Keswick Convention

Keswick Convention Trust

Keswick Ministries is the operational name for The Keswick Convention Trust
Founded 1875
Founder Rev T D Harford-Battersby, Robert Wilson
Type Registered as a British charity and a private company, limited by guarantee with no share capital
Focus To promote Bible teaching at an annual Convention in Keswick and on other occasions with the aim of encouraging holy and Biblical life styles.
Coordinates 54°36′03″N 3°07′44″W / 54.600833°N 3.128889°W / 54.600833; -3.128889 (Convention Centre, Skiddaw St)
54°36′10″N 3°08′27″W / 54.6028727°N 3.1407246°W / 54.6028727; -3.1407246 (Rawnsley Centre)
Area served
Key people
John Risbridger (Chairman)[1]
Jonathan Lamb (CEO)
Simon Overend (Ops Manager)
Steve Adam (Hon Treasurer)
Increase £ 2,052,152 (2015)[2]
600 (during Convention weeks)
Slogan Hearing - Becoming - Serving

The Keswick Convention is an annual gathering of evangelical Christians in Keswick, in the English county of Cumbria.


The Keswick Convention began in 1875 as a focal point for the Higher Life movement in the United Kingdom. It was founded by an Anglican, Canon T. D. Harford-Battersby, and a Quaker, Robert Wilson. They held the first Keswick Convention in a tent on the lawn of St John's vicarage, Keswick, beginning with a prayer meeting on the evening of Monday, 28 June. During the conference—which continued till Friday morning—over 400 people attended uniting under the banner of "All One in Christ Jesus"—which is still the convention's watchword.

Robert Pearsall Smith, a Quaker turned Plymouth Brethren[3] probably influenced the Convention's use of the American term "convention", rather than the British "conference". During the same time period, D. L. Moody—the New England evangelist—also employed the same term to denote a special Christian gathering.[4]

Among the Keswick Convention's early notable speakers were the Anglicans J. W. Webb-Peploe, Evan Henry Hopkins, E. W. Moore, William Haslam, W. Hay, M. H. Aitken and Handley Moule, as well as the South-African reformed pastor Andrew Murray and a Baptist, Frederick Brotherton Meyer. The founder of the China Inland Mission, Hudson Taylor, also spoke; and in response Amy Carmichael decided to dedicate her life to missions.

In 1903 at the convention, Barclay Fowell Buxton and Paget Wilkes founded the Japan Evangelistic Band. The convention also influenced John George Govan, who later founded The Faith Mission in Scotland; and the highly influential post-war Scripture Union worker, E. J. H. Nash, valued the Keswick Convention and considered R. A. Torrey his theological mentor.

It was Stephen Olford who introduced Billy Graham to the Keswick message at a Keswick Convention in 1946. Graham wrote in his autobiography, Just As I Am, that this teaching came to him as a second blessing.

At the 1965 convention, the Rev. John Stott, Rector of All Souls, Langham Place, gave the week's Bible readings on Paul's epistle to the Romans, chapters 5 to 8. His exposition of chapter 6, in particular concerning "death to sin", is now regarded[5] as a key watershed in recent Keswick teaching, departing from the approach taken to this passage in earlier years. Price and Randall state that "more than thirty years on the so called traditional Keswick stance on Romans 6 would now hardly ever be heard from the Keswick platform".[5]

In 1969 a second week was added to the programme, this taking the form of a "Holiday Convention" giving more free time for visitors to enjoy the local area. In 1975 the centenary celebrations were held, with the highlight being an address by Billy Graham before some 15,000 people gathered at the town's Crow Park on the shores of Derwentwater.

A new building, Keswick Convention Centre was opened on 12 July 1987, on the site in Skiddaw Street. The rear of the roof becomes a point of support for the tent erected for each year's convention event. The following year during the second convention week, the tent was destroyed in a storm on the Monday night. Two days later a replacement tent had been acquired and erected and the programme was able to be resumed as normal.

