The Message Trust has its roots in a week-long youth event that took place at the Manchester Apollo in 1988, Message ’88.
Founder and current CEO Andy Hawthorne together with his businessman brother Simon felt stirred to present the Christian gospel message relevantly to the young people of Manchester and organised a week of mission gigs at the Apollo. Message ‘88 attracted over 20,000 young people to hear live performances by bands and artists and a presentation of the gospel message.
A repeat run in 1989 attracted similar numbers and led to the brothers being approached by a member of one of the bands involved about forming a full-time youth mission to schools.
‘Message to Schools’ was the result, formed with the express purpose of taking the gospel to young people in schools through hip hop and dance music.
‘I am continually impressed by their passion and total commitment to improving the lives of young people, particularly in areas of severe deprivation’ – Michael Oglesby, Chairman, Bruntwood and former High Sheriff of Greater Manchester
A band was formed to run the schools weeks, dubbed the World Wide Message Tribe and later shortened to simply The Tribe. Demand for the band to play in schools and further afield quickly increased and the Tribe went on to record albums which brought international success and critical acclaim.
The Tribe disbanded in 2004, but The Message’s schools work multiplied with new full-time bands, LZ7, BlushUK (until 2010) and Twelve24, and theatre company In Yer Face working in high schools in and around the Greater Manchester area.
The Genetik course (formerly Xcelerate) was launched in 2001 to pass on the DNA of the bands to young people who wished to be trained in creative schools work and urban evangelism. In 2006, a new £1m facility was opened with studios and rehearsal rooms to support the course. The Genetik Academy also serves as a resource to local schools and colleges.
Eden and Eden Bus
Continuing the sharp focus on Manchester, and particularly the toughest areas and estates of the city, Andy Hawthorne and team began to have a vision to see Christians moving into these areas to live and work, supporting local churches particularly to reach young people. This initiative was named Eden, and the first Eden partnership was launched in 1997. Others followed and today there are nineteen active partnerships in key areas of urban challenge in Greater Manchester, London, the North East and Yorkshire.
An Eden Bus ministry was launched in early 2000, to extend The Message’s reach into local communities. Two mobile youth centres, fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and staffed by committed volunteers, visit some of Manchester’s most deprived neighbourhoods, working with around 500 young people a week.
‘Message 2000’ and ‘Festival:Manchester’ Festivals
In the summer of 2000, The Message partnered with another Christian youth charity, Soul Survivor, to run an ambitious city-wide youth mission, Message 2000. Around 10,000 young Christian volunteers worked in partnership with Greater Manchester churches on social, environmental and crime reduction projects. The project was hailed as a massive success, not least because during the 10 days of work in one estate, Swinton Valley, there were no recorded incidence of crime. Since the summer of 2000, police have reported a sustained reduction in crime.
In the summer of 2003, The Message partnered with the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association, to put on another week-long city-wide venture, Festival:Manchester. Over 5,000 young people got involved in a total of 317 local community projects, many in association with the Greater Manchester Police. Around 55,000 people from across Manchester attended the open-air festival that took place in Heaton Park the following weekend.
This model of ‘words and deeds’ evangelism which characterised both Message 2000 and Festival:Manchester continued in the ‘Big Deal’, ‘Hope 08’ and ‘Shine Your Light’ initiatives.
Supported by police, schools and councillors, Big Deal and Hope 08 brought together local communities to deliver social action and community-building projects in the ten boroughs that make up Greater Manchester. These range from environmental clean-ups, painting, car washes, barbecues, children’s activities, fun days and youth concerts.
‘Shine Your Light’ was a national ‘grassroots’ campaign which challenged young people to complete 15 specific acts of kindness in their local communities during the summer of 2010. LZ7 scored a UK Singles Chart hit in October 2010 with the campaign’s theme song This Little Light.
Originally started as a partnership with Youth For Christ, Reflex is The Message’s ministry in prisons across the North West of England. Reflex works mainly with young offenders between the ages of 18 and 21 but they also work with juvenile offenders aged 17 and under. Their work spans first-contact detached work on the prison wings through to help with resettlement back into the community.
You can read more about the history of The Message and Eden in the following books available from our Online Store: