Greenbelt 2017 Review

Posted: September 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

Hello again. Well we’re now almost a week since 2017 Greenbelt festival, which had the theme of The Common Good. How did it all go this year? Better than last year? Not as good?

Well let me start with a shock-besides about half an hour of rain early Saturday morning, this year the festival was mud and rain free. It was also very, very hot and sunny. I think this confused but also pleased many people. The funny part alongside that is that my wife bought some new crazy striped wellies for the mud which never came.

So look I would say I was perhaps struggling with some personal things at the last Greenbelt-mostly my religious or church attitude, some class problems and stuff. This year I found I was much more relaxed and happy with myself, the festival, life in general. I think the great weather did help with that.

But really this is a festival about very many things in life-faith, culture, politics, the environment, inclusivity, hope, fun, and much more. The difference this year was that there were not really any major speakers, authors, bands on the bill that I was immediately interested in seeing. That was fine as it would be one of those years where my wife and I just amble around and decide what to go see and hear once we got there. Plus we did see the line-up on the website weeks before the festival and of course there were still many very interesting things put in place, people and music and more.

So I’ve been to Greenbelt around five or six times now and there are some things they have on the programme every year which we usually go and check out-writer/journalist Cole Moreton’s Daily Mirror newspaper review panel with Cole overseeing it along with a panel of famous or known writers, politicians, musicians. Then there was the Goth Eucharist which I don’t think happened last year and made a good return this time.

I was camping in a new tent with my wife (oh I’ve got to say this tent- so good, so comfortable) and walking to the festival grounds to back to the tent and even to our car regularly takes up a fair bit of time over the three and a half days but we still saw very much and had a really great time.

I think we got the tent up surprisingly quickly and went into the festival, smoozed around taking in the sights and then caught a band on the main stage. This might have been King Porter Stomp. I soon remembered that we had seen them before at Greenbelt- as they themselves told us-back in 2015. They were better than I remembered, a good mix of reggae, hip-hop, ska and afro-beat sounds. Good lively way to start the festival. We stayed up late and after standing around beside the lake in the dark we headed into the service by SUB group from Manchester. This was a sort of subculture/alternative service (put together by some very nice metal/goth/alt people) with the theme of blood in religion and faith and our culture. It had a few minor problems with equipment and the small new canvas tent venue but was a good effort.

Saturday we woke with just that short period of brief rain before entering the festival to check out the first Daily Mirror with Cole Moreton and friends. It was good but seemed to fly by quickly and didn’t cover as many newspaper stories as previously. After that, the rest of the day was to be more random and casual as my wife and I just sort of pick chose the next thing to see of find around the festival. Oh yes, hang on-we did actually see John Bell speak on the Glade Big Top main stage before Cole-Mr.Bell’s talk was called Rampant Heterosexualism. I think some people may have not have enjoyed it or been frustrated by it, but it was more than I initially thought it would be and he told us that he has been a gay rev in the church for many years and while some things he told us were very sad recollection of some committing suicide because of a clash with religion and their orientation he seems to be a great man doing great things.

I we went and made some late lunch on the stove back at the tent after Cole, came walked around the festival for a while and caught an interesting talk about middle eastern/Palestine/Israeli religious and cultural tensions. We later caught a band on the main stage called La Chiva Gantiva who mixed together Latin funk Cuban afro salsa and even brief rock sounds in a great infectious groove of sounds. We then continued on late to eleven at night and around to the Canopy smaller stage to see what CC Smugglers where like but you know-not my thing really at all. Some kind of old time swing/classic safe jazz/Mumford bumpf but hey many did seem to like it.

We were intending to check out the two new tents this year- the Red Tent, which had talks around many areas of feminine gender, and the Amal Tent which showcased Islam and Muslim culture and music.

My wife also wanted to go catch prayer time with the Franciscans but just never got around to it….maybe next year.

It was up fairly early on the Sunday and down to the Glade Big Top main stage for the gathered festival communion. Huge crowd and sometimes I feel uncomfortable or out of place with this (communion in general) but this time a short while into it was just hugely emotional and moving. Instead of a well known speaker from a political or religious background as previous, this year we hear a speech from a young teenage girl called Becky who has Cerebral Palsy. She was telling us how she can’t really move or get around in life physically herself and was talking with a machine like Stephen Hawking using here eyes but with a young female voice. Thinking about it right now I’m almost crying again (no, I am) as she has such hope and optimism, faith and is thankful to God where many of us take so much in life for granted and don’t thank God enough. Lovely young girl, and wonderful speech.

I think we went to see Cole’s Daily Mirror again after this but that may have been Monday morning…it gets confusing at this point. So much was going on and the weather was so unusually great and sunny, and actually hot. We did eventually go to the Amal stage and watched a demonstration of old Eastern dance styles and music.  I think we then quickly rushed over to the main stage to see a few minutes of Joanne Taylor Shaw -excellent blistering blues rock sounds.

Again we somehow stayed up late enough to go along to the Goth Eucharist around half eleven at night in the canvas tent beside the lake. They did some slightly different things this time with the goth rock music adding in maybe some violins and extra tribal style drumming. They focused on the tenth anniversary of the death of Sophie Lancaster, beaten and kicked to death because she was a goth or ‘mosher’. This linked with a reading from the Bible and then call for us to unite and embrace our uniqueness.

We usually try to pack up our tent early on Monday and catch a couple of things before driving back home. We did this, catching a talk called Christ of the Comma-a lady talking about helping a refugee from Calais into London and our homeless problem. We then went to the Canopy stage to see a great African band called Thabang Tabane and Sibusile Xaba- good driven percussion and passionate vocals but surprisingly short performance.

I think that is where the festival ended for us. We walked around all weekend seeing many different sights and surrounded by happy faces in possibly the most friendly and relaxed festival around these days. Oh we also did that thing where driving back home my wife and I started talking about things at Greenbelt so much we missed our turn and had to drive back up the road a while before getting home (we think the same thing happened last year.)

It was a more relaxed, more sunny, dry and emotional Greenbelt this time I think. As ever, too much to even hope to see and do all weekend and will definitely think about going again next year.

 

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