Q&A with Nicholas King

Nick King

If you didn’t catch Nicholas King’s talk on Bible translation at CRE, Sandown earlier this month, then you will have missed one of the highlights of the whole event; delivered with humour, humility and zest,  I was inspired to put on my theology hat for a bumper blog post! Below the respected New Testament scholar and Oxford University lecturer talks New Testament ‘freshness’, Hebrew, learning Zulu passed 40, ‘elderly gym antics’ and the ‘impossibly difficult task’ that is Bible translation!

At a recent talk given at CRE, Sandown you said you began by translating two Gospels simply ‘just to see what it was like’. You’ve also been quoted as saying that Bible translation happens because ‘the community has forgotten the language of the sacred texts’- do you think subconsciously you were feeling this when you chose to translate?

I don’t think that was what was going on inside me; I sat down to translate Mark and John because I had to give a summer school about the two of them, and there is no better way of getting a ‘feel’ for a document than to translate it. And it was certainly a great education.

Nicholas King
Nick signs copies of his latest book ‘The Prophets’

What age did you begin learning Hebrew, how long did it take you to master and also what advice would you give to someone wanting to learn the language?

I started learning Hebrew in my mid-20s; and my advice is that the brain works better the younger you are. I learnt Zulu when I was past 40, and that was really hard work. The only advice is that learning a language is very hard work, and you must never give up. Do a bit every single day; do new stuff in the morning, and familiar material last thing at night before you go to sleep.

Nick King - Book Signing

Presumably you’ve read the bible simply as a reader and believer in God as much as you’ve read it as a scholar…how much do you think personal beliefs inadvertently ‘cloud’ a translation…would having no belief in God take some of the feeling out of the text?

Many non-believers have worked on the biblical texts (though I sometimes wonder why); so it is certainly possible to work on them without believing in them. As for being clouded by ‘personal beliefs’,any translator is the person they are and not some other person, and what you do as a translator is greatly affected by the person you are.

Before you began each of your translations did you have an idea of what you didn’t want to produce…what you didn’t want it to sound like and also how you’d strike a balance between literal renderings and paraphrase; about pitch of discourse, style and format?

Before I started the translation, I thought translation was easy; I thought, for example, that every word in the source language would always be translated by the same word in the target-language, and that I could control the effect of what I was doing. I found in fact that the translation dictated itself, and that it was out of my hands. The one quality that I wanted the NT to have was that of ‘freshness’ which is there in the 27 documents that make up the original; and I am pleased to notice that several reviewers have used that word. Now I know that translation is an impossibly difficult task.

The Old Testament - Nicholas King

Did you find yourself seeing, in your minds eye, the various people in the Bible– was there enough there in the text to get that kind of clarity?

One always forms an impression of the people who are part of the narrative; how accurate the impression is, must be, of course, another matter.

You spoke of avoiding ‘puréed sludge’; translating the various voices in a way that they all retained their uniqueness rather than sounding like one and the same. Are you able to summarise in one or two words the personalities/character traits of say, Matthew, Mark and Paul?

Matthew: a school-teacher, with all that implies
Mark: young and vigorous
Paul: a great lover

The New Testament - MathewThe New Testament - Mark

Have there been many sleepless nights during the course of translating the Bible and has there been anything that was particularly difficult to translate?

The hardest bit was Romans; at times I found that the closer I looked the less I understood what Paul was saying.

Not that man - Nicholas King

Are there any parts that seemed ‘easier’ than others to translate and why do you think this was?

Perhaps Joshua to 2 Kings, the ‘Deuteronomic History’, because it is mainly narrative. Ruth, because it is a breath of fresh air after the appalling narratives with which the book of Judges ends.

Who or what kept you sane throughout…I read that you’re a big cricket fan so perhaps watching/playing?

Playing cricket and squash, as well as some running and downhill skiing, until osteo-arthritis brought retirement upon me. Now I content myself with elderly antics in the gym.

Did you check your translations with other readers?

For some reason I felt very private about the translations, preferring to wait and see how readers reacted. However I had an excellent copy- editor in Peter Dainty, who was incredibly vigilant, and a former student, Yolande Trainor, who read every word of the text with her Ladies’ Bible Study group in South Africa, and preserved me from many blunders.

With regards to the things left unspoken in the Bible, for instance in Mark 16:8…why do you think that some translators have felt the need to fill in the gaps- do you think it’s because they didn’t trust the reader to get the nuances in the text or simply because they wanted to put their own stamp on it?

It is probably a bit of both; biblical narrative operates by understatement, such, for example as the terrible story of the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22, which is simply crying out to fill in the gaps. And quite often later authors have been unable to resist the temptation to fill them in.

Strangest Gospel - Nicholas King

You have said “The Greek text of the New Testament is only a scholars’ guess, and what we have in our modern editions is not a manuscript that ever existed; all the manuscripts that we possess have mistakes in them, so we do not even know what the original text was”…does this conflict in any away with your belief that god’s voice is just below the surfacedo you believe that this voice will get harder to hear/find?

This is where the Church comes in; we get the Bible from the Christian community, and not the other way round. However (and this is really important) it is also true that the Church is subservient to the text, as well as being its source, and we all have to listen to that voice of God which is there “below the surface of the text”, whatever the quality of the translation, and whatever the state of the manuscripts.


You mentioned the biblical narrative has ‘a certain fullness’ would you say that in distilling/ editing this ‘fullness’ in your own translations you’ve done away with poetics? Was there a chance that the translation would not only have been ineligible but twice the size if you’d left the ‘fullness’?

“A certain fullness”. I can’t quite remember saying this, nor what precisely what I might have meant by it! However I have tried to be faithful to the text, and where it was poetic I have tried to be poetic, and so I don’t think that I distilled it in a way that would have made my final text notably shorter than the original.

At CRE, you spoke of your affinity with Ronnie Knox (a theologian who amongst other things translated the Latin Vulgate Bible into English, using Hebrew and Greek sources)– remarking that you said a prayer at this grave in ‘allegiance’. Are there other people you admire/feel an allegiance to?

The list is too long, but those who taught me above all. In different places, Peter Hardwick (and he would be surprised by that), and Geza Vermes, both of whom have died this year; Robert Murray SJ, Professor Christopher Rowland – and many many others.

Father Ronald Knox
Father Ronald Knox d. 1957

Has translating the Bible changed your understanding of it in any significant way? And would you say it’s strengthened your faith?

One thing that it has taught me is how much I love the bible. And, yes, I think that my faith has gone deeper.

And finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to translate the bible?

Think twice about it.


With special thanks to Nick for this interview!

Posted by Sarah

The books featured in this post are available from all good Christian bookshops or direct from Kevin Mayhew online: www.kevinmayhew.com/info/contributors/nicholas-king.html or by telephone: +44 (0)845 3881634

From the archives: The Cowshed Revolution By Ray Simpson (2011)

Cowshed Revolution by Ray Simpson

At a glance, you may think it’s a book that’s going to summon you to renounce capitalism, rid yourself of all possessions and go and live in the desert and/or offer your life exclusively to the service of others. And yes, whilst Ray Simpson does highlight individuals who did just that, this book isn’t a call to ultimate self-sacrifice and self-denial but a book that will make you realise how important it is to live life in accordance with your most true and authentic self.

What struck me most was the author’s light touch (no guilt- inducing sermons or lofty academicism here). His is a vision grounded in enlightened common sense with the concept of ‘downward mobility’ simply encompassing what is good, true and ‘right’: spirit and heart over ego, community over self-interest– personal progression that’s inclusive of social awareness and responsibility.

He includes examples of good politics from both the left and right (though it’s ultimately apolitical- recognising ‘goodness’ and enlightenment wherever it springs from), as well as mentioning inspiring economists, prophets, visionaries and modern day heroes– you’ll have a brilliant and inspiring reading list to be getting on with after you’ve devoured this!

It’s the kind of book you finish and think ‘everyone should be made to read this’, especially those in positions of authority/leadership. This is for people of all faiths and none–  a book that’s vital to our times.

Available from all good Christian Bookshops or direct from KM online or by telephone: (www.kevinmayhew.com/the-cowshed-revolution.html) +44 (0)845 3881634

Posted by Sarah

An interview with Colin Mawby

This week we are honoured to present an interview with Colin Mawby. He has worked with the London Mozart Players, the Wren Orchestra, Pro Cantione Antiqua, the Belgian Radio Choir and the BBC Singers and was also Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, London (not to mention the most famous person that’s ever worked at KM!)

Colin Mawby

Can you tell me a bit about your childhood- do you come from a musical family?

I was brought up during World War 2 and have vivid memories of the bombing of Portsmouth where I lived.  My mother died when I was three and I was sent to Westminster Cathedral Choir School. George Malcolm was the choirmaster and he was a total inspiration to me. I learned most of what I know about music from the Choir School. My father was a convert – he was caught outside Portsmouth Catholic Cathedral in a rain storm and the only place he could shelter was inside. He went in and found himself in the middle of a Pontifical High Mass. He had never seen anything like it and went to the sacristy at its conclusion to ask what was going on.  This experience led to his conversion. My father remarried and Dad then decided to send me to the Choir School. He couldn’t afford the fees and the Parish Priest, a musician, offered to pay them. An extraordinary sequence of events.

Westminster Cathedral Choir School
Westminster Cathedral Choir School

Did you always want to play the organ and can you remember the first time you played?

I never had any ambition to play the organ – quite the contrary – I never wanted to be in the cathedral choir and tried my hardest to fail my voice test!  I explained that I didn’t know any songs and William Hyde, the then choirmaster, said that I must surely know the National Anthem. I fell into the trap and to my horror was accepted. I always get a good laugh about Cardinal Heenan who also took a voice test for the Choir School and was turned down. This would have been the highlight of Sir Richard Terry’s life – if only he had known!

George Malcolm obviously spotted a musical gift in me and asked me to play for Friday Compline in the Cathedral. I was able to accompany  the chant from the chant book and also improvise. This all seemed to me to be perfectly normal, something that all eleven year old boys did, it is only recently that I realise it is quite amazing. I then played for many Cathedral services as a boy.

You’ve performed for some extraordinary people including the Queen and John F Kennedy- would it be fair to say this carried a degree of anxiety?

I have conducted for extraordinary people but have never found it particularly nerve wracking.  Music totally takes one over and one forgets that there are eminent people in the audience.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career was in Ireland. I founded the National Irish Chamber Choir and we developed a large educational programme. Part of it were two children’s operas which I composed and which were performed by schools. (Funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and the  Department of Education).They were totally professional performances– the children acted and sang the solos under professional direction. The choir acted as a ‘Greek Chorus’. Every year we performed with two disadvantaged schools and I remember a solo part being sung by a young girl with only 6 months to live and another occasion when a solo was taken by a girl who was paralysed as a result of a motor accident. (Drunken driving). She had also lost the power of speech but wanted to try and do the opera. She succeeded and it was deeply moving that my music had enabled her to speak and sing again. These were the two most memorable experiences of my life.

 ‘Tu Es Petrus’ was used for the papal inauguration, how did this make you feel?

I was delighted that my ‘Tu es Petrus’ was sung at the papal inauguration. The Director of the Sistine Choir asked me to write a ‘Tu es Petrus’ and the Sistine Choir has sung it on many occasions. I am amazed by all this! It’s a thrill to hear the Sistine Choir singing my work.

Papal Inauguration

You are quoted as saying that you can’t write choral music unless you work with choirs; that you have to write for particular people. Is it fair to say that your compositions have always been quite instinctive?

My composition is instinctive and I take no notice of musical fashion which I feel militates against the sense of the spiritual – it’s not sincere.   I try and write music that speaks to people’s souls, music that listeners can respond to emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t!

Whom do you admire?

The three people who have had a profound effect on my life, apart from my father, are George Malcolm, Wilfred Purney (a superb priest) and Cardinal John Carmel Heenan.

Cardinal John Carmel Heenan

What advice would you give a young organist who wanted to become a professional musician?

It’s very difficult to become a professional musician so the first step is to earn sufficient money from music to live on. Teaching, privately and in schools, is the way to do this. Also, try and become a church choirmaster and ask for proper wedding fees and a reasonable stipend.  When you are able to support yourself, then begin to develop the recital career.  Meet as many fellow musicians as you can and develop a really good social manner. Never be afraid to ask people to help you and always remember that one has to pay the electricity bill!

How did you come to work for Kevin Mayhew and can you tell me a bit about your time there?

When I returned to England in 2003 I needed a job to tide me over a difficult time in my life and Kevin offered me one.  I have always thought that he is a publishing genius. It was highly interesting to watch him at work.

Latin Motets - Book One

What sort of music do you listen to for pleasure, and are you fond of any recording artists?

I like listening to Bach, Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, basically I get enormous pleasure out of listening to most music.  I can’t single out recording artists – the standards are incredibly high.

Which of your works would you most like to be remembered for?

It’s difficult to single out a particular piece of music because I have written so much. I would like to be remembered as someone who has made a great contribution to sacred music. If my work moves people that’s wonderful – it’s a great privilege to compose and I thank God for the great success that I have had.

With special thanks to Colin for taking part in this interview

At a glance: Three recent KM publications

Word Alive! All-age dramas to bring the Gospels to life ~ Claire Benton-Evans (Pub. Feb 2013)

Word Alive by Claire Benton-Evans

Quote “Reading scripture dramatically like this can be wonderfully revealing…exchanges like these can bring to life the noisy, argumentative crowd surrounding Jesus and his disciples…The key ingredient in all these dramas is freshness.

Overview Reading through I’m enthused!…Claire is good at setting the scene for each drama e.g. for ‘Walking on Water’ she compares the calm of the Lake District to the ‘wicked wind’ in the Jordan valley whipping up a storm on Lake Galilee ‘before you can say man overboard’. Props are kept simple but are effective and the book lacks none of the creativity and freshness that we’ve always loved about a Benton-Evans publication!

