Archive for the ‘christianity’ Category

Here we go-let’s out up this dusty almost forgotten blog place. Hello one and all. Turns out it has been a good while since I’ve done much here. I’ll get back to that but right now, let’s look back on Greenbelt 2018.

So this was actually I think possibly the third year in a row of us going along to this black sheep of Christian UK events/festivals. Personally as a ‘born again’ kind of guy I sure as heck don’t really dig the vibe of New Wine or Spring Harvest at all, and coming from a very political, philosophical, and arts background this is the event I can go along to with more ease.

So as the months of 2018 moved along we waited to see who would be announced on the website and line-up who may be of interest or people, bands, artists we recognise or know. When the official line-up did come up early summer it was kind of a let down I’d say. Okay I recognised a few people and bands listed but nothing looked amazing, no person I was really excited to see or hear talk. Is that the point of Greenbelt? Maybe not but it is a very big part of the experience for me at least.

So we tried to get up early on Friday, get all the stuff into our car, stood by the car and noticed a bit of an issue. Basically we had to spent over two hours driving between car garages, mechanics, ford showroom places until we bought a part, took it back somewhere, had it fitted, and finally hit the motorway around half five.

We got to Greenbelt around half eight at night, set up our tent only just before daylight had totally gone and this didn’t leave much time to check anything out. Kind of got confused and missed out on the late night Goth Eucharist which was a bummer. Who decided to put Carol Ann Duffy on at 5.45 on Friday evening? Missed. Kind of was interested in seeing John Bell…missed that. We did however trundle along to the Canopy tent to check out comedian Mae Martin. I thought I’d seen her on late night tv or recognised her face so thought we go along. She was funny, deciding to casually tell us all about her life, addictions, interest in stand up comedy from a very young age and the awkward but often hilarious experiences it all involved. Quite a bit of swearing and surprisingly right out there jokes about sex, gender of all kinds which was great, totally fine. So actually, great start to the weekend.

Saturday we had looked over the festival programme for things to go along to, see, hear. Almost got knocked down by a surprising number of people who decided to do the early morning run around the festival grounds for no real obvious reason. Pah, fools. I just needed the porta loo and my Shreddies from the car at that time of day. By the time we had breakfast, got sorted, we walked to the main stage to listen to Vicky Beeching talk about her life of mega selling successful Christian worship musician in America which had to come to and end as she finally decided to come out as gay. It was a very moving talk, at times very sad, a little funny, but hopeful in the end. I want to see her do great things, be free to love who she wants to love, help Church embrace and understand LGBTQ people and help them with God.

Around two o’clock we returned to see Pussy Riot talk about their experiences we had of course heard much about in the last few years. These were very interesting, radical, brave women who challenged Russian authority, church and went to prison but soon came back out and are continuing to spread their message of brave defiance, questioning, and resistance of institutional hypocrisy and corruption. Quite inspirational to hear. We later stood in the very long que to meet Masha and get a signed book.

Saturday evening we stayed at the Canopy tent for a few hours to check a few interesting and entertaining musicians and bands-the kind of surreal slightly avant garde jazzy Alabaster De Plume with his strange spoken word poetry and deadpan style between songs, after that The Carny Villains from Bristol (?) gave us a mix of lively folk gypsy rock n roll with a bit of swing and surf rock style-very rousing stuff. Finally, sometime around midnight we witnessed the super sparkly camp hilarity of Bourgeois & Maurice. A kind of dirty, sexy, bizarre kitsch ‘alternative’ cabaret act which filthy but funny songs about Brexit, Christmas, love, sex of various kinds, much innuendo. Really worth staying up late and shivering in the cold outside for.

We actually decided to miss the big Sunday morning communion event this year-so it felt more relaxed but with a bit of a guilty feeling but hey, I personally am really uncomfortable with communion. Right, we had breakfast, needed to check on when we could go have a quick shower as we’d forgotten to book slots, and then went along to catch Cole Moreton with his Daily Mirror newspaper review ‘show’ thing. I always get us to go along at least once, some years we’ve gone every morning to this. It’s funny, informative, sometimes challenging, heartwarming and has a variety of people on the stage who are usually appearing elsewhere in the festival over the weekend. It doesn’t seem to go over as many news stories as usual, but then as my wife pointed out they did pick up on a couple of fairly heavy, meaty things such as John McCain’s death, Catholic church and those scandals/child abuse in society.

