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UK gospel industry's leading lady to celebrate milestone

ACHIEVEMENT: Juliet Fletcher set to celebrate 40 years in the industry

JULIET FLETCHER, one of the most influential women in UK gospel, will celebrate her 40th year on the gospel scene with a special concert featuring leading artists. Juliet is a co-founder of the Gospel Music Industry Alliance (GMIA), the representative body for UK gospel, and is the former producer of the BBC Gospel Train series. She spoke to Soul Stirrings about her years on the gospel scene and her hopes for the future

SOUL STIRRINGS (SS): How does it feel to be celebrating 40 years in gospel music?
JULIET FLETCHER (JF): To be in a position of looking back over so many years, seeing my errors and successes and feeling I’ve still got something to give is both weird and wonderful to me. That is God’s grace and I’m both privileged and thankful.

SS: What role have you played in helping develop and profile the UK gospel scene over those years?
JF: Under God’s guidance the common thread is leading: bringing us (those involved in gospel) together in significant activities. Initiatives that help us to see a bigger picture of ourselves and our purpose; making use of our music outside of church settings on national tv and radio, gospel awards, in schools or industry events. Visioning – seeing British gospel woven into the very fabric of our communities as a credible cultural legacy for the betterment of society.

SS: How did your love affair with gospel music begin and which artists have you been particularly blessed by over the years?
JF: ‘Love affair’! Some accuse me of being ‘married’ to this work! It all began at my local COGIC Church in my teens. I was desperate to be lead singer in the choir and developed quite naturally into a soloist. My early singing style was influenced by powerful female vocalists. Most will only know Mahalia Jackson, but for me others included Marion Williams and Kitty Parham – who I actually met and she briefly mentored me. That was G-L-O-R-I-O-U-S!!!

SS: You are co-founder of networking organisation GMIA - what is it and how will it take UK gospel forward?
JF: Currently four key words drive what GMIA is doing: inform, resource, promote and unite. We are here to take UK gospel forward through creating a visible, dynamic, productive infrastructure that enables a balance between interdependent and an independent industry.

SS: You will be celebrating your 40th year with a special concert – who’s going to be there and what's going to be happening?
JF: We’ll have the cream of British gospel - Lurine Cato, Bazil Meade, Muyiwa, Ken Burton, Noel Robinson, Nicky Brown, Aaron T Aaron, Victizzle – and many more top singers and musicians in the house to help me praise God – wow! It’s a massive jam really. We’ll be singing the big classics of yesteryear but also current British gospel hit songs. That alone will show how far we’ve come! I’m excited and humbled.

SS: What role do you think gospel music should play in the cultural life of the black community and wider society?
JF: Gospel music is amazing. It’s influenced popular music so much – and the wider society is becoming more aware of this. Gospel music contextualises for us as a people the priorities and values of our spiritual life, the distinctiveness of our personal and socio-cultural journey and our small ‘p’ political aspirations. I believe gospel music is playing a lead role in expressing the ongoing positive cultural life of the black community.

SS: What would you like the gospel scene to look like in 40 years time?
JF: 2053! Let me dream: if they found the potion to keep me going I’d like to be part of an older generation of singers – no ageism. Churches would still be the place to source great music and talent but they’d be one of the largest employers for people in music, arts, entertainment - relevant, respected and relied upon, the spiritual, ethical and moral compass. Gospel would be a multi-trillion global industry with profits given to social change in communities everywhere. And our songwriters and artistes at the top in all territories of the world – particularly US (LoL)!

Juliet’s 40th anniversary concert takes place at COGIC Walthamstow, Wood Street, London E16 on March 16 & 17. Tickets £5. Phone 07939 399026 for more details.

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