A selection of other titles published by KM Feasts and festivals (Aug 2012) Food for Prayer (Dec 2008). She’s also written chapters on Celebrity-obsessed culture, Family breakdown, Sexism, The NHS and Women in the church for Sermons on Difficult Subjects (Aug 2011).

About Claire Claire writes exclusively for Kevin Mayhew. Her consultancy work includes all-age worship workshops and children’s spirituality training for clergy, worship leaders, head teachers and school governors. www.clairebentonevans.com.

Forthcoming events:

25 April 2013 Marham Church C of E Primary School in Cornwall, helping the school to design their own  ‘spiritual space’ for the children to use.

11 May 2013  Edinburgh, leading a ‘Taste and See’ day on children’s spirituality and all-age worship for the Church of Scotland.

All mentioned books available from KM Publishing and all good Christian book shops. A free sample of Word Alive! is available on our website:

Rejoice with Me~ Hope for lost sheep~ Annie Heppenstall (pub. 5 March 2013)

Rejoice With Me by Annie Heppenstall

Quote “Whether our path is rocky or smooth, the way we respond depends a lot on whether we feel loved or not.

Overview Annie Shares her personal ups and downs to explore what it is to feel like a ‘lost sheep’. This is an uplifting read covering a lot of ground. It includes lots of imaginative references (Leo Tolstoy’s story about a Russian shoemaker) and great imagery (Annie’s two tatty bookmarks- one of which is a yellowing photocopied sheep!). Great if you’re feeling ‘spiritually sick’ or just want an inspiring pick-me-up.

About Annie Annie is a qualified teacher and has a degree in Theology and Religious Studies from Cambridge University. She has spent the last four years practising a contemplative lifestyle, giving time to her family, to her writing and other creative expressions of spirituality as well as training in spiritual direction and counselling skills.

Other titles published by KM Hiding in God  (April 2012)

Both books available from KM Publishing and all good Christian book shops. A free sample of Rejoice with Me is available on our website ()

The Lindisfarne Gospels~ The English Church and Our Multicultural World (Reflections and Liturgical Resources~ Ray Simpson (Pub. Feb 2013)

Lindisfarne Gospels by Ray Simpson

Quote “I write, not as an expert, but a hungry pilgrim who picks up crumbs left by the experts, finds them life-giving, and shares them with other hungry spiritual seekers.

Overview Very current/ topical, this slim but packed volume (you’ll have to keep up!) takes you through the history of the Gospels- unravelling the various strands in a colourful and impassioned tone.No expertise on the subject is required (so it’s suitable reading for the layman!) though the resources and liturgies section (which is quite big) lends itself more to those in Celtic ministry.

About Ray

Ray Simpson is the founding guardian of the international Community of Aidan and Hilda and the principal tutor of its Celtic Christian Studies programme. He sends a daily prayer tweet @whitehouseviews and writes a weekly blog www.raysimpson.org

A selection of other titles published by KM Reflective Services for Lent (Oct 2012) Exploring Celtic Spirituality (Feb 2004). He also has
two chapters on Abstinence and Fraud in More Sermons on difficult subjects (Dec 2012).

All mentioned books available from KM Publishing and all good Christian book shops. A free sample of The Lindisfarne Gospels is available from our website  http://www.kevinmayhew.com/the-lindisfarne-gospels.html and The Lindisfarne Gospels Facebook Page www.facebook.com/pages/The-Lindisfarne-Gospels/122422204605486

Music Education Expo 2013: Day One: The rumble over Music Hubs

Having pored over the Arts Council website today to top up my Hub knowledge, I was reminded of one teacher’s remark during the Q&A with MP Ed Vaizey on Wednesday about the provision of ‘meaningless one year’s tuition’. The overall success of a hub including the provision of pathways for continued support after a limited period of tuition seems to depend on the  bid winners’ (mostly music services) ability to develop a strong ‘hub vision’ and make innovative partnerships with organisations in their local authority. This undoubtedly doesn’t happen over night  but  there was much talk to suggest that it simply doesn’t  happen much at all, with schools and other organisations far from included, ‘pushed out by the music services’ were the exact words from one disgruntled music teacher. Other issues raised included the desire to see details of failed bids, and a concern that the consultation period for deciding on the winning bids was too short.

Arriving late but with an inspired vision for music hubs, Mr Vaizey did appear, at times, reluctant to claim responsibility for the practical details beyond such a vision. Ultimately satisfied that his desired goals had been implemented (and at speed) all other problems are simply down to the fact it’s early days  and hubs are still evolving– he could well have a point but what’s your opinion? Please feel free to comment and share your experiences (good, bad or inbetween) of music hubs.

MP Ed Vaizey

Post by Sarah

Why another recorder tutor?

Music Expo 2013 - Ready, Steady Recorder!

Music Education Expo 2013: KM’s Abbie Goldberg and Kevin Duncan with Martha Shrimpton

This week Sarah Watts talks a bit about her latest recorder tutor, Ready Steady Recorder, while we take a look at some of its offerings!

Red Hot Recorder has been immensely popular and much used- I hope it still will be, but eight years after its publication, I wanted to offer an alternative. Ready Steady Recorder is aimed at younger starters (ideally Year 2, but could be used for earlier years). It is colourful, has a larger font and moves a little slower– especially after G when many tutors speed up. The pieces (and the rhythm learning) are always reinforced by lyrics, and there is plenty of fun along the way with movement and humour. The book has the same ‘Feel good’ jazzy accompaniment, and the short pieces are repeated so they can be performed in a concert with singing, or just as recorder repertoire. There is a Grand Recorder March at the start of the book to inspire the student, and encourage them to move to the beat. An extravagant fanfare celebrates each new note learned, and everyone can ‘Take a bow’!

If that isn’t a good enough reason to purchase Ready Steady Recorder then here are 8 more!

It’s multi-purpose: from a song that will help children conquer any fear they might have of spiders, to a song that encourages exercise.

It comes with a good dose of magic: ‘Thoughts and dreams’, ‘Buttercups and butterflies’ and ‘Boating Lake Waltz’ are not only really magical, but have a really sophisticated sound that will make young players feel really grown up!

Includes lots of humour: It’s amazing how the note ‘A’ on a recorder fits the word ‘pong’ perfectly in the song ‘Smelly Cheese’.

I can’t imagine any young audience that wouldn’t want to dance to these songs as well…

…Equally I couldn’t imagine any adult/parent not wanting to give these tunes a go themselves. Especially those who played the recorder as a child. Trust me.

Even songs that use only one note manage to sound exciting!

It includes ‘Big band’ accompaniments: cue piano, xylophone, drums and cymbals adding extra ceremony and excitement to performance tracks to give star quality to young players !

My favourite ‘why not…?’ tip would have to be the one that suggests playing the recorder to your pet. I’m pleased to report that test subject ‘Buster’ (who’s been known to run from the hoover) was nonplussed (and I’m not nearly as capable a recorderist as those that will be using this super-duper book!)


With her impressively catchy songs and equally catchy titles- Sarah’s got recorder tutors down to a fine art. Ever upping the fun-factor, Sarah has created songs that children will be eager to learn and will want to play again and again. Here are pieces that somehow manage to stay simple whilst sounding advanced throughout. This book is also parent and teacher friendly- containing nothing that won’t be a joy to teach or to listen to!

Book Cover

Ready Steady Recorder is available from all good music shops. A full range of tutors by Sarah Watts is available from all good Music Shops or direct from Kevin Mayhew by phone (+44 (0)845 3881634) or website www.kevinmayhew.com/ready-steady-recorder.html

Your KM Blogger is Sarah Sibley with fabulous support from Abbie Goldberg!

Music Education Expo 2013: Day One: An Overview

With my nose glued to an iPad for most of the day, I was nearly mown down by a (superb!) marching band but ushered swiftly out  of the way by a kind member of staff! Other notable moments included the tribalistic quality of what I assumed were clapping and rhythm exercises coming from the theatre but sounded more like Rhinegold’s inaugural rites! There was also a fab rendition of an Abba song from a young recorder group, not to mention MP Ed Vaizey’s talk and the savaging he received from a few disgruntled music teachers AND not forgetting the inspirational talk on Blogging for music teachers (Save time and money whilst raising the profile of your school!) by two queens of blogging Hanh Doan and Jackie Schneider…phew! Busy day!

Music Expo 2013 - Overview
Music Education Expo 2013

Hanh Doan and Jackie Schneider On Blogging

For the fact that one music teacher asked whether blogs were free to set up or not suggested that there were those in the audience without social media savvy and/or those too busy to look in to it– but enthusiastic about the prospect nonetheless! A glance at both Beaumont School and St Theresa’s School blog page shows YouTube clips, images of whiteboards with the day’s lesson notes on, reminders, announcements, homework and more! For inspiration on setting up your own blog visit:

http://stteresasmusic.academyblogger.co.uk/ http://musicatbeaumontschool.blogspot.co.uk/

You can also follow Jackie and Hanh on Twitter @jackieschneider and @myhanhdoan

Music Expo 2013
Percussion Play demonstrate to delighted spectators


Music Expo 2013 - Why Play the Recorder?
Sarah Watts with Kevin and Abbie from the KM team

Post By Sarah

An interview with Andy Robb a.k.a Derek the Cleric!

Andy Robb aka Derek the Cleric

With over 40 books under his belt, a Children’s Book of the Year Award 2010, not to mention a thriving Twitter and Facebook fan base for ‘Derek the cleric’, a KM interview with the very funny and talented Andy Robb was surely long over due!

