All the fun of the festival

by
21 August 2007

by Paul Northup

Roll up: three or four years ago, the arena (top) was large enough to hold the main Sunday eucharist.

Roll up: three or four years ago, the arena (top) was large enough to hold the main Sunday eucharist.

Festival round-up

WHERE ELSE would the classical composer John Tavener appear at the same event as Chas & Dave? Where else could parents take their children to see the animals in Miller’s Ark mobile farm, or have them taken care of — free — in a safe environment while they go off and listen to the executive director of Friends of the Earth, Tony Juniper, or the children’s hospice pioneer Sister Frances Dominica, or the world-leading Jewish theologian Marc Ellis?

Where else could you emerge from the Bassline Circus big top after seeing their dazzling Advertigo show — a political circus such as you have never seen before — to wander into a contemplative worship service or a Goth eucharist?

Where else would Billy Bragg do a gig one night and then talk about a new Bill of Rights the next? Where else would the best-selling children’s author G. P. Taylor be speaking at the same event as a lifelike walkabout act called Gorillas in your Midst?

Where else would the visual arts welcome The Forgiveness Project’s F-Word Exhibition alongside the performing arts one-man show “The Re-education of George W. Bush” by Peterson Toscano?

The answer is that all these weird and wonderful collisions can and would only ever happen at Greenbelt. And this is just scratching the surface. There are so many more great things happening at the Festival this year. Before the Mean Fiddler’s latest festival, Latitude, was calling itself “more than just another music festival,” Greenbelt was that already. And Greenbelt was already a heady mix of the celebratory and the cerebral before ever Bill Clinton was calling the Hay Festival “the Woodstock of the mind”.

As for highlights — the things that will dazzle this year — this will inevitably end up looking like a list, and lists can feel dull. Greenbelt is anything but that.

There will be professors of theology rubbing shoulders with emerging church groups, scratch choirs singing alongside the likes of world-renowned soprano Patricia Rosario, a staggering 100 talks and panels on subjects ranging from “How to live together in a multifaith society” to “Has the music industry run out of steam?”, comedy from Jo Enright (praised by Peter Kay no less), and poets Gillian Allnutt and Micheal O’Saidhail. There are no end of things for children, young people, and families to do, too.

There really is no other event like Greenbelt anywhere in the world. Greenbelt is for all ages, all faiths — and those who have none. It is engaged, committed, and open, its roots firmly planted in the Christian story.

 

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Because, at its heart, Greenbelt is a worshipping community. It is 15,000 sharing in communion on Festival Sunday, while all other activity on site ceases. A reminder that, despite all the colour and the carnival, there are worlds being shaped that do not depend upon our effort.

There really is no other event like Greenbelt anywhere in the world. Greenbelt is for all ages, all faiths — and those who have none. It is engaged, committed, and open, its roots firmly planted in the Christian story.

 

[COL

Because, at its heart, Greenbelt is a worshipping community. It is 15,000 sharing in communion on Festival Sunday, while all other activity on site ceases. A reminder that, despite all the colour and the carnival, there are worlds being shaped that do not depend upon our effort.

At the eucharist, a gathered community of souls — some more lost than others, some more on the edge of Christian experience — are knitted together, sharing in a moment that, for most, energises their faith, and gives them hope for their journey for another year.

The Church Times is a Greenbelt partner. The festival takes place this weekend, 24-27 August at the Cheltenham race course. Details on www.greenbelt.org

The Church Times is a Greenbelt partner. The festival takes place this weekend, 24-27 August at the Cheltenham race course. Details on www.greenbelt.org

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