Went and had our showers while the rain stopped for a brief while before going along to listen to the radio legend that is Simon Mayo. He was talking about his new fiction book. After writing a few YA/younger aimed books, this new one is inspired by real historical events and facts he came across from the 19th century in the UK. Set in Dartmoor prison, it sounds good and has already been picked up for possible film adaptation. I was interested to hear him as I am a bit of a writer myself.

After that we joined almost everyone else it seemed around the main big tent to witness Pussy Riot perform their live act. A mix of performance art, punk and avant garde sounds, projected imagery and powerful messages it repeated some of what we had heard in their talk earlier but was great to see. I did hear some people walking about saying that it was not exactly their thing, or they didn’t ‘get’ it, or didn’t agree with it but that actually probably a really good thing to have at Greenbelt; something to really provoke a wide variety of reactions and opinions and discussion in a respectful way.

Later on we walked down to the Canopy tent to catch the main musical act I had found interesting from the website. Called Yama Warashi, they mixed a blend of Japanese/Eastern sounds with a variety of instruments and some electronic, experimental elements. Kind of had a slight Bjork sound to it, and sadly only caught the last two or three songs but it was good. Should also mention that on the Friday night before Mae Martin we caught the end of a fast female fronted punk band called Hex the Patriarchy. Very political and hyper bouncy punk style and a nice surprise.

I think after that we wandered around checking out the food stalls and the shops stalls, trying to hold back from buying everything. We did get some very nice African street food-mix of fiery rice, fried banana chips, chicken and more. Had to wait until after eleven at night for another strange and unusual event called Void/Null which…well didn’t know what to expect really except that it would be some kind of arty sound and visual installation. I dig that kind of thing. So yes, it was in the new Telescope area of the festival in a small tent, all dark as laptop generated sci-fi influenced CG visuals played out along and changed onscreen in time to glitchy electronic music. Some of it resembled shots from 2001 A Space Odyssey, some of it more minimal and abstract but intense and a strong thought provoking experience which tried together themes and questions of space travel with refugee travel, being alone in space with being alone in the world.

On the Monday we never really know how long we might stick around before the kind of long drive back up North. Kind of depends on how dry the tent is, the weather and what talks and music if left to check out. Frustratingly some interesting things were still due around five in the evening on Monday such as more Pussy Riot, Peterson Toscano, June Sarpong, Steve Chalke, the But I’m not racist! Am I? talk.

In the end we did our four or five walks to the car as we packed away the tent while the rain held back. I struggled without a coffee well into the afternoon for some reason…oh right, yes we only did make it along to the all-ages day time Goth event over in the Shelter venue on the grassy hill. It was interesting to see how they planned it to appeal to kids and casual adults who may have wanted to see what a Goth worship event can be like without them thinking they’ve walked into a Hammer horror film. It was great, I really loved what the reverend had to say to inspire us and left with some good thoughts as usual from that event.

The last thing we caught was a talk from author Rebecca Stott about her early life in a very extreme Brethren cult, based on her book which won the booker last year. Quite shocking at times, but her memories and experiences had similarities to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Amish style of living, Scientology and she discussed cults in general briefly as well. Just a bit shocking that kind of thing was happening in Brighton UK in the sixties, and in some way still continues.

We had one last walk around the stalls, bought a couple of books and drove home after this. Of course we missed out on many possibly very interesting talks, bands and worship over the weekend. We may download or buy some from the website.

Overall opinion of Greenbelt 2018 personal experience-did not expect to much this year, but the theme of acts of the imagination and focus on black inclusion/windrush and with artists like Pussy Riot it turned out to be a surprisingly provocative and possibly challenging year but still entertaining and spiritually invigorating experience.

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Here I am, around a day now since I returned from my first trip to the UK festival GREENBELT for the first time in possibly three or four years.