Did you have an artistic/Christian upbring?

I was brought up in a Christian household but didn’t give my life to Jesus until I was married. Deep down I’d been searching for a God who I could encounter, and my experience of being baptised in the Holy Spirit, subsequent to my conversion, gave me a living reality of God and spoiled me for anything less.

My parents were amateur artists and drawing was something that absorbed my childhood. In my teens I set my heart on making it my career.

Do you remember your first efforts at writing?

I come from a family that loves books, in fact we had a family bookshop for a number of years. My brothers and I always seemed to be writing something or other be it school magazines, stories or our own comics.

Was there ever a desire to work in ministry?

Not initially. Before I became a Christian I had two rather shallow ambitions: fame and fortune. I’d had some success as a cartoonist and illustrator working in publishing and advertising including being involved in the initial design of the Kellogg’s Honey Nut Loop bee and being licensed to draw Hagar the Horrible for a national advertising campaign.

Only after I became a Christian did God give me a passion for communicating the things of God and bringing alive the Bible to children.

Did you study art/illustration formally are you self-taught?

I trained at Colchester School of Art which gave me a solid grounding but have invested time over many years developing my own artistic style.

Tell me a bit about your creative process – where do you do most of your creative work and which medium/media do you prefer to work in?

I now work from home but don’t have a problem with self-motivation. Yes, it’s great to have creative inspiration but it’s also possible to operate in the creativity you innately have to fulfil a brief.

I begin the artwork process by producing rough sketches which I then trace over in Indian ink. I scan this into my Mac and then colour it up in Photoshop.

Derek the Cleric - Range of cards by Andy Robb

How was the idea for Derek the cleric conceived and can you tell me a bit about his journey so far?

Derek the Cleric began life as a single frame cartoon on the back of the now defunct Christian Herald newspaper. Three years ago I decided to resurrect Derek by bringing alive his world (and that of his church, St Cliff’s) in a regular blog.

As Derek’s audience grew, I added Facebook, Twitter and a website www.derekthecleric.com to this.

Derek’s very own book ‘A Year at St Cliffs’ was published last year and there is now a range of greetings cards and other merchandise bearing his name.

Derek the Cleric - BishopDerek the Cleric - PopeDerek the Cleric - Bishop

To what extent is your writing inspired by your own experiences of church?

Although I’m not an Anglican my experiences of church have given me much fodder for Derek the Cleric.

As for my kids books, the content very much springs from my relationship with God and my personal understanding of the Bible.

“Christianity doesn’t have to be boring” – do you consider yourself to be the leading light of this message? And are there any other writers whom you feel are doing a good job?

I’ll let another be the judge of that but having experienced something of God’s love and power in my life and having come to put my faith wholeheartedly in his word I remain passionate about helping others to know this also.

Christian writers I come back to time and again include Derek Prince, John Bevere, Colin Urquhart, Bill Johnson and Andrew Wommack.

Are there any  particular illustrators/writers that have influenced your own work?

I’ve read so widely over the years that I probably wouldn’t be able to single out any authors but cartoonists who I’ve admired include the illustrator of the Asterix books, Albert Uderzo and a guy called Robert Nixon who drew many of my favourite childhood comic characters.

You are the author of over 40 books including  Derek the Cleric – a year at St Cliffs, the Professor Bumblebrain series as well as the award-winning 50 Weirdest Bible Stories (CWR). Are there any more books in the pipeline?

50 Wackiest and 50 Juiciest Bible Stories are in production right now but after that, I’m not quite sure. I do have a heart for a kids product range which mobilises children to be agents of God so I’m praying for a publisher who has this on their heart as well.

Derek the Cleric

What was the motivation behind the Boring Bible Series?
I’d seen the Horrible Histories books and thought a book range that brought the Bible alive to kids in the same way would be great.  It’s really pleasing to know that the twelve book series is still in print years later.

Derek the Cleric - Boring Bible

Would you consider applying your humour to something other than the Bible and church life and perhaps writing away from the Christian book genre?

I have thought about it and am not closed to the possibility. I have a secret ambition to write a radio comedy. We’ll see!

Andy’s Boring Bible books are available from the Kevin Mayhew website www.kevinmayhew.com/catalogsearch/advanced/result?name=Boring+Bible and all good christian bookshops.  A mixed-pack of 8 Derek the Cleric greetings cards is now available for both retail customers and trade customers. Look out for a gift range of Derek the Cleric products coming soon from Kevin Mayhew.

Posted by Sarah

Poring over Pastoral Care

Pastoral Care by Bill Merrington

Well-considered and honestly written, Pastoral Care is packed full of engaging anecdotes, useful bits of advice and wise perspective. Peppered with quotations from the likes of Eckhart Tolle, Julian of Norwich and even The Wizard of Oz, this book will most certainly speak to more than just those working in ministry.

