Contributors 2019

Head and shoulders of Columba on yeloow background with Black and Blue text

ColumbaFest, weeWONDERBOX’s flagship urban festival, returns to Glasgow city centre on June 7-9th, 2019.

The theme is ‘Wandering + Wondering’. Below are details of our lovely Contributors.

Here are the full Programme details.


Ashton Lane

have a romantic back-story and come from fine musical stock. They are husband and wife duo, Esther and Tim O’Connor, and they are part of a new wave of homegrown modern country music originating in Scotland and the UK.

They are seasoned festival players, having performed at the famous Country 2 Country festival in London, the Isle Of Wight Festival, McEwan’s Party At The Palace and many more, as well as receiving nominations in two categories at the BCMAs (British Country Music Awards) for best duo and best song … and have scored both single and album no.1’s in the UK country charts.

They have a unique relationship with their audience, including previewing some of their brand new songs via their highly popular Kitchen Sessions (over 1.6 million views and counting) and a distinctive collaborative practice, in which they write songs with their fans.

‘More country music should sound like this.’ – Americana UK

‘They have a talent for penning catchy, radio-friendly country hits.’ – The Scotsman (Artist of the Week)

‘Lady Antebellum are Nashville’s answer to Ashton Lane, if you want my opinion.’ – Baylen Leonard (Radio 2/ Chris Country)

‘It’s clear from the title track that you are listening to something special …’ – The Sunday Express

‘Esther has the best voice heard in some time. And a fine set of songs to show it off.’ – The Herald

‘She (Esther) flits effortlessly between husky poppiness to soulful, stripped down and spine-tingling.’ – The List

Breathe You In is one of those songs I loved on first hearing. The close harmonies throughout coupled with the almost-bluegrass instrumentation mixed into a modern country feel had me hooked straight away.’ – Allan Watkiss, UK Country Radio

‘Fresh, self-assured and original – Esther’s music just makes you happy to be alive. What a great new talent.’ – Jeremy Vine (BBC Radio 2)

This is Ashton Lane (video)

Booking and media enquires

Stuart Barrie

… describes himself thus:

‘I was born in Govan in1944 (Cod-liver oil and orange juice).

Retired after working 45 years in aero engineering (Rolls Royce).

I never liked engineering, but it paid the bills, however I was a shop steward for 35 years, I enjoyed that. What I like is, writing poetry, walking my dogs, and prodding the powerful. I like laughing.’

Stuart is one of the 4 Rolls Royce workers who defied Chile’s Pinochet regime and whose story is featured in the 2018 film, Nae Paseran, which we will be showing at ColumbaFest.

John L. Bell

… is a preacher, hymnwriter, composer, lecturer and broadcaster and resource worker with the Wild Goose Resource Group of the Iona Community. He is a past convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Panel on Worship and the committee that produced the ground-breaking Church Hymnary 4. In 1999, he was honoured by the Presbyterian Church of Canada and the Royal School of Church Music which bestowed a Fellowship on him. In 2002, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow. In 2013, he was awarded the Community of Christ International Peace Award.

John has produced many collections of liturgy, scripts, sermons and reflections, original hymns and songs, most of which are published by Wild Goose Publications and by GIA Publications in North America. He lectures in theological colleges in Britain and the US, but is primarily concerned with the renewal of congregational worship at grass roots level.

John hails from Kilmarnock and like Johnnie Walker, the ubiquitous creator of the world-wide whisky, John shares an affection for colourfully, distinctive dressing (without the top hat, red coat, white britches and black knee-length boots).

Pat Bennett

… is a Member of the Iona Community, but also works for them as their Programmes Development Worker, and as such is closely involved with weeWONDERBOX. A relative newcomer to Glasgow, one of her ways of getting to know the city has been by walking through it exploring its art and architecture, and tracing its historical and cultural webs. A liturgist and hymn writer, she is a long standing contributor to Wild Goose Publications and loves singing, dancing, laughing and malt whisky – the smokier the better!

