the area didn’t know what was going on around them we got involved in the setting up of a social enterprise newspaper, The Source. We only print good news (gospel!) about people. Art, education, clubs, charities, etc. 5 editions a year, 6000 copies free to every home – and we set the values, do the editing, get local people to write, proof read, photograph, and celebrate the good stuff that’s around. We have a team of around 100 – probably half with no church connections and the people of the area love the paper and read it cover to cover.

 Audience and context are vitally important in art, and you are clearly making art specifically into a smaller rural environment. What do you think are the specific challenges and opportunities that Christian artists face in a village that may be different from those encountered in a town or city?

The population of villages is much more static and stable than in urban or city settings, and there is a huge gap in the age profile. Young people cannot afford to continue to live in the rural setting once they leave home. This has a massive effect on the amount of energy that is available to the arts. This has the tendency to make art drift into entertainment, pleasing aesthetics and hobby rather than developing challenge, cutting edge and beauty in depth. What’s more, the stability of the population tends towards a suspicion of the new, a rejection of anything unless it’s exceptional and a tendency to intellectualise art – not helpful. Add to this the lack of resources for art, the lack of stimulating iron sharpens iron communitas (see Alan Hirsch) and the lack of venues that are appropriate or big enough…. ‘nough said.

There are very few Christian artists in Catalyst churches at the heart of their local arts scenes, but you guys seem to be among them. What advice would you give other Christian artists seeking to serve their communities in villages, towns or cities?

First of all keep talking to all the people in the church, and particularly the leaders… keep talking… ask questions… encourage them… meet with them, eat with them. They may not understand you, but you and your art can be immensely valuable in building the Kingdom of God. You may not understand the church and its worship and its ways, but by being gracious and keeping on offering your creativity in worship, a generation of love and grace will emerge. Second, stay close to God and filled with the Spirit, listen to the prophets for inspiration (not instruction) – and look around for the ‘man of peace’… ok what do I mean – there are people who create structures that bless people, individuals who simply gather others and promote harmony in a community. Get alongside them as friends, and look for the least likely audience – God loves to surprise even us!


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madebymotive: Joanna Karselis

We had 3 musical exhibits in the madebymotive gallery. Barrowclough and Ebenezer’s ‘Breath and Blood’ and Mr Ekow’s ‘When Space Stares Back’ both seemed to go down well, but I wanted to particularly draw your attention to Joanna Karselis’ uplifting ‘Cry’.

Jo is a longtime Sputnik favourite and it’s yet another beautiful addition to her repertoire. You can’t argue with her motivation either.

 My motivation is, simply, worship.  All the music I make is God-centred in one way or another, and the act of creating and performing is my “spiritual act of worship”. Cry is about raising your gaze upwards, away from the things of this world, meeting with Him, and bringing the best of you- whatever that may be- before His throne.

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madebymotive: Huw Evans

In an off the cuff remark on the phone a few days before the festival, Benjamin Harris agreed to hand write each of the 4 poems we were exhibiting on to our display boards. Over the course of about 5 hours on the following Friday and Saturday, he fulfilled this agreement (with the help of a band of helpers that increased in inverse proportions to the amount of time left before the exhibition opened).

It was well worth it though, as pieces by Huw Evans, Sharon Clark, Jess Wood and Lex Loizides were given the space they deserved.

I thought I’d share Huw’s poem with you all. Whether 6 feet high etched in black marker or in wordpress’ serif free font of choice, it’s an evocative and beautiful piece of work. Underneath it is Huw’s explanation of what motivates him, which is itself pretty much a work of art 😉

On Mistress Joan’s Passing

(Joan Aiken 1924 – 2004)

Sweep from the hearth the flakes of grey,

ash from the apple wood last night.

We shall not have a fire today


with cunning flames which feed and prey

on wood to swell their tangle bright.

Sweep from the hearth the flakes of grey,


the sap is spent, no shadows play

like ghosts of wood in clash and fight,

we shall not have a fire today


transforming things we know by day

to mysteries and half delight.

Sweep from the hearth the flakes of grey


and spread them gently where they may

inspire new trees to greater height.

We shall not have a fire today,


although the room chills we shall stay

and talk in darkness of the light.

Sweep from the hearth the flakes of grey

we shall not have a fire today.



Why does anyone write? Dr Johnson said no one but a fool wrote except for money. So, I write out of folly. I write out of ignorance, to find out what I think. I write out of excitement: when the big idea wasp buzzes around my head the best way to be rid of it is to pin it to the page. I write because sometimes, very, very rarely, I think I might have something worth saying. I write with an excess of hope, but no expectation of success. I write as peacock and as ostrich. I write out of fear, because if I stop the writing I might disappear. I write because I have something even more difficult to  do. I write because the world keeps giving things to write about. I write because I can’t draw, paint, sing or dance.



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madebymotive: Jon Doran

It was great to connect with some new artists for this exhibition, most notably Ruth Naylor (whose piece, Swanpool was on display) and Jon Doran.

Since studying Fine Art at Falmouth, Jon has exhibited from the south coast up to London and even across the channel. It is fair to say that his award winning work is pretty in demand, so it was an absolute pleasure that he agreed to let us exhibit his piece- Nearing The Cascades- in the madebymotive exhibition.


It was also great to hear a bit about what motivates him to do what he does, so I thought I’d give you both (picture above, motive below).

 Why do I paint? Well, firstly I paint because I’m fascinated by the process and always have been. The journey an image takes as it is constructed of slabs, streaks, and washes of colour is an exhilarating process to orchestrate. I find a satisfying sense of freedom through the action of conducting brush stokes and marks, and exploring the possibilities that arise.

I also love to look at paintings, as a whole, in their completed states. It’s amazing that a painting is simply pigment on a surface arranged in a particular way, but also so much more than that. One person’s simple and sensitive arrangements of tone and light have the possibilities to bring others to tears, as I have seen. I myself have been deeply moved in the first moments of viewing an artwork. 

But as well as for the love of it, I also feel a degree of responsibility that compels me to work hard and be part of the larger art world. Art opens up dialogues about meaning, existence and what it is like to see through one particular set of eyes; endless journals, reviews, and documentaries show this. It is a desire of mine, and what I feel to be a calling, to be part of and to contribute to that debate bringing my particular experience of reality, to the marketplace of ideas.

For more about the exhibition, check out this link.


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Sputnik Zone at Catalyst Festival, 2016

Catalyst Festival is now just days away, and the SputnikZone is ready to rock. We’re really excited about running the artistic side of things once again this year and I thought I’d let you in on the grand plan. For those who are coming, it’ll help you plan your programme, for those who have decided not to come, it may sway you to book a day ticket or two, and for those who simply can’t make it, I’m afraid, I’m just writing to rub your noses in it. So, what’s the plan?


This year, there will be, not one but two, art exhibitions. In the main foyer, we’ll be putting on our madebymotive exhibition. Last year, our friends at Creative Arts Network, initiated an open submission project focusing on the motives that lie behind creative work. We’ve taken some of the work from this and thrown some other artists into the pot to showcase a fantastic collection of fine art painting, photography, music, film, sculpture and poetry. And through all of it, the artists exhibiting will be explaining why it is they do what they do.

There’ll be some Sputnik regulars, but we’re delighted to include work by new friends such as:


Luke Tonge


Jon Doran

DSC_3848 (1)

Ruth Naylor


Stewart Garry

As if this wasn’t enough, Catalyst Festival is putting on Rob Cox’s ‘A Walk Through Isaiah’ too. Over many years, Rob has created a print for every one of Isaiah’s 66 chapters, and for the first time ever, the whole collection is being exhibited. Rob is a personal inspiration and I’m delighted that his work will be exposed to such a great audience. He will be something of a resident artist throughout the festival, and I’m hoping that his sense of craftsmanship, passion for his artform and carefully thought through synthesis of faith and practice will set a precedent for all of the artists in Catalyst’s family of churches.

Live Performances


The live performances kick off from the get go. Go and visit the main hall on Saturday afternoon and you’re likely to hear Brum’s finest folk quintet, Midsummer.

CATALYST DAY 1 aft-eve-115

On Sunday afternoon, Dieks Anthony will be hosting an afternoon of spoken word and performance poetry. It’s brilliant to see so many poets coming out of the woodwork for this year’s session and you can expect performances from Tajhame Franics Bill Gordon, Jess Wood, Dieks himself and many more.

Monday afternoon switches to live music. We’ve got a cracking line up, featuring:


Benjamin Blower, showcasing his new album ‘Welcome the Stranger’,


Pythagoras the Praying Mantis’ gritty boom bap hip hop,


and the heartfelt and powerful sound of Joanna Karselis

and that’s just scratching the surface.