Merrington explores pastoral care as broad ranging and ongoing; from the kind of everyday care that starts with conversations over a cup of coffee right up to dealing with issues such as eating disorders and drink and drug problems, pastoral care is not (unlike therapy) reliant on affordability and may be required before, during or after other counselling has been explored. Throughout the book, Merrington refers to knowing ones own capabilities and boundaries as a carer – knowing what level you are able to work at and when to refer to other counselling bodies, how to recognise when you’re heading for burnout (a discussion on ‘Jesus Syndrome’), as well as recognising inappropriate uses of power and authority.

Prayer is arguably one of the key things that distinguishes pastoral care from other types of counselling and Merrington provides some interesting perspectives on how prayer should be utilised. It should not be a substitute for applying practical support, knowledge and skills, but a gift that offers a new and important dimension to care – noting how taking time to reflect on something bigger (God) can refresh, strengthen and allow for new perspectives and new insights. As Merrington points out ‘Prayer is far more than getting God to do a miracle.’

While this book is ultimately aimed at those involved in Church life, those involved general counselling/caring as well as community and youth groups, would benefit from the fresh perspective and accessible, non-preachy tone that Pastoral Care has to offer. Those struggling with issues of anxiety, self-esteem, forgiveness, as well as disenfranchised grief (where loss can not be openly acknowledged or publically mourned) or even ‘singleness’- of being single within a (church) community would find this a useful alternative to the many books on offer within the self-help genre– many of which may not live up to their dazzling titles and may lack the honesty and wisdom of a book such as this.

Whether you dip into relevant chapters or read this from cover to cover, this is a priceless companion that deserves frequent referral.

Bill Merrington has been an Anglican Priest for over 29 years and is currently the Lead Chaplain at Bournemouth University.

Pastoral Care was published at the end of 2012 and is available to purchase from all good Christian Bookshops or direct from the KM website: www.kevinmayhew.com/pastoral-care.html

Posted by Sarah

A chat with Garth Hewitt

Garth Hewitt

Following on from Garth’s visit to the KM office last week, we decided an interview for our Blog was a must!  Below he discusses his latest album ‘Justice like a river’, working with  Cliff Richard, singing in Spanish and much more!

Garth Hewitt

‘Justice like a river’ is your 47th album!…will you be making a 48th, 49th, 50th?

Yes, I’m already thinking about the next two albums so I will keep you in the picture on this!

On the track ‘Feast your mind on what is pure’ Cliff Richard does the backing vocals– what was it like to work with him?

Cliff was always a really good person to work with, very natural, very friendly, and full of ideas. His voice has a great range, so for instance as well as the bit where you can hear him singing very clearly, in the hum at the end of the track, even though I’ve got the Jessy Dixon singers, Cliff was doing the lowest part in the hum. He very much enjoyed doing backing vocals and he did them for me on a couple of albums.

Justice Like a River by Garth Hewitt

With regards to your song writing process, what sort of things inspire you and when and where do you write?

In some ways I am a storyteller and so a story can spark me off. I’ve often picked up issues where I am telling the story of people who get forgotten. But I am inspired by poems, books, films, and probably most by people –and in my travels around the world I think probably people are what have inspired me the most. Some songs pay tribute to these people who I have met in different places.

I write in all sorts of places – if you see me scribbling on the back of an envelope in church or in a café, it means I’ve thought of something or I’ve just heard something which has sparked me off. A bookshop in Wivenhoe sparked off an idea recently.

At what age did you develop your love of music and writing and how did your education nurture these two passions?

My love of music came in my early teens and in my mid teens I took up guitar and joined or formed a couple of groups at school but didn’t start writing songs until I was at University. When it comes to writing books, of prayers etc. that came a little later. I don’t think education nurtured my love of music although maybe school did because of the different music I heard. But I suppose studying English at both school and University helped and gave me a love for poetry and the power of words.

You’re a self-proclaimed ‘Troubadour’ and you were also given special accreditation by the House of Poets in Ramallah.  Do you have any favourite poets?

This is an interesting question because you say I am a ‘self-proclaimed Troubadour’ and I think that depends how you interpret an album that I did, ‘Lonesome Troubadour’. In the end on that one I think there are several possible meanings and actually I am very happy with the term Troubadour.  I was thrilled that I was given the special accreditation by the House of Poets in Ramallah – yes I am a big fan of poetry and two of my favourites are Mahmoud Darwish, who himself was one of the House of Poets in Ramallah, and also Ernesto Cardenal in Nicaragua, who must be one of the greatest poets in the world and I’ve had the privilege of meeting with him.

Garth Hewitt - Performing

Who has been your favourite artist to work with and why?