In order to extend the range of activities undertaken, Rawnsley Hall, formerly part of the Keswick School, was purchased by the Convention Trust in 1997. This is located about 10 minutes walk from the Convention Centre and now forms the focal point for all the older children's and youth work.

In January 2000, a position statement was issued by the Convention Council to address the question as to how Keswick see its role in the 21st century. The following specific goals were set out:

In 2001 in response to a demand for additional capacity notably for families and younger people a third week was added.

Keswick Ministries was established in 2003 with the aim of taking the Bible teaching ministry at the Convention to a wider audience both nationally and internationally throughout the year using the many and varied forms of media available.

Modern format


Keswick Convention is run by Keswick Ministries, the operational name for Keswick Convention Trust. The charity exists to promote bible teaching at the annual convention with the aim of encouraging holy and biblical life styles. Trustees are drawn from a number of Christian organisations and denominations but on a personal basis only not as sponsored or in delegated roles. The Trust employs a full-time operations manager and a small number of permanent staff, based at the Convention Centre. During the convention event itself a heavy reliance is placed on recruiting volunteers to join the various support teams.

During 2013 the Council decided to create a new post of Chief Executive Officer who would be responsible for the development of the Convention, the wider work of Keswick Ministries, the use of the two sites and the strategic partnerships. Jonathan Lamb, a previous chairman of the Council, was subsequently appointed as the first CEO and minister-at-large, commencing 5 May 2014.[6]

Convention weeks' format

In the 21st century, the annual convention is still centred in a large purpose-built tent erected over a concrete showground with audio-visual facilities to aid praise and teaching. The venue is entered via the Convention Centre: a narrow two-storey block containing offices, a small shop etc., which fronts the site on Skiddaw Street. Additionally, events (including the main youth activities) take place around Keswick chiefly in the convention's other venue, its own Rawnsley Centre, but also in local churches and meeting halls. The aggregate attendance over the three weeks in 2015 was 12,000.

The convention comprises three consecutive weeks in July and finally ending on the first Friday in August. Each week has its own presenters, speakers and musicians, but to a common theme. The weekly pattern starts with the opening meeting on Saturday evening and concludes with the Communion and celebration service on Friday evening. A major feature of each week is the morning Bible readings running from Monday to Friday. These consist of a series of expositions, usually from one book of the Bible, given by the principal guest speaker for that week. Each week covers a different part of the Bible. Other invited speakers cover related topics in the evening meetings, seminars and book cafe events.

The event does not charge any admission or registration fee but relies on voluntary donations to meet expenditure. Visitors to the convention find their own accommodation in the town, either in hotels, B&Bs, self-catering properties, or on one of a number of caravan or camping sites nearby. The campsite at Crosthwaite is run as a trading subsidiary of the trust.

Media and publications

All meetings in the main tent are recorded on video and audio formats. A compilation CD of the year's praise and worship is released each Autumn. Talks from the Keswick Convention are broadcast weekly on a Christian radio station, Trans World Radio, as part of the Keswick Programme hosted by Trevor Newman.

The convention publishes, in December, a Year Book in paperback format giving a selection of the teaching from that year's events. Other books are also published throughout the year featuring Keswick speakers and topics.

BBC Radio 4 has broadcast from the Convention for its Sunday Worship programme on a number of occasions in recent years.

Keswick Youth and Children

Keswick Youth is a parallel program within the main event, offering a range of Bible teaching and activities for those aged 11–18 years.[7] There is also a children's programme during each week of the Convention.

Root 66 is a part of Keswick Ministries delivering all year round training for youth and children's ministry to churches at the local level throughout the United Kingdom.

Other events

The Keswick Convention hosts two shorter "Bible Weeks" (Spring and Autumn) and other events throughout the year. Related to, but not directly managed by the convention, there are up to 20 "Keswick-style" events which take place over the year in various towns and cities in the United Kingdom. The convention also has close links with Word Alive which takes place in Spring in North Wales.