As well as focusing on motive this year, we wanted to highlight something of the process behind the work too. Therefore, Rob Cox and Chaz Friend are going to be creating live throughout the festival. Rob will be painting and Chaz creating a large willow sculpture in the main festival square (if the weather holds out). You can go and watch them at work or even help Chaz out. For those who have seen the latest Radiohead video, don’t worry, he assures me that the final reveal won’t be a wicker man!

Film night

Two years ago, Joel Wilson came and hosted a showing of his film ‘the Quickener’. That evening is still one of my favourite festival moments, especially because of the q and a at the end. This year, as a late addition to the bill (not in the programme), we’re delighted to introduce you all to Pip Piper  of Blue Hippo Media. Pip has almost 20 years behind him in film making, and has a string of award winning documentaries and dramas to his name, including The Insatiable Moon and Bicycle. On Monday evening, after the main meeting, we will be showing his documentary, Last Shop Standing, about the rise, fall and resurrection of the independent record shop. Then he will be answering your questions.


If you have any interest in film making, or just in films, or you simply want to meet a Christian who is living out his faith in this challenging yet hugely exciting industry, then. Don’t. Miss. This.

Actors’ Meet Up


Unfortunately we’ve had to shelve our grand plans for an evening of plays, rehearsed and performed at the festival. However, we are still very keen to gather actors and anyone involved in the world of theatre together. At 2pm on Sunday in the main cafe, Phil and Harri Mardlin, of LifeBox Theatre and Stagewrite, are going to host an actors’ meet up. As a church based arts network, we want to learn from you guys in the dramatic arts as to how to serve you better and how best to connect actors together, especially in Catalyst churches. Therefore, if you’d like to explore this or simply just want to meet some likeminded people, drop in and say hello.


And I haven’t even mentioned our workshops yet! We will be running art workshops on each afternoon from Sunday to Tuesday, 2-5pm. The plan is thus:

Sunday- willow weaving, story telling (to children with additional needs) and jewellery making.

Monday- jewellery making, print making and a workshop exploring how to start creative projects.

Tuesday- willow weaving and a workshop for creative writers exploring the use of metaphor.

All the details will be in the handbook, but please book in as early as possible (preferably on Saturday afternoon) as places are limited.

One last thing…

We always want to focus on creating rather than talking about creativity, but every now and then it’s probably worth explaining a bit about why we are so keen to promote artists, the arts and creativity. Honestly, there is some thought behind this! If you don’t believe me, come along on Tuesday afternoon to our SputnikTent, where I’ll be doing a seminar entitled ‘Communicating into our culture through the arts: How and why?’ Not the snappiest title, but to be honest I thought it up just now and need to get back to preparing the gallery, so it’ll have to do! Basically, if you’re a creative person considering which direction to take your work or someone who is simply puzzled as to why so much time and energy is spent on the arts at a Christian festival, then it will be an hour and a half well spent.

See you at Stoneleigh.

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Welcome The Stranger – Benjamin Blower

Benjamin Blower has been a Sputnik favourite since before Sputnik even existed (technically impossible I know, but I think you understand the sentiment). I have not come across many Christian artists who have thought through their practice so carefully so as to match their medium to their purpose, and I find Mr Blower to be a very helpful  challenge and provocation to me both as an artist and also as a follower of Jesus. He also makes some great tunes, which is always handy as well!

Therefore, it was with some delight that I heard last week that he was dropping a new album totally out of the blue. Welcome the Stranger was released yesterday and you can pay what you want for it (through the  Minor Artists shop or just through his band camp). I messaged him last week to see if he could give us a bit of a lowdown and he kindly obliged…

Let’s start with a quick introduction… 

My name is David Benjamin Blower and I’m a musician and a writer from Brum.

I’ve put out a number of records, between rap and junk-folk, always very apocalyptic, sometimes with a loose knit protest collective called The Army of the Broken Hearted.

I’m very inspired by the biblical prophets, who didn’t politely pop their music up on soundcloud and carry on. They jarringly interrupted public space and public life with their often shocking work. So the Army of the Broken Hearted was pulled together to bring radical faith art into public space, and to integrate our work more and more with movements of protest and redemptive change.

My first book Kingdom vs Empire came out 2013: a sort of modern apocalypse of British life.

It’s been almost 3 years since ‘Kingdom vs Empire’ though. What have you been working on in that time?

I recorded almost nothing the whole time, oddly. I’ve had a daughter, renovated a house and begun making pallet crate furniture. I’ve written a second book which should come out late summertime. And I’ve written a lounge-folk musical about Jonah and the Whale. Hoping to do a living room tour with that later on this year.

The new album focuses on the refugee crisis. What is it about this particular situation that led you to build this project around it?

I was talking with a friend a few months back, who’d been spending time in the refugee camp at Calais. She was describing and showing photos of the scenes from February 29th this year, when French riot police tear-gassed the camp to get people out of the way, before bulldozers came and destroyed half of it. They made thousands homeless, including women and children, hundreds of whom have now disappeared to goodness knows where. After this, a number of Iranians – mostly Christians – sewed each others’ mouths shut and went on hunger strike, demanding humane treatment for everyone in the camp.

No doubt I began, like everybody, with a feeling for peoples’ suffering, but this crisis is also something more. It’s revealing something about us. Who are we, if we tolerate this? Who are we, if we just “keep calm and carry on” now?

Many people I know, who’ve been spending time volunteering in the refugee camp at Calais, have the air of pilgrims. They go to help, of course, but they also go to recover their humanity, love, truth, the image of God. They come back more sorrowful and more human than when they went.

On the other hand, I know others who want the refugees gone. We’re used to seeing refugee camps on television, in far away lands, but there’s a rising panic at seeing the world’s “problems” making their way across Europe, all the way to our borders… panic that we can no longer keep re-arranging the world “out there” in order to maintain ourselves “in here.” Everything’s changing.

So I think we find ourselves at a fork in the road, and an identity crisis. Who will we be in this emerging future?

The first half of the record simply tells people’s stories – true stories – of people in Iraq, crossing the Mediterranean, slumming in Calais.

The second half of the record is theological, partly because I think the voice of Jesus speaks more forcefully into this question than anybody’s, but also because I think Christian communities in particular need to have this discussion, because, as Bonhoeffer’s famous quote goes, “silence in the face of evil, is evil itself.”

“Keep calm and carry on” is a charming mantra of defiance when a hostile enemy is bombing your country. But when traumatised and homeless people are slumming on your borders, while you, and everyone else, bomb their countries back home, “keep calm and carry on” becomes the mantra of diabolical evil. I made this record around the refugee crisis, because everything is changing and we need a new mantra.


Well, nothing else for it but to go and buy it! If you want to hear more of BB’s reflections on the refugee crisis, this insightful article is a good place to start. If you’d like to hear more about the man himself, one of the more junior members of our team interviewed him in a bit more detail a few years ago and you can find that interview here and here.

Oh, and one last thing. If you’re at the Catalyst Festival this year, Benjamin Blower will be performing on Monday afternoon. If you’re not at the Festival, it’s another reason why coming along may not be such a bad idea. Just saying 😉

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Film, Folk Guitar, and a New Kind of Album

A couple of weeks back, we highlighted Stewart Garry’s exciting new project Sojourner. Basically, Stewart is one of the country’s finest acoustic guitar talents, particularly specialising in fingerstyle, and ‘Sojourner’ is an album and a film, recorded live at a number of locations that have inspired him in his writing (from a lighthouse on the outskirts of Newcastle to a Scottish whisky distillery). Sojourner was officially released yesterday, but we caught up a couple of weeks back to find out more about the project and the man himself…

So Stewart, introduce yourself.

Hi, my name is Stew Garry, I’m 27 years old, currently based in Coventry but originally from Newcastle upon Tyne. I’m a part time student studying theology and also work part time as an elder for my church in Coventry whilst continuing to play music when and where I can.

I’ve always been into music. Growing up, my parents brought me up on a solid foundation of jazz music- Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong stand out as people who I still love to listen to and inspire my writing! I started out playing penny whistle in school folk groups (ending up playing on ITV at one point somehow?) but quickly had a fascination for all musical instruments, playing violin, steel pans and various other instruments until I was settled on the drums. I joined a rock band aged 13/14 playing mainly black sabbath covers, which was truly awful! But we got this gig playing at an opening of a local studio in Newcastle. So we played our set, thought we’d nailed it and on walks this older guy, with a beat up guitar. I’m thinking ‘who’s this guy?’ And he plays one of the most stunning pieces I’ve ever heard on the guitar! The guy’s name is Tommy Emmanuel and he was playing his version of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’. Needless to say when I picked my jaw up from the floor, I dropped my drumsticks and said ‘I’m going to do that!’. Ever since I’ve been trying to work out how to play guitar like that, looking at other great guitarists like Andy McKee, Don Ross, Eric Roche and Antoine Dufour for technique and Inspiration.

Throughout that time I also played in a lot of different bands, jazz (which was a must to try and play like Miles) and rock bands, including a post hardcore band called Juinera where I got to play alongside Chris Donald who produced this album.

How did you come up with the whole idea for Sojourner?

I composed this album bit by bit over the last 4 years, gigged it and refined it until I was ready to record. I tried a few times to record the album in a studio, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t sounding right.

One day, Chris and I were talking  about how much YouTube was playing a role in the rise of modern Fingerstyle guitar playing and he had the idea of doing a live film, where we would visit different places that have inspired my music.

There are so many factors that have gone into Sojourner. I love the way that it’s not just a collection of songs, but a laying bare of the factors behind the songs and of you as an artist. One of the key elements seems to be place and geography as you record all the songs in places that have inspired your writing. How do you feel place and location affects your art?

Yeah, something I love about instrumental music is that it evokes different things for different people, it allows the listener to engrave their own stories onto the music which I think is awesome! But for this album I thought it would be great to bring the listener into some of my thoughts about the compositions and what inspires me, that way I think people who may struggle with instrumental music might be able to understand where I’m coming from as well.

Playing live at the different locations was a really fun way to record, it makes everything more relaxed! You’re not shoved into a small booth, with microphones thrown in every direction at you! It’s just playing that music I love to play in the places that are special to me, which was a huge joy! I think that made all the difference to the album, each place had a unique look, sound and feel. For example ‘After the rain’ was played in this little chapel in Cornwall that me and some friends visited a lot, so I had some great memories of the chapel but also the reverb in there was awesome, the weather played a part as well! It had just rained and so it made filming there even more perfect.

How does your art fit into your role as a church leader? In what ways do you find the two a natural fit or a source of tension?

I love doing both music and church work! I think having both aspects of music and church works well. Music is an outlet of creativity, I see it as a sabbath activity, it’s restful and brings joy, it’s also worship whenever I’m playing. Church work allows me to spend a lot of time studying the Bible which is a great joy, the more I study the more I learn about Jesus which in turn inspires me to write! So I think the two overlap nicely. The only tension would be touring and how that works alongside church, but it’s a small tension and one that is usually easily workable.

When the project is fully released on 16th May, what can we expect?

The project will be sold in various formats. You can get it digitally or physical copies. It will come as a CD/DVD double disk, so you can watch the film or just sit back with a dram and listen to the album. You can order the album/film from the Minor Artists shop (you can get it from bandcamp or iTunes but we would prefer if you could get it from us directly).

Thanks Stewart. If he hasn’t convinced you to shell out for this fantastic project,  let the music speak for itself: here is the second video from the project (featuring Sputnik favourite Joanna Karselis) to whet your appetite:

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Interview with Phil Mardlin (LifeBox Theatre Company)

It was great to meet Phil and Harri Mardlin early last year at our first SputnikDay, and ever since we’ve been chatting about how to connect with and serve actors more effectively. We thought it was about time to bring you in on the conversation, particularly because we’ve got some schemes fast approaching that we’d love all of you script writers and actors to get involved with. So, to that end, we caught up with Phil…

So, Phil, introduce yourself.

Hi.  My name is Phil Mardlin. I started LifeBox Theatre Company with my lovely wife, Harriet.  So many theatre companies just don’t make it in today’s competitive market place so we wanted to make sure we ran a company that made us money and allowed us to work artistically.  So, we have two strands to our company; we specialize in forum theatre, delivering training around communication issues in healthcare, education and business and we also provide actors for other training companies that deliver communication based training to businesses across the region.  Artistically, we run an annual new writing festival in Bedford called StageWrite, which has just run for the 4th year.  We take unsolicited scripts for much of the year (this year we had a record 67 scripts submitted) and then we select 8 and put them on, script-in-hand over 4 nights in front of an audience.  After each performance we have a question and answer with the writer, director, actors and the audience to help them develop the piece further.  We tend to select one of the strongest pieces and, working with the writer, help them take the piece to full production with a short tour.

How did you get into acting and who are your main inspirations?

Well, after a career as a children’s cancer nurse, followed by 8 years as a lecturer in children’s nursing, I had a very early mid-life crisis and gave it all up to become an actor!  Madness, I hear you cry… and you’re probably right but, it’s the best decision I ever made.  I was too old and with too many responsibilities to be able to go to drama school so I did a degree in English and Theatre and managed to bag a first class honours!  Since then, largely through our company, I’ve discovered directing and writing and love being able to switch between the two of them, plus being a performer, depending on the project.

As for inspirations… gosh, that’s hard because I have so many!  I remember going to see Waiting for Godot with Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellan and Simon Callow and just watching it thinking, if I can’t be that good, is it worth bothering?  Of course it is, and whilst I will never be in that league, I know I’ve always got something to aim for.  As a writer, I am heavily influenced by Alan Bennett.  He’s so incredibly observant about life and, having performed in The History Boys, I find that he writes in such a way that every word seems to logically follow on from the next.  I know that sounds strange but it meant that it was just one of the most joyous and easy scripts I’ve ever learned.

How do you see your faith and your creativity coming together?

I don’t really see creativity as an extension of faith because the two things are inextricably linked and, for me, one can’t exist without the other.  For me, being a child of God is at the very core of who I am.  When I live out of that place, anything I do, creative or not, should come from a place of desiring to please Him and serve Him.  I would also add that doesn’t mean everything I do creatively is ‘about’ God but it is ‘for’ Him.  Much of what I do either as an actor, director or writer, I do because I believe in the message of the story or the impact and questions it might raise in those who engage with it.  Sometimes, that means engaging in a world that might, on the face of it, seem quite dark.  I believe that sometimes, to reach the people in those dark places, you have to reflect back their world to them, and theatre and film can do that very well; what you then do with what you are shown is the responsibility of the observer.

How will you be involved at the Catalyst festival this year?

I am so excited to be involved with Catalyst this year and, along with a few others, we are going to be creating a space for emerging writers to see their work up on its feet with the help of professional actors.  We will be working with selected scripts over the Sunday and Monday afternoons of the festival and this will culminate in a performance of the scripts on the Monday evening.

How can people get involved with this project?

If you are a writer, then we would love to read your script.  We are looking for scripts of around 20 minutes in length, so it could be the opener to a bigger idea you have or it could stand alone as a short piece of theatre.  It needs to require no more than 4 actors to put on.  Depending on volume of scripts we can’t guarantee that we will be able to put them all on but we will give you some brief feedback if you would like it.

If you are an actor working professionally or with some relevant experience, then we would love you to get involved with us to work on the scripts and perform them on the Monday evening.  If you are interested in either of these, please contact Jonny at (Better be quick though as the deadline for scripts is 15th May)

How do you think churches can support actors more effectively?

Good question.  I could probably write for hours on this but ultimately it’s about communicating.  I think the biggest thing you can do as a church to support actors is to simply engage with them.  Invite them for lunch (we’re generally poor so free food is always a bonus) and talk to them.  Too often, actors and creatives generally are seen as mavericks and people don’t often have a box to put them in. So talk to them, listen to them, hear them and seek to understand them.


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Interview with Photographer Simon Bray

Originally posted on Creative Arts Network.

Hey Simon, tell us a little bit about yourself and your work..

Hey! I’m a landscape and documentary photographer based in Manchester. I also manage The Anchor Coffee House, which is owned by Vinelife Church, which is an absolute pleasure. I moved up here from Hampshire nearly 10 years ago to study music and now I take pictures and make coffee, which is a really nice balance. I’m married to Sarah, who studied textiles down in Falmouth and is now training to be a midwife, so essentially, two southerners living in Manchester who’ve taken their time working out what they want to do in life, but we’re getting there!

What made you want to become a photographer?

I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked that before! I’ve always enjoyed creating, and up until a few years ago, I’d thought I’d end up being a musician, but when I started experimenting with cameras I discovered that I see things differently to other people. I enjoy the process of creating something concrete that was tangible, a moment in time captured, but the photographer has license to create something literal or true or to create their own take on events through creative techniques. There is a huge responsibility on the image maker to create something that they can justify, but that depends on your motivation. My landscape work in inspired by God’s creation and I feel a need to capture that in images that I hope others can enjoy, which comes with a certain amount of artistic license. My documentary work requires a brutal honesty, that’s not to say I can’t work creatively and use metaphor in order to build a story, but I have a responsibility to tell the truth and not embellish anything because of my own motivations, and then my commercial work is created for someone else, so I have to understand what they’re seeing and interpret that through my images.

We love your current project The Edges of These Isles, what was the inspiration behind this project?

Thanks! Tom and I got to know each other whilst undertaking a Three Peaks challenge (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike & Snowdon in 24 hours) and we’d both independently decided that we wanted to focus on landscape work, so we thought, why not go exploring together! We asked friends to recommend some of their favourite locations from across the UK, and over the past couple of years, we’ve been visiting them in order to create work that will be exhibited in Manchester at The Whitworth in September. So far, we’ve been up to Lindisfarne, Buttermere, Glen Coe, the Brecon Beacons and the Gower Peninsula, all of which have been inspiring and exhausting in about equal measure! Our final trip is the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland next month, then it’s on to preparing for the exhibit and designing and printing the book. We’ve just started up an instagram account so everyone can see what we’re up to!

What has it been like collaborating with an artist on this project? Has this altered your practice in any way?

It’s an intriguing combination, not something that I’ve seen much before really. On our first trip up to Buttermere, I set up my camera by the water and took a few shots, then turned around ready to move on and Tom was just about getting his sketchbook and chalks out! So I ended up sitting in that one spot, watching the light to change, and the shadows move across the lake, giving me time to experiment with some different filter combinations, it really helped me consider the images I wanted to create. We also get to have these long winded in depth conversations on our huge journeys whilst listening to our niche ambient electronic record collections, which goes a long way to informing the decisions we make about the work we’re creating and how we want the viewer to engage with it. Tom work’s with homemade pigments, paint and wax to create these amazing, and often abstract, impressions of the landscape before him, which may well be influenced by a mountain ridge or the mist or a tone, where as my photography works on a much larger and more scale and is very literal, so I’m looking forward to our editing process and seeing which pieces work well together and how they inform one another.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

I can’t draw on one influence really. I try and soak up as much photography work as possible, read journals, go to shows, have conversations with other photographers and people involved in photography, and each of those aspects will help build my understanding of the medium and inform how I create images. I’m always trying to develop my eye, my understanding of what a photograph can be and appreciating how the viewer may or may not respond, because my emotional attachment to an image that I’ve created can be vastly different from theirs. I try to avoid imagery that is on trend, I want the work that I go on to create to last a lot longer than I do, so I’m exploring different means to encourage a deeper appreciation of my subject matter that allows the viewer to truly engage. A lot of it is about educating yourself in understanding what has gone before you, being able to appreciate the constant evolution of photography and also why people connect with an image. The fact that an image from Ferguson shot by a bystander on an iPhone can end up on the cover of TIME tells you all you need to know about how photography is changing, and the new generation of photographs is appreciating that you can be just as inspired as an image your find online that someone with no public profile has taken, just as much as something by one of the greats.

What do you currently shoot with?

I’ve never been that fussed about gear. I’ve got a Canon 6D and a Fufi X100s which I can carry everywhere. I’ve toyed with film, I’m currently trying out my dad’s old box brownie with some medium format film, which is really new to me, but is helping me slow down when I take my images, which is something I’ve tried to do, but which digital just doesn’t give you space for. I think as soon as I’m shooting a documentary project that is just stills, medium format will be the way forward, to help me build a stronger aesthetic to my work and be more considered when working.

Your Loved and Lost project is really touching, what was the biggest challenge working with such an emotional concept?

Thank you. Loss is not an easy subject for most people to talk about, which is the reason I wanted to start the project, to open up that conversation. I’ve had to have a lot of meetings with medical and mental health experts, read up on the subject and process my own experiences, having lost my dad to cancer, in order to build the project to where it is today. The greatest challenge for me is working with the participants in order to gain a true understanding of the depth of their experience of loss whilst also making it a constructive and, if possible, a positive experience for them. I’m just about striking that balance, but I have a few ideas on how the process can be improved. If it can be a cathartic experience for the participant, that’s great, and if what they are sharing can inform and comfort the viewer, even better.

What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?

I’m currently working with a new collective on a project about fashion, so I’ve got my head into the ways in which uniform forms identities and how people build their own uniforms for work or social wear in an attempt to stand out or fit in. It’s great to be working with a broad variety of other photographers, even though none of us started out with a strong interest in fashion, we’ve talked about it for hours together and those conversations have begun to inform what we’re researching and shooting, which is really exciting.

What are your top tips for people just starting out as photographers?

Keep exploring and taking images! I’ve spent years refining the type of work I want to take, the aesthetic I want to create with different styles of work and building up an understanding of the medium in order to try and create work that the viewer can connect with in a meaningful way. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet, it’s a long game! I’ve never studied photography, so I had to learn about the history, the work of great photographers and try out loads of different techniques through trial and error, lot’s of things didn’t work out, and it’s especially frustrating when a commercial job doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d like, but you learn each time and grow for next time.

All images © Simon Bray

Find Simon on Twitter @simonbray, Instagram @simonbray and at

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Stewart Garry’s ‘Sojourner’

Minor Artists is part record label, part collective and part music production company. Founded by Sputnikmagazine contributor Chris Donald a couple of years back, it already has at least three bona fide classics under its belt- mSTORK’s ‘The Crux’, Benjamin Blower’s ‘Kingdom vs Empire’ and Ebenezer’s ‘Outremer’, but its forthcoming project is its most ambitious yet.

On the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign, ‘Sojourner’ will be released in 16th May. It’s a cinematic folk album (which I think means that it’s an album and a film) by one of the UK’s finest acoustic guitar talents, Stewart Garry.

Stewart has built a career playing around UK venues, but in ‘Sojourner’ he returns to places that have inspired his writing, from Laphroaig Distillery on the Scottish island of Islay to a lighthouse in the outskirts of Newcastle. The album was recorded live in these diverse locations and filmed simultaneously and last week, the project’s first offering: ‘The Don’ was released. It’s a video featuring beautiful imagery of Islay, a short interview with Stewart and of course the song itself, performed in the cavernous depths of the island’s famous whiskey distillery.

It’s the perfect way to experience Stewart Garry, infusing his very tactile music with a powerful sense of place while exposing the intense physicality of his style.

We’re hoping to grab an interview in a couple of weeks, but to tide you over we thought we’d just point you towards ‘The Don’ and let you see/hear for yourselves:


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Would you like to share your work with 5,000 people at the Catalyst Festival?

This year at the Catalyst Festival, we are looking to provide a platform for artists from within the Catalyst sphere of churches (and beyond).

The Catalyst Festival is the annual gathering point of the Catalyst sphere of churches. It will be happening at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, from 28th May to 1st June. There will be up to 5000 people there and every year the SputnikZone is given a fantastic platform to showcase the arts.

Sputnik has essentially grown from out of this Festival. Each year we have met new artists in all fields and it’s been a pleasure building on these relationships and starting to work together. However, we know there are more of you out there and this year we’d love to give you the chance to display your work. We’d like to do this in two ways:

1) Live performances

We are looking for performers for the festival! If you are a…

… musician– we’re looking for artists/bands of any musical genre to perform on the Saturday and Monday afternoons at the festival.

…poet or storyteller– we are looking for performers for the SputnikZone’s poetry and story telling afternoon on Sunday afternoon.

If you are in either of these categories, all you need to do is send:

  • an example of your work (for poets, ideally this would be a video of a performance)
  • a brief description of your involvement in your art form (how long have you been writing/performing/recording? Previous releases or key performances? etc).

Please send this to by Sunday 1st May.

On the other hand, if you are an…

…actor or a writer– we are looking for scripts and actors for a project during the festival that will culminate in a performance on the Monday evening.

For writers scripts can be of any genre, up to 20 minutes long & for no more than 4 actors.

Please send these to by Sunday 15th May.

For actors, you will need to be available on Sunday and Monday afternoons from 2-5 to rehearse, and on Monday evening to perform. The whole process will be overseen by experienced directors. If you’d like to be involved, please email by Sunday 1st May. We will consider all applications, but are particularly looking for actors with experience, so please outline any experience in your correspondence.

2) Main Gallery

For our Exhibition at Catalyst Festival this year, we are looking to explore the different motivations that drive artists. As part of Creative Arts Network’s ongoing MadebyMotive project we will be considering submissions in five categories:

  1. Images
  2. Film
  3. Poetry
  4. Music
  5. Sculpture/installation

We would simply like you to send us the piece of work that you have made that you think best embodies why you do what you do and accompany it with a written explanation of what motivates you in your practice (it could be relating to this specific piece or to your art in general).

The final selections will be made on the basis of both skill of execution regarding the piece you submit and the perspective you give on your work through the write up. As always with Sputnik, we will be looking for work that is capable of communicating to a broader audience than just Christians.

