Over a hundred artists, industry insiders and influencers from across the UK gathered together on the evening of Tues 13th September, in the intimate setting of The Other Palace. This was a Step FWD Awards organised event to celebrate the amazing achievements of the top UK Christian Charts artists during the past year. With the surrounding streets in Victoria, Central London, lined with mourning crowds observing the Queen on her final sojourn to Westminster Abbey, inside the venue a sense of peace, calm and unity prevailed, as if cocooned away from the restless world outside.
The evening began with Ibe “Giantkiller” Otah from Premier Gospel Radio, a long-time supporter of Step FWD, welcoming the audience along with co-host Samantha Radford, new Step FWD PR Manager. They handed the stage over to Elijah Sazhin who skilfully manages the UK Christian Charts process at the heart of A Step FWD with his dedicated team. The work involved in producing monthly listings across twelve categories is considerable, given the constantly increasing volume of song submissions (762 in the last 12 months) and meticulous labour-intensive process which ensues. Elijah expressed his appreciation for the co-operation of the artists he works with, welcoming the opportunity to meet many for the first time in person.
Next, Founder O’Neil Dennis (pictured in lead image), spoke candidly to the audience, sharing the vision and inspiration given which called him to found A Step FWD eight years ago to meet the growing needs of the UK Christian and Gospel music scene. Firstly, to provide artists with greater recognition and wider audience reach through establishing a dedicated chart system. Dennis outlined the challenging development of the chart process and how A Step FWD champions artists across the board, helping establish them by identifying their specific niche and genre. However, even more significantly, the aim of A Step FWD was and remains to bring together in unity all those blessed with a gifting for music which brings glory and praise to our wonderful Creator. Not stopping at the charts, Dennis subsequently felt prompted to continue growing the scope of the UK Christian music scene, raising its profile through the launch of the now annual Step FWD Awards. The first awards event last year was an unprecedented success, gaining international accolade and recognition, which he attributes to its scriptural underpinning principle of “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10. As the music industry is traditionally known for its fierce competitiveness, this is truly a testimony to the power of God’s Word in our lives.
Following the introduction of nominees in the first of a total of twelve categories with a visually impressive video overview of each song and artist, Rob Cates, Prophetic Worship Leader, was invited to take the stage. Rob continued to develop the theme identified by O’Neil emphasising the importance of working together and supporting each other, inspiring inclusivity instead of exclusivity. The incredible talent in the Christian and Gospel music scene is about to be more widely recognised in the mainstream and it is therefore more essential than ever to have a unified front as we form a part of the musical arm of the body of Christ with a powerful gospel message to share.
The event ended with a breath-taking live set by talented singer/songwriter Benjamin Haycock, familiar from his appearance on the Voice UK, who performed his single ‘Restlessness’ – a powerful tribute to his late Father. With many accolades to his name, Benjamin humbly attributes where he is today to his faith which has seen him through.
For the next two weeks we will continue to release reels showcasing the 127 nominees across twelve categories that have produced chart-topping songs. This is a celebration of the great diversity and incredible talent of artists with which we are blessed here in the UK Christian music scene.
Please make sure you are ready to vote for your favourite Song of the Year from the end of September. And don’t miss an opportunity to attend the black tie red carpet event which is Step FWD Awards 2022 to hear the results of the vote and an amazing line up of incredible talent. Book your place today.