The Derwent Project

In May 2015, it was reported that the site of Keswick’s former pencil factory would become the new base for the Convention. Keswick Ministries announced that it had completed a deal to buy the site from local businessman Keith Graham, of Pelican Ventures Ltd.[8] The site is adjacent to the existing Rawnsley site and Simon Overend, operations manager, said that the idea of a single integrated site is very attractive and will allow the Convention to grow even further and give flexibility over both sites. The move has been generally welcomed by townsfolk and Allerdale borough council. Keswick town councillor Tony Lywood commented that he very much welcomed the sale to Keswick Ministries, which is an idea that he had promoted for a long time, as it would solve so many issues for both Keswick and the Keswick Convention. The pencil museum will still remain on the site, which was vacated by the Cumberland Pencil Co in 2008 when it relocated to a new facility in Workington. Previously, planners had wanted to see the pencil factory premises retained for industrial use.

The subsequent launch of “The Derwent Project” was one of the high spots over the three weeks of the 2015 Convention. The project aims to raise £5 million over the next three years. Most of the funds needed relate to the costs of acquiring the new site, demolishing the derelict buildings, improving access on foot and by car, and landscaping the combined sites to make them ready for an enlarged and integrated summer Convention in 2017. There are also plans to improve facilities on the site so that new activities can be developed for other times of the year. Jonathan Lamb, CEO, added that there are currently no immediate plans to dispose of the Skiddaw Street site at which the main meetings are currently held since this site will be needed to sustain the Convention’s operations for the next year or two. However, in the future, he recognised that the site might be developed for alternative purposes compatible with the locality.[9]

Further details released during 2016 are that the project will feature a main building, an all year round 400-seat auditorium plus up to six "break out" en suite rooms and accommodation for 60 people. There will also be a dining area, toilets and an integrated space for the siting of the main convention tent and associated marquees.[10] Updates during the 2016 Convention confirmed that the site had in fact been purchased during 2015 by another Christian trust (The Lind Trust) on behalf of the Convention. The requirement is to repay The Lind Trust £3m by September 2018. Jonathan Lamb reported that the overall expenditure was now expected to be nearer £7m.[11]

Convention themes and Bible reading speakers

From 1978 the annual ministry book published each December has taken the title of the convention theme for that year (although only since 1991 has the convention itself been given a specific theme in the pre-publicity). In addition to the main speakers listed below, each week has up to 16 other speakers covering seminars, evening celebrations and afternoon events. A full list of all speakers for the years 1875 to 1996 is given in Maurice Rowlandson's book.[12]

Year Theme Week 1 Week 2 Week 3
1978The Gospel, The Spirit, The ChurchJohn StottDick Lucas
1979The Lord is KingAlec MotyerEric Alexander
1980The People and the KingDonald EnglishBp John B.Taylor
1981Purity and PowerDick LucasAlan Flavelle
1982Walking with the KingAlec MotyerPhilip Hacking
1983Living the LightRichard FranceDavid Jackman
1984God's Very Own PeopleDonald EnglishStuart Briscoe
1985Giving God the GloryEric AlexanderMichael Baughen
1986Rebuilding The FoundationsDick LucasKeith Weston
1987New Beginnings, Old PathsRaymond BrownDavid Jackman
1988Real People - Real FaithDonald EnglishStuart Briscoe
1989Servants of the KingPhilip HackingChuck Smith
1990Looking To JesusMichael BaughenCharles Price
1991The Kingdom, Power and the GloryR.T.KendallRoy Clements
1992The Cross and the CrownDerick BinghamRaymond Brown
1993Dangerous FaithDonald EnglishAlistair Begg
1994The Whole Family of GodPhilip HackingJim Graham
1995The Light of His ComingAlec MotyerRoy Clements
1996Clean HandsMichael WilcockStuart Briscoe
1997A Voice in the WildernessMichael BaughenCharles Price
1998Truth on FireChris WrightAlistair Begg
1999Deep ImpactDon CarsonNigel Lee
2000One Lord, One Church, One TaskJohn StottJonathan Lamb
2001A Different DrumbeatMichael BaughenSteve GaukrogerStuart Briscoe
2002Learning Together as God's Royal FamilyBruce MilneLiam GoligherSteve Brady
2003From Base Camp To SummitJoseph StowellCharles PriceVaughan Roberts
2004Out of Control?Alistair BeggJonathan LambDerek Tidball
2005The Glory of the GospelSinclair FergusonSteve GaukrogerDominic Smart
2006The Church in the Power of the SpiritChris WrightAjith FernandoVaughan Roberts
2007Unshackled ? Living in Outrageous GraceAlec MotyerSteve BradyIan Coffey
2008Creation, Chaos & ChristDavid CookLiam GoligherCharles Price
2009Faith that WorksDale Ralph DaviesJonathan LambVaughan Roberts
2010Christ-centred RenewalDon CarsonPaul MallardAlistair Begg
2011Word to the WorldAjith FernandoChris WrightPeter Maiden
2012Going the DistanceSimon ManchesterSteve BradyJeremy McQuoid
2013The Transforming TrinityCharles PriceJohn LennoxSteve Gaukroger
2014Really? Searching for reality in a confusing worldVaughan RobertsJonathan LambChris Sinkinson
2015The Whole of Life for ChristJohn RisbridgerPaul MallardLiam Goligher
2016Power to changeSimon ManchesterSteve BradyDavid Jackman
2017*Captivated hearing God's WordDon CarsonAlistair BeggIvor Poobalan

(* as planned)

List of chairmen

Convention(s) Chairman
1875–1882Canon T. Dundas Harford-Battersby
1883–1889Henry Francis Bowker
1890–1900Robert Wilson
1901Albert Head / General Hatt-Noble / The Rev Francis Paynter (shared)
1902Albert Head / Capt F.L. Tottenham (shared)
1917(no convention)
1918–1920Canon John Battersby-Harford
1921–1924W.H. Wilson
1925–1929The Rev John Stuart Holden
1930–1932R.B. Stewart
1933–1935J.M. White
1936–1939The Rev William H. Aldis
1940–1941(no convention)
1942–1943The Rev E.L. Langston (held in London churches)
1944(no convention)
1945The Rev E.L. Langston (held in Westminster Chapel)
1946–1947The Rev William H. Aldis
1948–1951Fred Mitchell
1952–1969The Rev Alfred Thomas (Tim) Houghton
1970–1974The Rev John A. Caiger
1975Canon A.T. Houghton (acting chairman)
1976–1984Canon Alan S. Neech
1985–1993The Rev Philip H. Hacking
1994–1996The Rev Keith A.A. Weston
1997–2000Jonathan Lamb
2001–2009Peter Maiden
2010–2011Jonathan Lamb
2012–presentJohn Risbridger



  1. "News John Risbridger takes over as Keswick Convention Chairman". Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  2. Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2015, Keswick Convention Trust, 3 August 2016
  3. Whitall Smith, Hannah (2013). The God Of All Comfort. Barbour Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 9781620297636. Retrieved 2014-06-19.
  4. Pollock, J. C. (1964). The Keswick Story—The Authorised History of the Keswick Convention. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  5. 1 2 Price, Charles & Randall, Ian, Transforming Keswick, page 244, OM Publishing, Carlisle, Cumbria, 2000. ISBN 978-1-85078-350-3
  6. "Keswick Ministries appoints Jonathan Lamb as CEO and minister-at-large". 21 March 2014.
  7. "Keswick Youth official site".
  8. "Convention takes over derelict pencil mill site". Cumberland & Westmorland Herald. Penrith, Cumbria. 22 May 2015.
  9. "£5m plans for former Keswick Pencil Factory site unveiled" (News & Star). Cumbrian Newspapers Ltd, Carlisle, Cumbria. 20 July 2015.
  10. "The Keswick Reminder" (No. 5933). Keswick, Cumbria, UK: McKanes Printers. 22 July 2016.
  11. "Share the Future !". Keswick Convention (Main Tent meeting). 25 July 2016.
  12. Rowlandson, M. L. Life at the Keswick Convention, OM Publishing, Carlisle, Cumbria, 1997. ISBN 978-1-85078-248-3
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