Please send all submissions to by Sunday 1st May, alongside:

  • a short description of your entry (no more than 100 words)
  • an explanation about what motivates you as an artist (no more than 200 words)

All artists that are selected will need to arrange the framing of their work and both bring their work at the beginning of the festival (Friday afternoon/Saturday morning) and collect it at the end (Tuesday evening). There may be an opportunity for you to help hang your work as well, and we can discuss this once the final selection is made.

We look forward to seeing what delights you lot send my way!

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Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: Exploring Our Tradition

Christian artists ‘have not only an amazing heritage, but also a tradition’.

When I read that line in Jeffrey Overstreet’s interview with Terry Glaspey, I knew I had to see if I could reproduce the interview for you guys.

Glaspey has recently released the book 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know. The book is an introduction to the stories behind a whole load of artistic creations made by Christians over the years and a chance to get inside the minds of artists such as Rembrandt, Bach, Bunyan, Flannery O’Connor and loads more. What a result!

Overstreet’s interview with Glaspey is packed with such helpful insights that I hope it will tide you over until you get round to buying the book yourselves here! We’ve included an extract from the interview below, with permission.


I imagine you learned a lot in the research process. Which entries gave you the greatest sense of discovery and enthusiasm?


There were so many fascinating discoveries I made along the way. Of course I knew a great deal about many of the artists, writers, and painters going into the project. But as I was trying to narrow my list (while at the same time as I was trying to expand the diversity it contained) I got a chance to find unexpected depth of faith commitment in a number of artists.

For example, though I had long admired her novels, I really didn’t understand the depth of Jane Austen’s faith until I began to read some biographies and discovered references to some prayers she had written for use in her family’s devotions. When I tracked them down I found the prayers to be not only beautiful (as would be expected), but also very confessional and heartfelt and self-revealing. In fact, when I discovered that these prayers were not widely known, I contracted with a publisher to print a small volume of her prayers, to which I added an introduction and biographical sketch. It has been published as The Prayers of Jane Austen.

“We are too easily satisfied with fast food entertainment and diversion when there are gourmet meals of creativity available from the master chefs of the imagination.”

Other discoveries, such as the stories behind James Tissot’s collection of paintings of nearly every event in the life of Jesus, the profound spirituality of the great African-American painter, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and the quirky delight of Howard Finster’s folk art were among my favorite new encounters.


Did you find, when you started out, that you had a list much longer than 75, and had to narrow it down? Or did you have to build your way toward 75?


Well, it was never a problem of finding enough masterpieces to include. The hard thing was to decide what had (sadly) to be left out. My general ground rules for inclusion in this particular project were that:

  1. The creator self-identified as a Christian. Some of them are Protestant, some Catholic, some Orthodox, and some rather unorthodox. Some, like Emily Dickinson, struggled between faith and doubt, but seemed to be people for whom faith ultimately got the upper hand!
  2. I only included one piece by any one artist. It was very difficult in some cases to make that choice. You could have chosen other representative masterpieces for Rembrandt, Chesterton, El Greco, and others which would be just as good a choice. But I had to pick one, and my reasons sometimes had to do with the wonderful stories behind particular works.
  3. The work needed to be a work that has been acclaimed outside of the Christian world. I was looking for works whose greatness was not due just to a message, but to the quality of their craft and the creativity of their vision.

I have actually, just for fun, created a second list of 75 more masterpieces, which maybe I’ll post on my website at some point. I want to explore some of them in the same way in the months and years to come. I’ve written a piece on the painter, Emily Carr, and have done extensive research on Arvo Part. I’d like to explore faith in the tradition of the blues, the connection between the theology of the Franciscan movement and a new realism in early Renaissance painters, and add another icon or two to the list. That is just the tip of the iceberg. So much worth exploring!


Today, those films, books, albums, and paintings that tend to be labeled as “Christian art” are critically maligned. But these selections you’ve made seem to be appreciated across cultures and generations. Why do you think that is?


The problem with much “Christian art” in our time is that it veers too close to being merely propaganda. Preaching has its place. But that place is in the pulpit, and not so much in creative expression. The best art is not primarily about delivering a message but in evoking the right kinds of questions from those who view or read it or listen to it.

Also, I think a lot of faith-based art is so concerned with driving home its message that it neglects to be realistic about the human condition and human motivations. It is either an imagining of what we might wish the world was like (the saccharine little villages of Thomas Kinkade, which are pretty as decorations but tell you almost nothing interesting about the real world) or the triumphal art that aims to show the superiority of Christianity over every other way of viewing the world (such as the bombastic preachments and uncharitable dismissal of all competing worldviews you’ll find in a movie like God is Not Dead). I’m not saying that someone might not get a bit of comfort from a Kinkade landscape or a bit of confidence from a Christian movie, but it isn’t going to offer the depth of insight that a great painting or a great film might.

“A lot of faith-based art is so concerned with driving home its message that it neglects to be realistic about the human condition and human motivations.”

We are too easily satisfied with fast food entertainment and diversion when there are gourmet meals of creativity available from the master chefs of the imagination. Nothing wrong with a little fast food, but I think our palates are enriched by better fare and our souls are more nourished by more complex fare. And much of the great art is a little more demanding — it demands closer attention, more thought, and even a little patient contemplation. The question is, are we willing to expend such effort?

My take is that if a creative person has laboured long over their masterpiece, we should at least be willing to expend a little effort in trying to open ourselves up to it. Sometimes we’ll still walk away shaking our head. But sometimes, with just a little effort and patience, a work of art will open itself up to us and maybe make a last change in us.


I recently saw a quotation of Emily Dickinson challenged by a Christian who pointed out that Dickinson’s poetry reveals doubts about, and dissension with, Christian faith. That person responded saying that we should not waste time “slumming it in secular minds” when we have the beauty of the Scriptures available to us. You’ve included Emily Dickinson in this collection. How might you respond to that rather critical response? What are the rewards of meditating on the work of artists whose ideas about faith may not align with our own?


What I love about Emily Dickinson, Graham Greene, and several others whose work is featured in my book, is that they are fellow-strugglers. They do not traffic in the much-too-easy triumphalism that is the limitation of many Christian artistic creations. They knew themselves too well to try to sugar coat their writings. They are honest about the struggle of believing and living out the demands of the life of faith. Sure, we need works that provoke celebration and worship, but we also need works that are honest about the dark night of the soul, about our doubts and struggles and our wrestling with God.

Frankly, the Scriptures are not at all hesitant about letting us see the struggles and failures of the great people of faith. As “people of the book” we know that the real human story is one of dogged pursuit of God while at the same time battling with our own sinfulness, failure, fear, confusion, and the complexity of our mixed motives. This is a world of darkness and evil, while at the same time a world of wonders–a world filled with what Bruce Cockburn has called “Rumors of Glory.” The best art reflects these tensions.

We need works that are honest about the dark night of the soul, about our doubts and struggles and our wrestling with God. Frankly, the Scriptures are not at all hesitant about letting us see the struggles and failures of the great people of faith.


There is such a wide variety of works represented here. Are there common ideas, though, that the collection as a whole might impress upon readers to help them discern the art that is worth meditating on from the art that might not be worth so much attention? Are there common ideas that come from this collection that might influence artists as they think about their own work?


One of my deepest hopes for this book is that it will inspire today’s creatives. We have not only an amazing heritage, but also a tradition. Today’s artists, writers, musicians, and film makers can nourish themselves with the work of those who have gone before them and then bring forth their own unique take on that tradition. The tradition should inspire, not inhibit.

I remember hearing a live concert recording from Neil Young in which a frustrated audience member, who had evidently heard one too many long guitar solos for his taste, shouted out: “It all sounds the same.” Without missing a beat, Young responded, “It’s all the same song.” In a certain sense, all creative artists are playing variations on the message and the human experience that is part of the tradition to which they belong.

This interview was originally posted on Looking Closer on 14th January 2016 and Jeffrey Overstreet has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here. For the original unabridged version, click here.

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Interview with Singer / Songwriter Jake Isaac

Jake Isaac Sputnik Faith Art Music

This interview with Jake Isaac originally featured in Creative Arts Network’s Motive edition of Hue magazine, and was then reposted on the To purchase a copy of Hue, click here. (PS, you can get a bargain with discount code ‘HUEFLASH’)

Jake Isaac is a worship pastor based at Christian Life Fellowship in Greenwich, London as well as the visionary and team leader of the iEC Band developed to inspire young Christians to draw closer to God in worship and bring about change in their world. The band released their second live album ‘Break These Chains’ and were MOBO nominated in 2010. Jake is also a singer/songwriter and had previously worked with artists such as Gabrielle, Blue, Miss Dynamite, Floetry and Duffy.