I’ve enjoyed working with many artists and in all sorts of different ways, some because they are very creative, some because they are just good friends and nice to spend time with. It’s a little tricky for me to specify names in case I leave out someone who I’ve really enjoyed working with.  But I would mention that working with Jessy Dixon was very special, with his amazing heritage in gospel music.

On your album ‘Journeys with Garth Hewitt: Latin America’ (Myrrh 1989) you sing three songs in Spanish, can you tell me a bit about the album and its conception.

I did a whole album in Spanish which was released in Spain and also I believe some countries in Latin America. It was very difficult to do, I recorded it in Barcelona with a great musician Luis Alfredo, but I had a sore throat at the time and I don’t speak Spanish! He translated all my songs for me, and he coached me, but it was really hard. I’m really grateful he made me do it as particularly when I go to Nicaragua I like to include a song or two in Spanish, and occasionally now in the States because audiences can include a lot of Spanish-speaking people. The Spanish album was called ‘Un nino es el futuro’.

Journeys with Garth Hewitt

Where else have your travels taken you and is there a particular place that has special significance for you?

This is a difficult question to answer as I have travelled so much. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to visit many different parts of the world and I feel great affection for different places and different communities. Bethlehem, Palestine is a good example, where I have godchildren; Managua, Nicaragua inspires me a lot because of the poetry and music there, and especially my friends there. I have been very affected by many visits to Africa, though because I have family including grandchildren in Durban, South Africa that is a place I like to visit. However when they took me on a holiday to Mozambique recently I hadn’t been there for twenty years and I found it an inspiring place and have written two songs there, ‘Full Moon over Mozambique’ and ‘God’s Revolution of love’. My first visit out of Europe was to Haiti and this was in the late ‘70s, and this had a huge impact on me because I began to realise myself the quantity of poverty that there is in our world. I think that had an effect on all that I did afterwards.

Do you feel your message has changed throughout your career as a musician or has it stayed the same?

Not really, though I think it has developed. I very inspired by hearing Martin Luther King when I was a teenager–  the wholeness of his Christian message has been something I’ve tried to reflect in the songs, and ‘Justice Like a River’ still stays on that theme.

You are also the author of eight books including ‘A Road Home’– a collaborative work with the artist, Daniel Bonnell. Would you say visual images have been a big inspiration for your writing across your career?

Yes, visual images do spark off songs and ideas for me. I like art and put paintings on the covers of several albums in the ‘90s.  ‘Walk the Talk’ had a picture from Ethiopia, and ‘Stronger than the Storm’ had a painting from Nicaragua where there are some wonderful artists. I’ve also been influenced and motivated by the work of certain graffiti artists.

Garth Hewitt Inspiration - Copyright Daniel Bonnell   Image © Daniel Bonnell

Tell me about your time as a director/board member of The Greenbelt Festival

After the first Greenbelt Festival a committee was formed which became the Board of Trustees of Greenbelt, and I was on the Board for the first twenty-five years. It was a very creative time as we tried to understand what we had got in this festival as we tried to shape its direction. I particularly felt it should be an arts festival with the social justice emphasis from a Christian viewpoint. I still enjoy Greenbelt, it has been a place that has helped to shape my thinking.

You are the founder of the human rights charity Amos Trust, can you tell me about their latest projects?

Amos Trust is working particularly in four parts of the world at the moment, with the Street Children project in Durban called ‘Umthombo’, and this has also spawned the Street Child World Cup which was held in Durban before the last Fifa World Cup, and is now being planned for Rio in 2014. Also, we work a lot in Palestine/Israel with organisations that work in human rights, reconciliation and non-violence training, and we support a hospital in Gaza. The latest project is a group of people going out to rebuild a demolished house – over 25,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished by the Israelis and this will be the second house we have helped to rebuild and it is an attempt to be both a protest and an encouragement. We are also working in Nicaragua supporting our partners there, both in education and agricultural projects and health. Also we work with a Dalit community (those formerly called ‘outcasts’) in a village in Tamil Nadu, and we work with Dalit Liberation Theologians.

Street Child World Cup - This is more than a Game

You are also a regular contributor to Radio 2’s Pause for thought…between writing, singing, charity work and broadcasting how do you relax- that is, if you do get any free time!?

I walk by the river (I live close to the Thames), I watch films, I read, and I like to spend time with family and grandchildren.

Any further ambitions or plans before retirement– if indeed you do ever retire?

Songs, tours, album recording, and more books – I’m not sure that I understand retirement without creating something.

Garth’s latest album ‘Justice like a river’ is available to purchase as a CD or download.  To listen to a sample of click here: www.kevinmayhew.com/justice-like-a-river-cd.html

More information about Garth, including tour dates can be found at his website:

Posted by Sarah