Bill’s Ministry of Magic

… is Bill Wishart, a 53-year-old Church of Scotland Minister who never grew up. Fascinated by magic from an early age by the likes of Ali Bongo and Paul Daniels, he first performed it when his oldest son got a magic set for his birthday. When his son left the set lying around Bill began to play with some of the tricks and the rest, as they say, is history. Bill’s Ministry of Magic was born around 15 years ago and Bill has performed in many places in Scotland and overseas. He is a member of West Lothian Magic Circle and Christian Magicians UK and is the current holder of the West Lothian Magic Circle’s trophy for Children’s Magic. Bill has worked with the Church of Scotland overseas and as a Deacon for 23 years, but his first role with the church was in 1982/83 as a Youth Volunteer with the Iona Community in Leven and Ruchazie. He’s delighted to be taking part in Columba Fest as it feels like ‘coming home’.

Iain Campbell standing in front of his Last Supper paintingI.D. Campbell

… is a Glasgow based portrait painter and is an Affiliate Artist of the UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts. He is artist-in-residence at St. George’s Tron Church of Scotland in Glasgow, where he is working on a three-year project: painting the Gospel of Luke in a contemporary, Glasgow context. Iain is best known for his painting, Our Last Supper, featuring thirteen guests of Glasgow City Mission.

Alex Clare-Young

We’d previously advertised that Alex would be contributing to ColumbaFest. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, this won’t now be the case. However, we hope we’ll have Alex at either next year’s ColumbaFest or another weeWONDERBOX event.

The ColumbaFest Collective

… are a random assortment of musical oddities, drawn from the ranks of the organisers and disorganisers of ColumbaFest and 14 of their their disreputable associates.

‘Remarkable … quite remarkable. The 234th worst band in the world (or at least Scotland). They get better with every chord progression.’ – The People’s Friend

‘Their unique, one-chord approach is unparalleled.’ – Mies Van Der Rohe

Luke Devlin

… is a human ecologist & scholar-activist. Music, community, radical theology, world friend. Luke is a member of the Glasgow Catholic Worker apostolate, director of the Centre for Human Ecology and a doctoral researcher at the Intercultural Research Centre at Heriot-Watt University, researching the cultural and religious heritage and human ecology of the river Clyde. He specialises in participatory action research and community empowerment, with a background in faith-based community development and crisis response inspired by liberation theology.

K. Stellar Dutcher

… in their own words: “I was born in California in 1986. Since then I have spent good portions of my 32 years asking questions, laughing, and learning a tiny fraction of what it means to be a human.

… Music has been in me for as long as I can remember. Over the last twenty years I’ve moved between many instruments, and somewhere along the line I learned how to let my voice sing. I’ve essentially never stopped playing since I heard that first call. Music is everywhere, all the time, and I’m continually in love with the process of learning how to hear it.

To be alive is a gift. While a recipient of that gift, I want to spend my time sharing songs, inspiring reflection, and inducing action in the direction of a healthier planet and more healed world. Our moment is one of painful and beautiful awakening. I’m here to help us learn how to face the ways we’re complicit in the state of the world, and lean more on each other as we work to usher in the next phases of human life on Earth.

head & shoulders of woman against white backgroundKathy Galloway

… is a practical theologian, writer and activist. She has worked for Christian Aid and Church Action on Poverty and is once again working for the Iona Community.

She is the author of a dozen books on justice issues, spirituality and poetry and her writings have been widely anthologised.


Doug Gay

… Glasgow-based Gallovian,  Lecturer in Practical Theology (Theology & Religious Studies) at the University Of Glasgow, writer, alternative worship activist, singer-songwriter.

The Glasgow Fiddle Workshop

… come together regularly to offer classes teaching a variety of musical instruments and song, at all levels of expertise, mainly through the medium of traditional Scottish music.

Gareth Higgins

… comes from Belfast but now lives in North Carolina with his husband, college chaplain and spiritual director, Brian Ammons. He is co-founder of the Wild Goose Festival, the New Story Festival and Movies & Meaning, as well as The Porch Magazine. He leads retreats in Ireland and the US, and is also the author or co-author of six books, including his recent project with Brian McLaren, ‘The Seventh Story: Us, Them and the End Of Violence’. He has a long relationship with and affection for Wild Goose and the Iona community, and is delighted to be with us for Columbafest.

Mary Ann Kennedy + Finlay Wells

Update: Friday 7th. Sadly, Mary Ann has suddenly become unwell and so will not be able to perform tonight.

She is – as we are – very disappointed that she won’t be able to make ColumbaFest this year.

We wish her a speedy recovery.

Brought up in Glasgow, Mary Ann Kennedy, widely known for her outstanding musical collaborations and broadcasting career, will perform songs from her new album, Glaschu.

‘These songs are the story of the Gaels in Glasgow before me, but it’s the also the story of every new arrival community in any city the world over – the themes are universal.’

A vibrant collection of vignettes, from the city’s main artery, the River Clyde, to street-life and markets, social deprivation and religious tension, and traditional Scottish sport and play.

Delivered with spirit, feeling and laughter, Glaschu tells the story of growing up as an urban Gael and revels in the wit and vivid songwriting of some of the great Glaswegian Gaels.

‘Mary Ann Kennedy is one of the finest interpreters of Gaelic song and an inspiring and vital force on the traditional Scots music scene.’ – Songlines Magazine

‘This is one from the heart… which finely expresses her commitment to Gaelic song as an ongoing culture.’ – Jim Gilchrist, The Scotsman

Mary Ann is joined on stage by guitarist and long-time musical partner, Finlay Wells (Coast).

Finlay (Coast, Sorren MacLean) is one of the finest guitar players on the scene, gaining plaudits from the likes of producer, Jerry Boys. He has collaborated with Mary Ann for many years, on projects such as the Campbells of Greepe and Mary Ann’s debut album, An Dàn, developing a unique and highly intuitive style of accompanying Gaelic song that draws on his background in pop, rock and jazz.

Watercolour Music (Mary Ann Kennedy)

Nutshell Music (Finlay Wells)

Seinn, Horo Seinn

Woman head and shoulders against statueDebbie Lewer

… is Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Glasgow. She writes and teaches on art in Europe and is a specialist in 20th-century German art.

She is fascinated by the rich, complex and sometimes fraught relationship between art and Christianity in the past and today.

Outside the University Debbie is a regular speaker and workshop leader on art and faith in churches, on retreats, at festivals and in theological colleges across the UK.

Jo Love

… Wild Goose resource worker, pedagogue, arts worker, critical questioner, inveterate journal keeper and articulator of incisive observations.  Jo is an ordained Deacon of the Church of Scotland and a Member of the Iona Community.  She worked for several years in urban parishes, with much involvement in youth and children’s work, faith exploration and enabling creativity in worship. She then qualified in primary teaching before being enticed from the classroom into her post with WGRG.

smiling womans head and shouldersCarol Marples

Carol is the artist for the Soul Marks trust. She has created installations for a wide variety of spaces from tents to cathedrals, from school halls to conferences halls. Carol has recently completed her doctoral study researching ‘Examples of Liturgical Installation Art in Worship in Scotland and England from the 1980s onwards.’

Graham Maule

… Wild Goose resource worker, Glaswegian, artist, designer, creator, occasional singer and copyright bore.

Interested in imagining and researching space, place, sign, symbol, song, performance and the event of ritual in art, politics and society and its importance for lay training and committed engagement.

His passions are participative worship, biblical exploration, creative reflection and innovative lay adult education, training and involvement in liturgy.

Ian head and shoulders - Dr Ian Milligan, Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children (CELCIS)Ian Milligan

… is a 64-year old survivor member of a small group of believers called BERT (which is Scotland’s oldest and most admirable Base Christian Community – ED ) who meet in each other’s homes of a Monday night for worship, bits of business, meals and what not. They have been doing this for nearly 40 years in East Pollokshields. Ian has been protesting/ witnessing outside Faslane nuclear base for even longer.

He has lots of friends in, and shared interests with, Iona community-types/ reprobates (a well-known Scottish church / psychologically deviant classification – ED). Ian started off as a socially-engaged, radical evangelical, a small niche even then, but has been shedding labels along the way. Currently much influenced and encouraged by Richard Rohr. He thinks he ought to be doing contemplation … but it is difficult.

