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Interview: Josie Gamble, founder, Christian Creative Network and Directory

24 June 2022

‘Now, painted pebbles are all over the country, and people take them all over the world, and to people like Prince Charles and Tom Jones, to highlight childhood cancers’

Josie Gamble

Josie Gamble

Christian Creative Network champions creativity in the body of Christ. It’s a free, national, interdenominational network of local branches launched in 2017 in Wolverhampton. Now, seven more branches have launched, from Torquay to Durham, with two more coming online shortly. They bring people together for monthly meets, workshops, and events.

It’s for adult Christian creatives
actively pursuing dance, ceramics, sculpture, design, music, song writing, poetry, spoken word, drama, script, writing, textiles, fashion, painting, illustration, photography, film-making, animators, and more. It’s for freelancers, those in the creative industries, those getting back into it after a break, and skilled amateurs who need support taking the next step.

Most creatives share a similar journey
of having to beat impostor syndrome, learning how to price their work, how to go to the next level, to cross-pollinate ideas, support and equip each other.

The Directory shares the same vision,
but connects highly skilled creatives who follow the Evangelical Alliance statement of belief with secular businesses, churches, and charities that need them. We’ve just had our first birthday.

There are 215 services listed under seven categories:
artists and makers, design, written, marketing, media and interactive, sound, performance, and other services like mentoring and art therapy. It has every creative service you are looking for under one roof. You can search by service, keyword, location, or rating. Recently, Christians Against Poverty posted an opportunity for a Christian writer and illustrator to produce a book about poverty for children.

I joined a grass-roots local group, Networking Mummies,
when my third daughter started nursery, because I was working at home with my own business. It wasn’t for Christians, or specifically for creatives, but I was surprised how much I benefited from the friendships, and how my business grew; so I developed this model for the Church.

The Reformation Church forgot the value of creativity and the arts,
and now it’s playing catch-up with the world. This creative gap between Church and secular culture is painfully obvious, and it’s sparked a renewed interest in the arts and creativity. Many have referred to it as a renaissance of creativity.

As a graphic and web designer,
I know we can’t measure the influence of a brand’s language and tone in its communications, but these are vital. During lockdown, many churches resorted to videographers and technicians to reach people. We live in the most visually literate generation that’s ever lived, who have expectations of excellence and maybe don’t see it in Church. At a recent Christian Resources Exhibition, someone commented that something was “almost as bad as a church poster”.

I’d really like to design a product that is sold in the UK.
I’m halfway there, having redesigned food packaging that can be found on the shelves in supermarkets. It was for a Jamaican patty sold here for 50 years in cellophane packets. Now, new brands are competing with them, and they wanted supermarkets to stock their patty. Other brands have gone European, with light colours, but I stayed with the colours of the Jamaican flag: black, with bold red and green and orangey yellow, easily identifiable from a distance. I highlighted the 50 years on a postage-stamp image, keeping some elements for their old customer base, but making their unique selling point as leaders in the field visual and bold, and showing the patty through the packaging. I also had to incorporate all the information and instructions, making that look good, too. It’s exciting to solve these problems, and then go and purchase it from a shop.

Zechariah 1.21 says, “The craftsmen have come to wreak havoc
and inflict terror on the nations who own the horns, to strike down those who raised their horns before attacking Judah.” The idea of artisans and craftsmen striking fear into the enemy is amazing. One reason they terrify the enemy is because they influence all of culture and society. God can move through creativity in a way that we can’t predict or define. Ripping out the culture of Ukraine — that’s one way of taking over. For us to bring Kingdom culture, we need to do that creatively. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a Christian Arts Council, or a co-ordinated Christian response to things that influence policies and planning?

Creativity is my superpower for God.
Realising this doesn’t mean I’m doing crosses and doves in my work, but it’s very freeing. There are sections of the body of Christ who encourage creativity in worship amazingly, but there’s an underlying feeling of creativity being undervalued in itself. Few churches have a creative on their leadership team, or budget for creative work. It was the musicians who led the procession around Jericho. Use what God’s given you, and we could see a greater enabling of the move of God in this nation.

A photographer was so moved by the photo of Alan Kurdi
lying dead on a beach that he mounted a campaign to influence government policy. Then he ran a 15-week photography programme with young people after there was trouble locally, and some of them went on to study the arts. Islastones Foundation was started by a seven-year-old with terminal cancer hiding painted stones for her friends to find. Now, painted pebbles are all over the country, and people take them all over the world, and to people like Prince Charles and Tom Jones, to highlight childhood cancers. You couldn’t pay for that level of creativity to attract thousands of people, and we’ve got the biggest, best cause in the world: telling people about Jesus Christ.

I wanted to be an architect,
but, after my art foundation year, I studied industrial product design, known as Woods, Metals, and Plastics. I lectured for seven years at the University of Wolverhampton in Product and Interior Design, and then started my company, Gamble Designs, offering brand-design, web-design, and print-design services, design, and marketing consultation. I split my time between running the business and running the Christian Creative Network and Christian Creative Directory.

Before my degree, I was at Bible college.
Although I was excited about going to Wolverhampton University, I wondered about other universities, but then Tony Wastall, now my senior pastor, came to lecture at the college and shared how God had called him to start a church in Wolverhampton with three other couples.

My spirit leaped within me, and I thought, “That’s why I’m going to Wolverhampton,”
and I worked at LifeSpring Church two days a week as a youth pastor. It’s now the second largest church in Wolverhampton. We met first in a hotel, then in a university lecture hall, and then, nine years ago, we built a new church. We’ve expanded to a 500-seater auditorium, with offices, children’s rooms, car park, and kitchen, designed by a Christian architect. It’s lively, Charismatic, independent, affiliated with similar churches, and working with a group of other denominations in Wolverhampton — I designed their logo.

When I was five, my family moved from just outside of Bath
to Midsomer Norton, where my dad led a church-plant. I remember committing my life to God when I was five, and being baptised at seven. I really valued times at Bible weeks in summers, camping with our church family and mixing with other Christians, especially as our church was small, and there weren’t many young people.

My husband’s an artist as well as Vice-Principal of a college.
I love movies, and DIY. During lockdown, I discovered puzzles and gardening. I love the sound of my girls giggling.

My family make me happy.
We go to Devon for holidays, and one of our favourite places is Dawlish Warren, crabbing off the jetty.

I don’t like creatives’ being taken for granted and undervalued.
People don’t think twice about paying a plumber to fix a pipe, but often expect photography, social-media, art, and design skills to be given for free.

I’m hopeful that, as the value of creativity is restored,
we’ll see a generation of Kingdom creatives influencing UK culture like never before.

I pray each day that I’ll get done what needs to get done,
and, if things don’t get done this day, then they didn’t need to get done.

I’d like meet the prophet Zechariah,
and ask him about that verse about the artists and craftsmen.

Josie Gamble was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.



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