Many of you know that I often vanish over the August Bank Holiday weekend to the Greenbelt Festival
. For those who aren’t familiar with it, Greenbelt is a Christian Arts festival, a kind of miniature Glastonbury if you like, with bands, poetry, comedy, literature, circus, painting, communion, talks and loads more. This year it also had den making. And rain. Lots of rain. All night Sunday. All day Monday. The start of Tuesday. This outpouring bought with it the bonus gift of mud too with much hilarity as floods of brown water squirted out unexpectedly from walkways as you crossed them and the anticipatory tension of the car sliding when trying to drive out of squelchy field (car-park)!
This year the festival moved from its home at Cheltenham racecourse to lovely new grounds at Boughton Hall, Kettering due to redevelopment at the racecourse. This is not the first time it’s moved, but the first in my association with it. I was a little nervous about the change. Cheltenham had become a special place to me because of Greenbelt, and I didn’t know what effect the move would have. I shouldn’t have worried, I quickly realised that the festival is not in fact the location but the people – sound familiar? The grounds of Boughton Hall are stunning too with lakes, tree-lined avenues and all sorts of other interesting features, bringing a new dimension to the site. The only major downside was perhaps a lack of major artists, hard to book during the upheaval and uncertainty perhaps, and plumbed in toilets! This latter change was due to the fact that we had no access to permanent buildings or venues at Boughton unlike Cheltenham, the festival was completely under canvas and temporary in nature. Another change was the loss of a phone signal, something I quite enjoyed although I imagine many struggled with withdrawal symptoms! The theme of the festival this year ‘Travelling Light’ captured these changes well.
I only got to one talk this year re-evaluating the church’s response to The Life of Brian (fascinating) and yet the overall theme did resonate with me. It was a great chance to ‘get back to basics’, to find value in being rather than doing, in relationships rather than possessions or achievements and in community rather than isolation. As much as I enjoy my emails etc. it was also good to be away from the computer and phone and tv and enjoy a more tangible, simpler life for a while. There’s nothing like camping to highlight what is important and what is not, what we can live without and what is vital or truly important to us. Away from the ‘clutter’ of modern living, I found myself thinking about how the many refugees from war that we hear of in the news manage when they have run away from all their belongings and live a much more basic life than we did at Greenbelt and found myself more than once drawn to pray for them. I also remembered again the simple centrality of the Kingdom life we’re called to, that of loving God and our neighbours, something we all know and recognise but are so easily distracted from.
Church Newsletter Article 7th September 2014
A great review of Greenbelt ’14 can be found on the New Internationalist blog here: http://newint.org/blog/2014/08/27/faith-greenbelt/. Captures something of why I love this festival, although that is very hard to pin down; more something that just is than anything definable. My own review will follow at some point soon I hope!
Beginning to get excited now about Greenbelt ’07.
Can’t wait to hear Billy Bragg again who was awesome a couple of years ago, winning me over with surprising ease, and Duke Special – a friend of a friend.
Looking forward to getting to hear Ched Myers speak, who’s thoughts about the political nature of Jesus’ message have challenged me over recent years.
The theme: ‘Heaven in Ordinary’ is full of suggestion and resonates with my own spirituality which seeks to see God at work in the whole of life, not just church.