It is a real thrill to announce that Steve Turner will deliver the keynote address for the first ever Hutchmoot UK in July 2019. Steve has a wealth of experience to share and the chance pick his brain over a few summer days in Oxford is incentive enough to come along for the fun.
But who is Steve Turner?
John & Yoko. Eric. Ray. Bruce. T-Bone. Bono. Judy. Jarvis. Beck. Jay. The list goes on. Steve has interviewed and profiled them all. He’s written acclaimed biographies of Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison, Johnny Cash, Jack Kerouac, Cliff Richard, and even the eight musicians that went down playing with the Titanic. He co-wrote the official book accompanying U2’s Rattle and Hum. But he’s been prolific on The Beatles, most recently with his excellent Beatles ‘66 about the watershed year in the band’s development.
He would hate to be reminded of this, but Steve Turner has been writing intelligently about music for over five decades. But this wasn’t how I first encountered his writing. That came about through his poetry, which a number of us were really into while at university in the early 90s. His verse was punchy and provocative, with a witty immediacy that evokes the Liverpool poets like Roger McGough or Brian Patten. Perhaps that’s not so surprising, as these guys were at the heart of the scene that gave birth to The Beatles in the first place. But none of that would have grabbed me at the time. It was the fact that Steve’s poems were provocatively theological.
I could wax lyrical, but for now, I recommend hunting these down:
- Lord, Lord
- If Jesus Was Born Today
- Tonight We Will Fake Love
- Dial-A-Poem Is Temporarily Out Of Order
- Old Soldier (Joseph Martin, 1883-1978)
- In the Interests of National Security
And I’ve not even mentioned his books of poetry for children! Bono was absolutely right when he wrote that “his verse is sharp and in focus; as vital as newspaper print and just as difficult to get off your hands.”
But there is a greater reason why many Christians involved in the arts feel so indebted to Steve.
Many—too many—have been part of church environments that ignore or even actively despise the arts. And Steve’s book Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts was a godsend for thousands when it came out nearly twenty years ago. I devoured it and have returned to it many times since.
In many ways, Steve does in print what Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri fellowships have been doing for many of us for decades: namely helping us to grow in discipleship integrity with the God-given gifts and passions we each have. It was from L’Abri, and then Steve, that I first learned to reject the unhelpful distinctions between high and low art, focusing instead on trying to distinguish between good and bad art (regardless of its medium or form). He put this into practice in his follow-up Popcultured: Thinking Christianly About Style, Media and Entertainment.
I had no idea before moving back to England to start working for a central London church that it would in fact be the same fellowship that Steve and his wife belonged to. It meant, however, that we were able to chat from time to time about all this stuff and he was a great encouragement. But quite apart from encouraging Rabbit Room readers to get into his writing (if you haven’t already), it will be great for all of us at Hutchmoot UK in Oxford this summer to have the chance to hang out with him.