If you have never heard about it, GREENBELT is a UK annual faith-based (Christian) festival featuring many kinds of talks, art, crafts, music and more. It celebrated 40 years a year or more ago now, which was a major achievement and say a lot about the reputation it has and why people keep returning after decades.

My wife introduced me to it many years ago, she a friend had taken her years before that. I was looking for a festival to go to among the UK Christian ones, and this one is less intimidating and almost seems just like some of the other big major music and arts festivals.

It is also to some believers viewed as the suspicious, and controversial Christian event-too liberal, too open and questioning. It is a place where people can question their faith, the Bible, consider different views, interpretations, faiths, cultures, how faith connects to music, art, words and more.

So my wife and I packed up and got in the car, travelling to the new location for GREENBELT 2015 (we also had not been camping for around 2 years, and so we made a few funny mistakes along the way.)

We did arrive a little late due to overrunning work/life stuff and so pitched the tent, got set up and went for an events programme. They had run out and some printing problem had happened. So Friday night was about just simply looking around the festival, finding something unexpected and relaxing.

We got some good noodles, watched a mainstage musical piece which connnected with some significant and very old industrial photographs. Interesting stuff. Later we came upon some good music in one of the smaller tent venues-a bit indie folk rock sort of thing.

Saturday was the first time we got out and saw the festival in full day light-and it all looks great. We had a very different location to look around and explore. The event now takes place on the large country grounds of a well known country manor house. There is a beautiful wide lake and shaped small river alongside it, and around the paths many full and tall trees. These were all lit up in blues, greens and orange light at night reflecting the theme of ‘The Bright Field’ this year.

Now you see, there is always so much to see, do, watch, listen at GREENBELT- you just can’t take it all in. The many talks featuring guest speakers ranging from well-known newspaper journalists, writers/authors of many kinds, comedians, tv/radio presenters and more (many not Christian), are soon available to buy of CD’s or downloads after the event.

We went along to see author and newspaper writer Cole Moreton lead a casual newspaper daily review/discussion- Saturday featured Giles Fraser and Madeleine Bunting and some acoustic tunes halfway and after. Moreton is a funny, friendly chap, leading a discussion intended to be respectful, honest, and challenging on the news from the day’s papers. While he joked that the tent was probably mostly full of Leftie liberals who did not read the Daily Mail, he hoped someone might and we could listen and consider their view of things with respect. It was funny, engaging, and great to hear an unscripted mix of opinions and views being voiced and considered.

We had a mid-afternoon camping emergency and returned to campsite later to catch some chilled folk-indie  sounds with added electro elements from The New Portals in the Canopy tent out among the trees. We missed a few things-I may haved liked to have seen Simon Mayo the radio presenter discuss his new Y.A. book. This was a festival for relaxing and spiritual thoughts besides music and camping and some of the weekend just had to be random and hit-and-miss.

To be honest, I spend most of Saturday thinking about the Goth Eucharist which was due around 10:30 at night. We had gone along this at a previous GREENBELT and I am a big rock fan, so this to me is a very interesting and engaging alternative form of worship.

As the night came, we had some food outside our tent, walked to the festival village again, and caught some brief bits of music and talks around while we waited. We found the Treehouse venue later and sat down among a crowd to wait for the Goth Eucharist. Like last time, it was started later than planned. This time however the venue was outside-just a tent with now walls. Last time, if I remember rightly, Goth Eucharist was more like a gothic rock nightclub event, with familiar rock/goth/industrial tunes all with similar themes of faith, God, and spiritual thoughts connecting them. Rockers and goths danced, some with glow sticks and between songs, hymns and scripture was up on wall ovehead projection.

This time, the event was more stuctured like a regular communion at church except the vicars involved all wore black, some with black dreaded hair, purple hair, goatee beards. The service began, and the music was actually very dark, heavy celtic worship. There was a choir/band involved at the front which included the four or five dark gothic vicars and a group called N-Chant. Some of the words were like ancient Celtic or some other kind mixed with regular worship parts.

There was bass, guitar, bongo style drums, and a huge black harp with the female player singing and leading the music at the same time. The service reflected on the dark times in our lives, what the dark of night can be and offer and how God is there and will take us from it. Very different, but very cool.

