NUMBERS held up at this year’s Greenbelt festival, staged over the Bank Holiday weekend, despite anxiety about the weather.
Attendance was 19-20,000 over the four days of the festival, held at the Cheltenham racecourse for the tenth year running. This was slightly higher than the previous year, the organisers reckoned. A larger proportion of visitors came for the whole weekend rather than odd days, possibly because of the dearth of top-flight music acts this year.
In the event, the weather was kind. There was a heavy cloudburst on Friday morning, when the festival was setting up; and another, longer downpour on Saturday night, which lasted until Sunday breakfast.
The only other shower, perhaps predictably, was during the open-air communion service, staged for the first time on Sunday afternoon. (The morning had been dry.) The service reflected the theme of the festival, “Rising Sun/Son”. The rain stopped just before the congregation was invited to sing the Lennon and McCartney song “Here comes the sun”.
There was mud, but in small, avoidable patches, and an advantage of the Cheltenham racecourse site is that about a third of the events can take place indoors in the grandstand and adjoining buildings.
Greenbelt followed its now traditional pattern of contemporary music and big-name speakers, with separate programmes for children of various ages. The mainstage opened on Friday with Emmanuel Jal and Michael Franti, and closed on Monday night with Fightstar. In between, the audience enjoyed José Gonzáles, Beth Rowley, and Matthew Herbert’s Big Band.
The biggest draw among the speakers was Philip Yancey, followed by another American, Frank Schaeffer, and Greenbelt’s resident Scot, John Bell.
The programme was much wider than this, however. The literature section this year featured popular appearances by the poet Ian MacMillan, the children’s writer Michael Morpurgo, and the novelist Salley Vickers. There were many more opportunities for festivalgoers to take part in creative art. Comedy was also prominent (and heavily oversubscribed).
And the opportunity to worship in new and strange ways was ever-present. Those who wished to do so could start at 6 a.m. at a contemplative dawn service, and end at about two o’clock the following morning in a Goth eucharist. Along the way, festivalgoers could take in candlelit Taizé worship or yoga, or wallow in the hugely popular Beer and Hymns at the organic beer tent, the Jesus Arms.
New Wine and Soul Survivor also flourish
Thousands of Christians attended other festivals this summer, despite the wet weather. More than 30,000 people attended the 20th-year New Wine, consisting of three regional gatherings looking at the theme of “Kingdom Come”. Guest speakers included Brother Andrew, Agu Irukwu, and Jay Pathak. Many delegates have given testimonies of physical, spiritual, and emotional healing at the event.
About 27,000 people attended the Soul Survivor and Momentum events, at which 1800 people made a commitment to Christ for the first time, the organisers reported. Speakers included Mike Pilavachi and J. John, and worship was led by Tim Hughes.
Full review of Greenbelt