Mike Mineter

Mike visited the Holy Land on three occasions: in 2015, 2016 and 2017,  and in the last visit joined the International Conference of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, based in Jerusalem and in Nazareth. His day job is in a research group studying climate science. He is a member of the Iona Community, a sea kayaker, and an exasperated supporter of Manchester United.

Pádraig Ó Tuama

… is a poet and theologian based in Belfast. From 2014-2019, he was the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation witness dedicated to transforming conflict through human encounter. Pádraig’s interests encompass poetry, religion, conflict and storytelling. His work has been published by Canterbury Press (2012, 2013, 2017) and Hodder (2015) and has received critical acclaim from circles of poetry, psychology and religion. In 2011, he, with his partner Paul Doran, founded the Tenx9 storytelling project , a project that has spread to fourteen cities across Europe, Australia and North America.

(Photo: Joran Martin Johansen /Vikna-foto)

Alison Phipps

… is UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow and Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies.

She is Co-Convener of Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNET). She was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Waikato University, Aotearoa New Zealand 2013-2016, Thinker in Residence at the EU Hawke Centre, University of South Australia in 2016, Visiting Professor at Auckland University of Technology, and Principal Investigator for AHRC Large Grant ‘Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the body, law and the state’ and now co-Director of the Global Challenge Research Fund South South Migration Hub.

She is an academic, activist and published poet and a member of the Iona Community.

Alison Phipps, University Of Glasgow

Scott Robertson

… has been a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church for almost 30 years. He currently serves the congregation of St. Margaret of Scotland in Newlands on the south side of Glasgow. When not doing the day job, Scott is interested in the interface between literature and theology, and in supporting the Reds at Anfield.


Rachel & Craig Smillie

… Rachel spends all waking hours tending the needs of the good ship Glad Cafe. Craig is a gentleman of leisure, whose pastimes include painting, caterwauling and wrestling with a fiddle.

Kenneth Steven

We regret to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances and at the last minute, Kenneth Steven is no longer able to be with us at ColumbaFest.

Kenneth was due to be contributing on Sunday but now that’s not possible.

While this is a disappointment, we’ll be seeing if we can get Kenneth to come and do something at another point in the future – either at ColumbaFest next year or at a stand-alone weeWONDERBOX event.

Lina Toth

… is Lecturer in Practical Theology and Assistant Principal at the Scottish Baptist College in Paisley.

A musician, translator and composer as well as a theologian, Lina was born in Lithuania whilst it was still under the Soviet Union. Before joining the College in 2014, she had spent a number of years studying and working at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague in the Czech Republic, where she caught the ‘bug’ for music and stories from different cultures and countries.

She is currently working on a collection and translation of faith songs from different corners of Europe.

Scottish Baptist College

Graham Whitehead

… is Railway Mission Chaplain for Southern and Central Scotland.

An (admirably) proud Lancastrian, he has lived in Scotland for 32 years, having gone up to St Andrews as a mature student and only ever gone back to visit. Married for 28 years with three children, the youngest 18, he says he’s been a Christian since May 1988 (“… sitting on the floor outside William Low’s supermarket in St Andrews eating chips, just don’t ask”). Baptised as a Methodist, confirmed in the Church of England, he has worshipped in the Church of Scotland, the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and – for the last 14 years – at Stirling Baptist Church.

For 25 years he was a professional railwayman, as a Conductor, Driver and Timetable Planner. In 2016, he studied Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care at the Scottish Baptist College. Following the emigration of one of the chaplains employed by the Railway Mission, he joined the Mission as Chaplain for Glasgow and the West of Scotland, retiring from the railway almost exactly 25 years after he joined it.

Martin Wroe

… fell into journalism while studying theology and ended up on the staff of the Independent and later The Observer. He has had longtime collaborations with the arts festival Greenbelt, the human rights NGO Amos Trust and the band U2.

He and his partner Meg have been slouching towards Iona every year for the past thirty.

A sometime contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day and volunteer priest in the Church of England, he was late to understand that religions are poems and tries to write one most days. His recent book Lifelines, written with Malcolm Doney, is a collection of Notes on Life & Love, Faith & Doubt.