The Backstage Centre at Purfleet’s High House Production Park showcased a variety of local talent on Friday 19 September 2014.

The evening opened with a folk band called Wagga Moon. The three piece band is led by local teacher and singer-songwriter Phil Smith on acoustic guitar, with Neil Woodbridge on drums and Kevin Clements on bass.

The set was made up of a series of sings called Sound of the Lower Reaches. Their inspiration is drawn from the places along the River Thames, local characters, and the stories and ghosts that they leave behind. The lyrics explored such themes as murder, forced marriage, and a wedding where the bride wore scarlet.

The next act was ‘justsomeguy’, aka Steve Lawton. These days Steve lives in Colchester where he and his wife Tina facilitate a 24-7 Prayer Boiler Room. But his formative years were spent in Thurrock, and he was baptised in what was Grays Pentecostal Church in Bridge Road.

Steve is a spoken word poet, performing his own work which reflects upon his early love of drum’n’bass rapping; love for his wife; and stories of the young offenders he has worked with.

Steve is now part of a ‘poetry slam’ group called ‘justsomepoetry’ (which can find on Facebook).

Third on stage were Sensation Smith, a twosome featuring another singer-songwriter and guitarist, Gareth Marsh, who teaches music around the borough. Backing vocalist Holly is currently studying at university in Canterbury. Both are former worship band members at Grays Baptist Church, and Gareth has a wide range of experience working with young people in churches and the community, including St Margaret’s Stanford-le-Hope, Pure and the Tilbury Youth Centre.

Gareth sang about superheroes, feminism – and declared a love of subatomic particles! The set closed with a song about death and murder.

The evening ended with Funky Voices, a local community choir of 70 people of all ages which practices at the High House Production Park.

Funky Voices are an upbeat fun-filled group who enjoy their music. The choir has produced two albums with a third being recorded this month, all available via iTunes. Their repertoire of modern ballads bought a foot-tapping end to the evening.

Backstage galleryThey meet on Thursdays in the High House Barns on the site and welcome new members (see Facebook for details).

The whole event was preceded by a display of artwork by artists from the High House Artists’ Studios. Some 20 pieces were shown in a ‘pop-up gallery’ in the Backstage Centre’s upper foyer. Thurrock’s Mayor, Cllr Steve Liddiard attended (right). Included in the exhibition were artworks by John Espin and Tim Harrold, and photos by Dennis Brockhurst. All have rooms in the High House Artists’ Studios.

The studios were open over the weekend as part of the 2014 Thurrock Art Trail.