If you could sum up in three words why you do what you do, what would they be?

To move people.

Can you tell us about the first time you realised you wanted to create music?

I was eight years old. I just wanted to make the stuff I heard in my head and in my heart, even if I was actually unsure of what I was actually hearing, I knew I wanted to try. I reckon that’s where it probably all started to kick off for me.

What motivated you to want to be a singer/songwriter?

I wasn’t actually interested, it was my close mates at the time that said I should give it a try. I totally didn’t see it.

Can you tell us a little about the journey and experience of putting down on paper your first few songs?

They were absolutely corny! I wrote some horrid stuff, like really super corny. The kind of stuff if anyone was to sing now, people might just whip out the old tomatoes and plaster them. But I had to start somewhere, no matter what how embarrassed I felt, I knew I needed to practice writing and singing what was buried within me.

What was the main incentive or driving force behind writing in the first place? 

Trying to communicate how I felt about different aspects of life. Almost finding the sounds and melodies to communicate the words as more than just a conversation.

Even though the experience of writing has probably changed somewhat, has the original motive changed or developed as your career has progressed?

I don’t actually feel it has. I feel like I’m just learning to grow in the process of becoming more disciplined in how I communicate in my songs. It’s almost like developing your vocabulary and becoming more articulate. It doesn’t mean you don’t pull out the cockney when you need to though.

As artists gain more public exposure many feel a pressure to ‘better themselves’ with each new release. Do you find you now write for the same reasons as before or does that pressure tailor how/what you create?

I feel like the pressure is totally healthy! Sometimes it’s a bit of a burden, but in order to better yourself, pressure will have to be applied at some point.

What are your hopes for the future of your music? Have you thought about the next three to four years?

I have thought about the next three to four years, but then I tell myself to behave!

I think I just look forward to sharing my music far and wide and developing and expanding my sound. Honestly that’s a shed load of stuff to deal with on its own.

What drives you to keep creating new material?

My everyday experiences and my conversations with various people on a day to day basis, which causes me to want to communicate something on their behalf that they might not be able to do in the same way as me.

Can you share some advice for any young songwriters reading this?

This is all about the people on the other end, the listener.

Conversations are normally directed at other people and you need to see your songs in the same way. Your songs are conversations out loud with the listener. What you get out of writing, not matter how fulfilling it is, is only part of the process.

In order to reach more, try and write with more and more people in mind. It’s like making a product without knowing your target audience; only you as the investor benefit from it. That’s not the way you branch out. But there’s only one of you. Be the one and only artist that you can be and enjoy it!

Find Jake on Twitter: @iamjakeisaac or Spotify

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Welcome Back!

So. Here we have it. At long last, we’ve sorted out our website. Whether you frequented Sputnikmagazine’s last incarnation or are totally new to Sputnik- welcome!

We’ve not just spent the last 6 months changing the look of things though, we’ve also made some new friends! We’ve got a new blogging team and have teamed up with Creative Arts Network, who’ve let us invade their collective, sell stuff in their shop and bring you something of a double headed blog.

Sputnik’s purpose is to challenge Christian creatives to grow in excellence in their work and think through how to integrate their faith and their art. Therefore, if you’re a Christian, we’ll be posting articles on our site specifically aimed at you.

Creative Arts Network, on the other hand, will be posting content of a more broad and general interest that, while still coming from a Christian perspective, may be more relevant to anyone from a different faith or with no faith at all.

Sometimes, we’ll share articles, sometimes we’ll distribute them accordingly, so whether you’re a Christian or not, hopefully we’ll be able to help you to think about creativity and faith in a fresh and challenging way.

To make sure you don’t miss anything that’s going on here, follow us on twitter @sputnikmagazine or like our Facebook page.

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An interview with Re:flex the Architect

If you were familiar with the previous incarnation of Sputnikmagazine, you may have noticed a certain Stephen Adams (Re:Flex the Architect) in the contributors section. There was a song streamed with Barrowclough spouting something about Bart Simpson and a short interview, but since then very little has been heard from this shadowy Sputnik contributor. Until now.

For the last decade or so, Stephen Adams has been working away quietly establishing himself as one of the mainstays of Christian hiphop in the UK. In April 2014, we caught up with him about his involvement in the second album by US hip hop crew, Scribbling Idiots. We managed to pick his brains about working with the Scribbling Idiots and to tap into his wisdom on the strange science of beat making.

To stream and buy the album, click here.

Introduce yourself….

Hey, I’m Stephen Adams, also known as Re:Flex the Architect. I’m a hiphop Beatmaker/ MC/Mix Engineer. Living in London, but I’m a Polish-born, Leeds-raised Nigerian.

I’m part of the Scribbling Idiots crew, predominantly based in the US, but I’m one of two European members and the only Brit.

How did you get into making music and how did you hook up with the Scribbling Idiots?

Got into music when I was about 13. Heard some really cheesy youth-group type rap when I was young and for some reason that ignited a spark in me to rhyme. Later on, discovered US artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Tunnel Rats, Grits, Blackalicious, Cross Movement, etc, whom I studied and learned the ropes of how to approach hip hop with a real passion for the craft.

I started producing really because I figured out quickly I needed stuff to rap over & I just assumed that rappers made their own beats at that time. My granddad bought me one of those Yamaha keyboard with the pre-arranged backing tracks. Graduated to the Boss DR-5 drum machine, which I really learned how to produce on for a number of years till I then graduated to more computer-based software. I always wanted the MPCs or the Logics or Pro-Tools everyone else seemed to have, but somehow I was able to make what I had work for me. Pretty much taught myself as I didn’t meet other people who were MCs or producers until I went to uni.

At about that time, I found an online forum called Sphere of Hiphop which had a ton of Christians who were passionate about good hiphop. I used to post some of my beats to get feedback and through that, started talking to CAS METAH, who co-leads Scribbling Idiots. He invited me to join the crew about 2001 and I’ve been their UK correspondent ever since 🙂

What do you feel are the main challenges for a Christian making hip-hop music?

Great question.  There are surface challenges which get talked about a fair bit. Things like hip hop’s general attitude towards Christians, where artists are viewed with severe suspicion before you’ve even rapped or made a beat, because frankly, Christians have been occasionally responsible for some terrible hip hop music over the years (not all though). Meanwhile, the church as a whole tends to expect artists to only make musical doctrine statements to discourage youth group kids from sleeping around and leaves no room for artistic expression, growth or voicing your own personal struggles and opinions. Behind the sarcasm lies a large vein of truth.

It’s one of the reasons some of the people who currently inspire me are artists like Shad, who writes from what sounds like a clearly Christ-inspired worldview, but has stayed out of the “Christian music” clubhouse and is respected across the spectrum simply because he is undeniably dope! It’s also one of the things I love about my crew Scribbling Idiots and some of the other artists I work closely with like Tommy Eye or Wizdom (formerly of Greenjade), that we all inspire each other to make good music that steers clear of either of the above traps while still being true to our faith in Christ.

As a producer, it’s a tough one, because you have less control over the end product unless you want to stay in the Christian music ghetto. One of my big influences is a producer called S1 aka Symbolyc One, who has produced for Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kanye West, Game and more, but is a passionate follower of Christ. You’d think it must be tough for him to work on records that the end result may be promoting things he does not necessarily agree with, but to me, his faith shines through in how he goes about his business, the reputation he builds in the industry for his talent AND integrity and the lives he gets to speak into directly as a result.

It’s here that houses the real challenge for Christian in hip hop – to let your faith be seen in the closed-door business dealings and off-stage interactions. To be a man or woman of your word, honour the money, time and trust people invest in you, or to treat others well regardless of their status or immediate benefit to your career.

It’s more important that hip hop as a whole see my faith in action more so when they interact with me as Stephen Adams, far more than anything Re:Flex the Architect says in a verse. I’ve been on the receiving end of shady ethics and dishonesty from artists who share my faith and it makes you quite disillusioned. I try now to use it to remind myself to be better in the way I interact on a business level.

That’s where the real challenges are for me, ‘coz it’s hard to remember that my actions whether in business or in everyday reflect not just me, but how people see Jesus and the church as a whole.

While you are a gifted MC, you are most known for your beat making. For the uninitiated, what does this involve and how would you go about making a beat?

Haha! Cheers Jonny. Beatmaking, to me, is first and foremost about creating a feeling in the listener, whether it’s the rapper who has to write a song based on the emotions the beat evokes, or the listener hearing the final product. I’m always trying to create something that gives me that “Ooooooh” feeling. That feeling that makes me want to stop everything I’m doing, close my eyes, screw my face up like I just smelt something rotten while nodding my head violently! If the track makes me lose myself like that in it, then I know I’ve done my job right. Still a work in progress though.

