Yesterday, I sang on the BBC stage at the world famous Hay Festival.
Here's what happened, from emotional start to elated finish.
It was my first time performing my own songs.
It was my first ticketed performance (which then sold out).
It was the first time this band had played together.
It was my first seriously scary gig.
Consequently, I had a tough week emotionally. I’ve never felt such persistent performance anxiety. Throughout the week I felt sick to my stomach at the very thought of Hay, and with so much to practice and prepare for, I had to think of it often. I am so grateful to everyone who prayed, because as soon as I opened my mouth on that stage I felt calm and able. It was nothing short of miraculous.
After being channelled through the BBC backstage porta-cabin jungle and given a thorough soundcheck, we waited in almost unbearable anticipation for a steward to let us know it was time.
We were the second act of four, and we each had half an hour in the intimidatingly black tent to share four songs and the stories behind them to an audience of roughly 100. Between my songs I would share some of my singing journey, and my experience of anorexia as a teenager and the incredible evening when Jesus totally healed me.
At 6pm, it was go time. Harsh blue lights lit the stage, but I could see beyond them and could even make out the faces of my friends and family in the audience, which was a wonderful comfort. Behind them at the back of the room, a digital clock blared a red reminder that we were performing to a tight schedule. A manned video camera was 2 feet away to my left, sending a live video stream to a screen behind us. A photographer struck unusual poses on the floor, trying to get the best angle. It was all very official.
To my immense relief, several of the concerns that had been weighing on me went smoothly in the moment; I remembered what I wanted to say without reading (or waffling), I was on pitch, the band gelled well during the tricky transitional bits of music, I didn’t stumble over vocal runs and was even able to improvise, I remembered the song lyrics (with one tiny exception, but I made something up on the spot which fitted in just fine!) and my voice/hands didn’t shake with nerves or anything like that. Loads of prayers answered there!
Interestingly, after sharing my healing story and performing our first song, a handful of people got up during the applause and left. In perfect God-timing fashion, my best friend had just that afternoon shared an insightful piece of encouragement: “If they don’t like it, they can leave the tent. They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting God.” This was very freeing, and I honestly felt totally unaffected by their leaving.
Following the second song, a dozen more stood up and left. I found it interesting, that they felt unable to keep listening any longer whether because they disagreed with what I had to say, or they didn’t enjoy my musical style or some other reason. Either way, it’s not my intention to please everybody and thanks to my friend’s poignant words, I had actually visualised and prepared for this response so I didn’t feel put off by it, praise God.
The whole band moments before our Hay Festival performance
As the session drew to a close and the house lights came up, I felt finally free of the heavy weight I’d been carrying for so long! My friends who had all travelled some distance to be there were incredibly reassuring. Lots of hugs and wonderful words of encouragement later, I turned to two others waiting to chat to me.
One was a Pastor who said he really enjoyed the songs and offered me a challenge of writing a song around gambling from a Christian perspective. A very intruiging suggestion and such an important topic. The other was a lady who was writing an article for BBC 1 on music and mental health – how perfect! We found an empty room and recorded an audio interview around the experience I shared earlier, and flute/sax player Beth Underwood was able to share her perspective as a Music Therapist too. Unfortunately, my brain was basically putty by this stage, I’m unsure how much of what I said made sense. I’ll let you know when I see/hear the finished article!
The moment we finished the interview, a second photographer bounded up and whisked the whole band away for “just one more photo” – a phrase that had us in stitches by the end of a 5-stop photo tour of the festival site!
Finally, we returned to the porta-cabins to pack up the last of the gear and head home. But, not so fast. Seeing that we had returned from the shoot, producer and organiser of the BBC Introducing performances Andrew Marston took me outside for one final interview. By now I was almost certainly talking complete gibberish. We talked about my experience of healing, my songwriting process and the support of my friends, family and amazing husband that makes it all possible.
Encouragements and Answered Prayers
When we finally left the backstage area and headed out towards home, we were stopped in our tracks by a kind couple who had been in the tent and seen us play. They told us they thought we did so well, complimented me on my singing and encouraged me for sharing my story. They added, “We’re just so sorry about the people who walked out, it was so rude.” It was such a kind word of support, and very gratefully received. I explained that I understood what I was saying would be controversial, and that it wouldn’t be okay to some people – and that’s okay. The lady hugged me, and I left really touched by this encounter.
There were so many more encouragements and answered prayers like this kind couple were.
One friend told me on the day, “I kept on needing to pray for you this morning but felt so much peace this afternoon.” She didn’t know that I spent much of that morning in tears, really scared and just feeling overwhelmed. I am certain God put that on her heart, and as she prayed for me I believe it brought about interludes of peace, distraction and positivity.
I hope this serves as an encouragement that prayer works! And a really heartfelt thank you to all my prayer supporters. <3
I love that Jesus’ name was spoken and sung to a mainly non-Christian audience.
I love that He will be glorified again in two separate interviews.
I love that the performance went (to my knowledge!) without a hitch.
I love that I had the support and prayers of so many people.
I’m so glad it’s over now, and I can look back on it with relief and pride. Until next time…