Sunday morning was as usual, when almost everybody at the festival made their way to sit under and around the main big top Glade stage/tent for morning worship/communion. There was bishop Libby Lane from Stockport, Manchester and Pushpa Lalitha from South India involved as we prayed and broke the bread and drink the wine in huge numbers on the field. It closed with the Lord’s prayer, an Indian blessing from Bishop Pushpa and then some Japanese folk music as we all seperated to the morning events.

My wife and I had a relaxed gap of time until the afternoon and so looked around the festival at the various stalls, market shops, a small exhibition about Irish political wall murals. Lunch and then we watched a reading from very well respected and acclaimed author A.L. Kennedy, who read from her recent Dr.Who book and current more adult literary manuscript. Funny and interesting, as I write myself. We split up during this and my wife listened to a talk called ‘Is the right to offend Sacred?’ which I just caught the end.

We later got a bit lost, seperated, saw more different music until catching the end of a talk called ‘Angels and Cyborgs’ which looked at robots, robotics, technology today and robots in films and television. Again, very interesting-might have to get the audio recording of that one.

After that we watch a performance piece called ‘Gender Outlaws in the Bible’ This was from a gay American guy, exploring and considering possible gay.bi and trans characters previously ignored or left hidden until now. Very interesting, funny but could have been uncomfortable for some people. Greenbelt is a place where you will see or meet gay, lesbian, bi and other kinds of Christians who may not be able to be so open and comfortable in their own churches or communities but can feel relaxed and happy to express themselves and their way of faith and life around others at this festival.

So finally Monday arrived, as usual, just as we get used to camping and the way of festival life again. I never really know when to leave exactly at this point. I think Greenbelt seems to last longer than in the past, as it still went on until Monday night, but many people already did leave or were packing things up. We went to the main big top tent/stage to listen to Steve Chalke talk about life as a narrative, combining Aristotle, Kierkergaad philosophy with his own thoughts on the Bible and jesus and our way of living and life. We then caught the last morning newspaper discussion with Cole Morton which also included Steve Chalke, a female vicar from tv reality show and young female lesbian political folk singer. This again was a very challenging, engaging but also funny event.

By this time, the rain had been lashing down through the night, mud was getting thicker and gloopier all over, and we started to pack the tent and belongings back into our car. We drove home half covered in mud but taking home some great experiences and memories as we hoped we would.

This is one of those days where suddenly it just shows me again how I struggle with my place in faith and my place and view of modern UK society.

If you might be in America reading this, you may think ‘what’s the problem?’ (We tend to often percieve Americans as being less obsessed with class and the class system over there). Yes again, I find where I am, what I am, and how I am a problem. Should I?

I should be who I think I am, who I feel I should be right? The difficult problems is often that I have family and friends who live life a certain way, or do not feel so strongly about certain issues but these things are in me. My own mind and thoughts do regularly think about how and why we have so many shops which sell so many things that we just do not need, such rediculously expensive things. There is a limit to what we need, what we use and we seem to gladly go way far past that limit without much thought about the ethics of what we are purchasing and why.

I am not against material posessions, but extreme gratuitous consumerism does make me almost feel actually sick inside. When I just happen to be aware of the many countries globably and even towns and cities in this country which struggle to just eat, keep a roof over heat, find clean water, electricity-the basics-I feel then very sad and frustrated.

This does relate to my attempt at Christian faith in 2015. Just how many churches are run by and filled with mostly middle-class members? This is not me having a go at the middle-class specifically, but just look at how few working class even consider stepping anywhere near a church today. Why is that do you think?

I have a sort of middle-class education but remain mostly working class at this point. I will not get too specific with politics here, that is not my focus. I simply believe that Jesus would not have been too happy with this endless rampant materialism, almost material worship of products, lifestyles, social status and relentless consumerism.

The problem then is that I sense that the majority of people I meet in some of the churches I visit at times, do not begin to  consider any of this or just are middle-class and simply accept the consumerism and materialism where it is at as a ‘good balance of the economy’. Hmmm, kind of don’t think that makes much sense…

Is it the generation that I come from? How many from the last couple of decades seeking faith have been working class, recieving middle-class eductaion and then come to this social and spiritual conundrum? Not enough it seems.