Outside of manipulating samples and synth sounds, I play keys, drums and percussion to an average level, and am learning bass and guitar, so I try and incorporate either live instruments or at least some form of melody and musicality into the beats.

I’ll be shameless and use my crew’s newest release as an example (Scribbling Idiots – Invitation Only). I produced four songs on the record, but my favourite of them is a song called “Nothing to Prove” . I’ll break down in detail what I did on this one.

While crate digging, I found a 70’s jazz-fusion record where I recognized the “cast list” on the record sleeve had a few incredible jazz / funk musicians of that era playing on it. When I took it home & played it, I heard this incredible song with a gorgeous brass section and piano chords with a beautiful female lead vocal over the top. I hit this section where the singer hit this haunting long note while the brass section played these great riffs that instantly gave me that “Oooooooh!!!” feeling I was talking about earlier.

I sampled that section into the production software I was using, slowed it waaay down to 91bpm and chopped it – picked out the individual brass chords  I wanted from different and rearranged them in a different order and style to create something different from the original – to sound more military-like while still maintaining that haunting musical feel of the original.

I grabbed and layered individual drum sounds I had and played a simple, but hard-hitting drum pattern with them from my Korg PadKontrol, ( a USB drum machine that allows you to play the sounds on your computer live). This gave the drums a more human feel, so it didn’t sound super-rigid like if I just programmed them. Then I played the bass guitar live for the verses and chopped it for the chorus to give it a variation.

The result was a track that sounds to me like a scene from a Marvel superhero movie or Leonidis’ last stand in 300. The MC side of my creative brain could picture a character sticking his chest out, digging his heels in and facing whoever comes against him with fiery confidence. CAS METAH who A&R’d the Invitation Only album, picked MCs for the track who, without any instruction from me, clearly felt the same qualities in the song and you can hear that echoed in their lyrics.

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An Interview with Duncan Stewart

About a year ago, my friend Lex told me about a South African artist he’d got to know. I checked out his website and quickly realised that this was not some hobby-ist with a bit of a creative itch. Duncan Stewart is a painter and sculptor whose work is profoundly thoughtful and technically superb. His wide range, both in terms of style (oils, charcoal, bronze sculptures) and subject (addressing social, environmental and theological issues) is as impressive as his craftsmanship.

His raison d’etre, as expressed on the website’s ‘about’ tab also resonated with me:

‘Trust God and live life forward’ encapsulates my life’s philosophy… to do work that opens people’s hearts long enough, through whatever appeal my art may have, that the deeper narrative which imbues all my work, may be both ingested and digested.’

I caught up with Duncan to delve a little deeper.

Who are you and what do you do?

The  short answer is that I am a human being whom God has graciously rescued from eternal destruction, in the process delighting my heart with a restored fellowship with Him and causing the gifts and passion He placed within me to be the vehicles which I now have the privilege of using for His glory and the blessing of others.

Even shorter answer: husband, son, brother, father, painter, sculptor, preacher, prayer, runner, paddler…in no clear order.

How did you decide to make art more than a hobby in your life?

Before Jesus interrupted my life, I never had the faith, vision or even desire to become an artist. I was hungry for the worldly promises of wealth and comfort which the life of an artist seemed completely incapable of achieving for me. Yet I always loved to draw things which ultimately translated into me keeping the flame of art alive through evening courses whilst working in the ad industry during the day. And then one day, God spoke to me from the story of Moses in Exodus, showing me that if I was willing to throw down what I had in my hand – my talents and artistic abilities, He could do in the supernatural what was impossible for me to do in the natural – use my work, my life, to lead others from captivity into freedom, into a promised land. I couldn’t imagine a more meaningful way to spend/invest my life. That moment, compounded by miraculous moments of divine provision and favour on my work, propelled me into the future I am now living but could never have dreamed of.

How would your art be different if you weren’t a Christian?

I think if I was not a Christian, I wouldn’t be an artist. My new identity – the person redefined by Christ on the cross, that person is an artist. The man I was prior to salvation had some artistic ability but the heart and passions, the fear controlling me then would have either sabotaged me or driven my work and my life in the pursuit of selfish pleasure, fame and fortune.

What would you like to achieve through your art in your lifetime?

Honestly, having my life/art play a role in the salvation of souls, millions or some part there-in.

The satisfaction and joy of redirecting vast sums of worldly wealth into the kingdom.

Influencing a whole industry to the truth and glory of God.

Model that the calling/living of an artist is a blessing and privilege, not requiring a host of dysfunctions or being subjected to poverty but rather a fountain of life and creativity and generosity and courage (not that I have achieved this, but I press on…:-)

What would be your advice to any young Christian artists finding it difficult to balance their art with the other demands of life (including church commitments)?

Know your boundaries and don’t be afraid to follow paths that others may judge as selfish.

Invest in yourself, your health, your talent, your education…value who God has made you to be, so that when you come to invest outwards – which is the goal, the outpouring of Christ is from a vessel that is whole.

Lose your religion ( viz. hypocrisy/legalistic spirit)….don’t be afraid to be seen and mix with people who aren’t Christians, true humility is a great weapon/tool for an artist.

Take time to rest, it may take more faith than to be busy but it is vital.

Be strict with yourself in practicing the daily discipline of seeking/being with Jesus.

Store compliments in your heart for encouragement when needed, not in your head which can get too big/proud; store criticism not in your heart where it can poison, but in your head where you can reflect upon it’s value and determine if you need to make correction or if it can be dismissed as irrelevant.

All church leaders I know say that they would like to both encourage artists (and creativity in general) in their churches, however thriving local church based artistic movements are few and far between. What do you think needs to change (in the churches and in the artists) for churches to start becoming homes for genuinely innovative and prolific art collectives?

From my experience there are at least 2 aspects that need consideration; the artist and the church/leadership of their local community.

Church side: I have the privilege of being in an extremely diverse community of people – black, white, rich poor, English and many other languages and nationalities and what I respect so much within our leadership is their vision and courage to create room for every member to explore and find their niche – the role God has uniquely gifted them to perform (1 Corinthians 12), creating opportunities within that for personal expression and challenge whilst recognising that it is God who brings the growth. They don’t always get it right, but one gets the deep sense that they are desiring to please God before man…which for me is key….they call us often into stretching, seemingly inconvenient relationships or tasks, gently but firmly. It is not necessarily always comfortable in our church – which is a good thing. So a leadership that is able to not box or over-administrate a church but desires to see a true reflection of the bride living in harmony with all its various parts… easy in words, so messy in life.

Artists side: What I have learnt is that we are not special, or rather more special, than anyone else. That we need to model the best of being an artist, even if it means giving when it hurts, helping, serving – playing out of position sometimes. We also need to be confident and secure in ourselves and with our leaders to trust them enough to be able to speak out our fears/dreams/frustrations so that they can position us better for success and connect us to a bigger picture. We need to share our gifts and talents (and ourselves) with the body to fulfill our unique God-given calling within and for the benefit and well-being of the whole body.

If you’ve enjoyed our interview with Duncan, please check out his website or like his Facebook page to get regular updates.

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An Interview With Author Tom Avery

A few years ago, I heard on the grapevine that a friend of mine, Tom Avery, had won a competition with a novel that he had written. That’s funny, I thought, I didn’t know Tom wrote. All I knew was that he was a good bloke and seemed like a very good primary school teacher. But that’s the thing about fiction writers in Christian circles isn’t it? Unless you write about Christian stuff exclusively for Christians, there are very few platforms in most churches to showcase your skill or test out your ability.
Well, it turns out that this wasn’t just a ‘pat on the back’ diversion for Tom, but the start of a new career which has been going from strength to strength ever since.

Just 5 years on, he writes children’s fiction full time to critical acclaim and has won the Diverse Voices Book Award and been nominated for the 2015 Carnegie Medal. He has just published his third novel, Not As We Know It, and so I thought it was long overdue that we caught up with him and got inside his head a little.

So, for all you closet writers out there who think that Tom’s story seems a bit like a dream come true, hopefully this will provide some encouragement and wisdom.

So, Tom…

For readers, a novel from a new author comes out of the blue, but this is seldom the case for a writer. What was your experience of writing before your first novel ‘Too Much Trouble’?

That depends what you mean by writing.  If you mean putting pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard, my experience was slight.  I’d never attempted a novel.

As a reader, you pick up a book by an author you know and there is an expectation of the quality of prose, originality of concept, of character.  For a debut, your expectations are lowered.  You step into the unknown.  I might suggest that your expectations in some regards should be higher.

