Following a two year wait, over 30,000 people descended upon Big Church Festival during the Jubilee weekend to watch their favourite artists and – more importantly – try the ‘Big MAF Take Off’ and ‘MAF Cube’. These new attractions proved popular with 1,800 people flying down the zipwire and 77 teams tackling the cube. MAF’s Claire Gilderson reports…
On a mostly dry bank holiday Platinum Jubilee weekend on Wiston Estate in West Sussex, the Big Church Festival featured much-loved artists like Matt Redmond, Mica Paris, Graham Kendrick and Casting Crowns.
But this year, two new attractions stole the show – MAF’s double zipwire aptly named the ‘Big MAF Take Off’ and the ‘MAF Cube’ - an aviation adapted version of ITV’s popular game show ‘The Cube’.
Competition winners were picked at random to race against festival artists and presenters on The Big MAF Take Off, which was 60m long with speeds of around 20mph.
Elle Limebear vs Jo Dickens
First up was Main Stage act Elle Limebear. The ‘Call on Your Name’ singer and daughter of Delirious? front man Martin Smith, raced against Jo Dickens from Saddington in Leicestershire. Elle admitted that it had been a while since she threw herself down a zipwire:
‘The last time was maybe 10 years ago. It was so much fun this time - I had the time of my life! Jo’s lovely, but I’m glad I won! I love winning!
‘MAF is amazing – it’s so wonderful what you are doing. Such a great team - keep going!’
Singer, Elle Limebear
Her opponent Jo – who had never been to Big Church or down a zipwire before - was convinced that her height and gravity would work in her favour but alas, she was wrong:
‘I can’t believe I lost! I thought Elle is tiny so she won’t go very fast and gravity would be my friend because she's little. I only did it to prove to my 13–year-old son Freddie that I wasn’t scared and look where I ended up!
‘£3 for a zipwire is nothing. If you learn more about MAF’s work then why not? MAF reaches communities that are hard to reach in terms of getting supplies to them. Without MAF, lots of communities would be left stranded. What a fantastic organisation!’
Josh Carter vs Niall Brathwaite
Premier Christian Radio presenter and Garden Stage MC Josh Carter had never attempted a zipwire before. Josh took on Niall Brathwaite from Bexleyheath – another zipwire novice - who turned eight on the day of the race! Fortunately, Niall won on his birthday much to the amusement of Josh:
‘I had a feeling that I might lose. Niall was a bit more up for it than me and he’s considerably younger and pretty fearless. When I got up there, it was higher and scarier than I thought but I did it! I normally avoid this type of thing but for MAF, anything!
‘I think it’s brilliant what MAF does all over the world in remote places - bringing help, hope and healing where it’s needed. I’m a massive MAF fan and it was a privilege to be terrified for them today!’
Niall’s mum Jenienne, couldn’t have wished for a better birthday present for her son:
‘Going on a zipwire for the first time ever made his birthday really special – he couldn’t wait to get home and tell everyone about it. He was really excited!’
Tina Boonstra vs David Anuwe
Singer Tina Boonstra who performed on the Illuminate Stage won against nine-year-old David Anuwe from Thamesmead. The ‘City of Doubt’ singer was determined to overcome a childhood trauma while supporting a worthy cause:
‘I first went on a zipwire when I was four - my friend pushed me off and I broke my arm so I’m facing my fears today! Today was fun and a bit scary. It felt glorious to win though! Such a buzz!
‘What MAF does takes so much courage. Me taking a little chance on the zipwire is nothing - I had to take a risk and step out. I think what MAF does is incredible. I’m really happy and excited to support them.’
Her opponent David agreed:
‘It was really fun but kind of scary. I really liked how high it was. It made me feel really good to take part, knowing that I’m helping people who don’t have any doctors get access to medicine just like the people in England.’
Joshua Luke Smith vs Jacob Guevara
Another Main Stage act, spoken word artist Joshua Luke Smith, took time out of his busy schedule to race against nine-year-old Jacob Guevara from Lewisham.
Both had previous zipwire experience, but Jacob pipped Joshua to the post.
Despite losing, Joshua was happy to support MAF:
‘MAF is going to the ends of the earth – the work that they do is incredible. It’s the fulfilling of the Great Commission. We both got up there and admitted that we were a little scared of heights, but we took the plunge and did it! It’s an honour to have some fun and do something adventurous for the Gospel. Jacob and I were honoured to take part.’
The MAF Cube gets first outing
Another first for MAF and Big Church Festival was the launch of fast-paced interactive game, the ‘MAF Cube’.
A total of 77 teams of up to six players stepped into the big inflatable 4 x 4 cube with the aim of completing five out of eight aviation-based games in ten minutes. Those who managed to complete their games in under ten minutes had the remaining time added to their score.
The highest score over the weekend was a whopping 845 points with the winning team walking away with a choice of either free cinema tickets or a high rope adventure experience in their local area.
At one point Lottie, Piers and Arnold – a young team from Birmingham - were in the lead. They thoroughly enjoyed the experience says Lottie:
‘We beat the cube! I would absolutely recommend this game to my friends.
‘The magnetic plane challenge was my favourite part. I didn’t know anything about MAF before, but now I’ve learnt that you fly humanitarian aid around the world, which is quite cool. In parts of Africa, some areas are so remote, most supplies have to be delivered by air, so MAF is essential.’
Marc Giles from MAF Community Fundraising has been overseeing the running of the MAF Cube. He’s been an ambassador for MAF at Big Church since 2017. Following a two-year absence due to the pandemic, Marc is delighted to be back:
‘This is our first big music festival since Covid-19. We’ve been rearing to get back out there again. There’s a real buzz this year - I’m super excited. Over the last couple of years, it’s been so unpredictable, but to finally be at Big Church again is great.
‘I am genuinely enjoying taking teams through the MAF Cube - it’s great seeing different approaches to the same game. It’s full on, but fun - meeting and connecting with people and seeing how they respond. It’s one thing having a concept in the office, but seeing it come to life with people playing it is fantastic!
‘Through the MAF Cube they learn about the work MAF does - that’s what I really enjoy. If I come away from Big Church knowing that more people will know about MAF, that will make me really happy!’
As with previous years, every MAF activity at these festivals and events would not be able to run without the help of volunteers who give up their time freely to support MAF.
Missed it this year? Catch MAF’s highlights from Big Church Festival 2022:
For those of you who missed us this year, Marc has this message for next year:
‘You’re going to learn about MAF’s work in a fun and effective way. You’re going to enjoy it. We always have family friendly games. You’ll be around a good group of people and you’re going to learn new stuff. Whenever people participate in our interactive experiences, they love it! ‘
BBC Radio Kent - Sunday Breakfast (Listen from 2:18:15)