Most novelists will have been conspiring to write and thinking about that first tome for years, if not decades, directly or indirectly, before they chisel their ideas in stone.  This was my experience.  I had years of working with young people logged in the back of my head when I started writing.

Sure, an author learns their craft through experience, through the write and repeat cycle of creating and shaping, deleting and re-forming.  Sure, a debut, for most, will not showcase their writing, plotting, storytelling at its polished, mature form.  But a debut novel says what an author has been waiting to say for years.  The ideas should be original.  The voices fresh.

Having said all that, if someone asks me which book of mine they should read, I don’t recommend Too Much Trouble.  I usually plump for my latest.  My latest book is what I want to say now.

What do you hope to achieve through your writing?

My working life aside from writing has been in education, working in schools in London and Birmingham.  Everyone is different and this truth becomes evident when you have thirty little lives squashed in a classroom.  Everyone is different but children’s books are not.

Tropes of course are necessary.  We want to connect story to our previous experience.  We want a frame of reference where we can see Frodo Baggins in Harry Potter, James Bond in Alex Ryder.  But children also want to see themselves and their lives in the books they read.  Some of the great names in children’s fiction like Jacqueline Wilson and Malory Blackman have shown that children want diverse protagonists.

All of my books were borne out of a desire to write about a real child’s circumstances.  My aim is never to write an ‘issues’ book but a ‘real’ book.  What I want to achieve is hope spoken into the real challenges that children face.

How does your Christian faith affect your writing?

Occasionally, when Christians hear of my profession, they jump to the conclusion or make the suggestion that I write great allusive books like C.S. Lewis.  But with all respect to the great don, I don’t feel called to this allegorical way of presenting Christianity.

I alluded to it above.  I want to present hope.  I want children to see that circumstance can be redeemed.  The Christian message is that God is in the business of renewing all things.  I want my books to be ones of renewal.

Lots of Christian authors, maybe especially those writing for young adults, have a tendency to become very didactic and moralistic in their writing. Do you feel this temptation and if so how do you deal with it?

I guess I don’t.  Not to any great extent.  I’m in the business of telling stories.  Stories carry message.  Stories have impact.  Without setting out to preach, stories convey a world view.

I take care to write about what I feel convicted to write about but in the same way that I would not set out to write an ‘issues’ book, I don’t set out as an apologist.

On your website, you give some really helpful writing tips (here). If you could give just one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Keep writing.

A novel is 40,000, 50,000, 60,000 words (unless you’re George R. R. Martin).  That takes a mighty long time to write – more than enough time to see the magnificent flaws in your writing, your plot, your characters.

Keep writing.

It takes perseverance to write through the time when your own writing makes you laugh it’s so bad.

Keep writing.

One day you’ll have those tens of thousands of words with a beginning, middle and end (or something like that).  One day you’ll have the novel that only you could write.

It is painful but keep writing.

You’ve got a new book- Not As We Know It. What is it about and do you know what your next project will be?

Not As We Know It is a tale of mermen, Star Trek and fraternal love set in the early 80s.

Jamie and Ned are twins. They do everything together: riding their bikes, beachcombing outside their house, watching their favourite episodes of Star Trek.

But Ned is sick.

When they discover a strange creature on the beach, Jamie begins to hope that the creature might bring some miracle, and stop his brother from going where he can no longer follow.

My next project – I’ve recently moved with my family to Amsterdam and I am working on a book that takes inspiration from this – a girl and her father move to the city where they want to find a fresh start.  I’ve also been writing some retellings of folk tales about giants from around the world.

You may or may not see them in bound book form.



Thank you Tom. Please keep an eye out for Tom. Buy his books and support him in any way you can. To find out more or get hold of his books, click here. Traditionally Christians have thought that influential Christians are the ones who speak to other Christians on a Sunday morning or write books to fill other Christians’ book shelves. This guy is bringing hope into the homes of the 90% who would never come to church or buy any Kingsway paperbacks. We need more Tom Averies!

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Interview with Ross Spencer

I wonder how many songs have been released featuring just one man and his guitar. It’s got to be a fairly impressive number. It’s tempting to think that this simple combination has already thrown up all its possible permutations in the history of music and that the listening audience of the 21st century demands something just a little more sophisticated.

And such a view would not be unsubstantiated. Anyone who has frequented local gigs or small scale music festivals will know that when the solitary singer-songwriter wanders up to his stool armed with just his trusty acoustic, it may well be a good time to get a drink/go to the loo/go home.

However, I guess a lot depends on that ‘one man’. If, for example, he happens to have wild ginger hair, sprouting from both his scalp and chin, sport a pair of glasses with the lenses wedged into the frames by pieces of cork, and go by the name of Ross Spencer, I warn you- do not, for any reason, leave the room. Instead, find a decent spot and prepare yourself for to be utterly entranced by one of the most immersive and powerful live performances you’ll ever experience.

Ross is an incredible talent who has already produced one of my all time favourite albums (Ego Mute) and has just released a new 3 track EP, featuring title track ‘Fallujah’ (performed at SputnikLive last year, see the above video).

We caught up with him and submitted him to the Sputnik interrogation. I’ve split it in two to help those of you with limited attention spans- part 1 today and part 2 next time. Have a read and then go and find out what I’m on about by buying his new EP (here)

Who are you and why do you make music? 

I am D Ross Spencer (secret Dave, always been called Ross), and I’ve been writing and performing my own songs since my late teens. Other than that I like to skateboard, draw weird cryptic patterns, and look at the hidden geometry in trees (note to self, stop showing off).

Why music? I guess it helps me connect with my feelings, it’s a wonderful balm for the soul, and it’s like an exploration, diving in caves without a map.

Also, I just read an excerpt from an essay by John Fowles which explains Prof. Gilbert J. Rose’s proposition that some children retain a memory of the transition from an infant who identifies with the mother, to a singular entity and the dawning of a reality in which they are in some sense, alone. It reminds me of our separation from perfect unity and continual community with God. Anyway, what he goes on to say is that these children go on to be artists, in an attempt to recreate that state of unity, of oneness, and in a way going back to that place on behalf of others.

Your lyrics are consistently fantastic, seeming at once intensely personal yet also readily relevant to me, as a listener. How do you usually write lyrics? Do you have a usual method or way of writing or is it more spontaneous? 

My favourite way to write is on the spur of the moment, when I jam one out for an audience or with friends, but most of those songs, ‘Rhubarb’ being an exception, are only there for the moment and can’t be retrieved. So when I compose by myself I let the music develop to a point where I feel moved to jump in, till I’m ‘feelin’ it’ as they say in street vernacular (do they still say that?) Then I see where The Spirit leads me.

The words are often connected to pictures and moods in my head, which is how I then remember them, replaying the film so to speak, and reliving feelings.

I don’t have much confidence that I can communicate my thoughts directly in a way that people won’t find patronising or boring, or that I really have anything of much importance to say that hasn’t already been said, so I rely on vagaries, collage, and unstructured thoughts and songs.

I find the themes of small animals, a sense of wonder and worship, and a pining for resolution and justice coming back again and again. Fruit and veg seem to often crop up in my freestyling as well, along with fierce animal alliances planning rebellious raids with the aid of hot air balloons. There’s a head film still in development, not sure how that one ends yet. Plenty of angry badgers and hedgehogs though, for sure.


Sputnik will keep everyone informed as to when Ross’ angry badger film is being released! We’ll be back with part 2 of the interview early next week.

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Our Annual Art Project for 2016 is here…

So, after the success of this year’s WhatIsItToBeHuman? project, we have another open submission art project for you guys to get involved in and it’s a little earlier than you may have been expecting.

As we did with our last project, we are partnering with the brilliant Creative Arts Network on this one and want to get as many of you guys involved as possible. The theme is ‘madebymotive’and it is looking to get a glimpse at what is going on behind your work- your motivations. Submissions should explore either what motivates you to create in your chosen discipline or the journey shaping the motivation of an individual project. The full brief is here and the deadline for submissions is 10th January 2016.

If you’re struggling to get started, the latest edition of Hue magazine will give you a very good starting place. It features 12 creatives from different disciplines, exploring the trigger behind their creative practice. You can get it here.

Selected work will be displayed in a series of exhibitions- both online and physical- and details of these will follow. Creative Arts Network have a growing reputation and reach and this project gives you a great opportunity to explore what fires you as an artist as well as offering the potential of a fantastic platform for your work.

I recognise that this is a little different to what we’ve done in previous years and while there may be links with the Catalyst Festival for some of the final work, the festival will not act as the focal point of this project as before. However, do not fear, we have something quite different up our sleeves for the festival this year regarding how we will get you guys involved and creating, but to find out more about that, you will have to wait until the New Year…