The best gifts are ones you share with
others. Greenbelt celebrated its 40th birthday in the way that it
has marked every year since 1974, by inviting an increasingly
diverse group of artists, theologians, musicians, and activists to
share gifts forged in thought, practice, and prayer. Greenbelters,
in their turn, brought their willingness to learn and be changed,
listening out for the word of God in its many astonishing forms.
What other festival would deliver such huge and attentive audiences
for a US theologian in her mid-60s and a slam poet in his
early-20s, would stretch a venue to accommodate those who want to
try sacred harp singing, or have to turn scores of people away
from a Les Mis. mass?
This extended review has been produced by a
hard-working band of Church Times staff and Greenbelt
volunteers, another example of the partnership that has existed
between the paper and the festival for the past 12 years. The
object is to capture some of the extraordinary outpouring of talent
that occurred in Cheltenham, pass on some of the brighter ideas and
stories, and encourage more people to sample Greenbelt for
Paul Handley Editor, Church Times
Beccie D'Cunha Greenbelt CEO
DESPITE what our children tell us, 40 is not old. Of course,
festival years are not the same as human years. The need for
continual reinvention in order to attract a new audience keeps you
young, even as sleep deprivation makes you feel your age.
Longevity does, though, bring with it a wealth of experience,
which means that the organisers of this year's festival were able
to cope pretty successfully with the geographical constraints
placed upon them. The middle of the racecourse at Cheltenham is
still recovering from the quagmire caused by torrential rain during
last year's festival. In addition, there was the demolition work in
preparation for a new stand. This meant that the site this year was
long and thin. One advantage was that the Jesus Arms beer tent was
pitched near the main stage and the big top (which, for the return
of Beer and Hymns, miraculously found itself inside the licensed
The disadvantage was that there was a shortage of middle-sized
venues, so that several hundred people were turned away from some
of the most popular speakers and events, such as one of Barbara
Brown Taylor's talks, and the Les Mis mass.
It seemed that even years of experience were not enough to
predict the large crowds attracted by even the most academically
challenging theologians, or the simplest acts of worship. Media
figures such as Milton Jones, Clare Balding, and Richard Coles drew
some of the biggest crowds, but so, too, did a host of academics
Crowd control, and disappointed queuers might, however, prove to
be minor inconveniences compared with next year. Paul Northup, the
festival's creative director, announced from the stage during the
Sunday morning eucharist that, because of the racecourse
development work, Greenbelt was in serious discussions about how
much of the site they might be able to use next year.
The news was not allowed to dampen the party atmosphere,
however. There was a Greenbelt film, a disco, the return of some
old favourites among the speakers and bands - and even some retro
worship songs during the main eucharist.
The sun did not show up with any enthusiasm until Sunday
afternoon, but any grumbles about the grey weather were muted by
news of monsoons elsewhere in the country. As always, though, the
exciting and varied programme (and the wealth of indoor venues at
the Cheltenham site) meant that the spiritual temperature remained
On Friday evening, writer
Pete Rollins compared Christianity to the three
stages of a magic trick in the filmThe Prestige: the pledge, as the
magician says he will make a coin disappear; the turn, as it does;
and the prestige, as it reappears.
For Rollins, the idea that there is something -
possessions, being a better Christian, or God himself -that can
give us certainty and satisfaction is dead. Instead, the pledge of
Christianity is to free us from this fantasy. The turn is in the
crucifixion, as the temple veil is ripped open, showing the holy
of holies empty - God is not there. But the prestige is that this
frees us to find the sacred in everything, living as if the world
On Monday morning - continuing his theme of how
radical theology can help people come to terms with their own
brokenness, so that they can accept the brokenness of others - Pete
Rollins turned his attention to liberal and progressive
He said that, while their congregations
intellectually accept their doubts, they still enact the same
beliefs in sermons and hymns: "We outsource our fundamentalism to
our pastors and worship leaders, even though we know they are no
better than us".
A church with a radical theology would incorporate a
recognition of this doubt and lack into its liturgies, allowing the
community to find that it is the body of Christ itself, and to cope
with its failings together.
Barbara Brown Taylor, the US author
and Episcopalian priest, spoke on a similar theme. She began her
trilogy of talks about the misuse of language by confessing that,
for years, she had fallen into contrasting the Church with "the
world". The effect of such dualism in her thinking, and in that of
many Christians, was to create a false opposition (good and
evil, light and dark, spirit and flesh, etc).
As a result, she said, there was so much in life that
had been rejected on bogus grounds. Her mission now was to point
out the sacredness of the ordinary, what she called
"plain-clothed" sacraments, or sacraments "waiting to happen", such
as water, or bread, even when it's just a sandwich at your
Her text was about the man who found treasure in a
field. Scripture did not say that the man dug the treasure up: "the
whole field became the treasure."
From Augustine's theory of original sin to the
Protestant suspicion of physical pleasure, human beings have
regarded the body with suspicion and shame, Taylor said in her
second talk on Saturday morning.
Yet: "There is not a single thing we know about God
that did not come first to us through the body." Through the pain
of sickness and the bliss of slipping into a hot bath, God speaks
to us. And Jesus, she reminded us, did not talk in abstracts, but
told stories about sheep, wolves, mustard seeds, and
She described the eagerness with which a group of
church leaders obeyed her instruction to show each other a scar.
Before she knew it, clothes had been removed and scars
The intellectualisation of faith was one of the great
dangers of the age, she warned, leaving us "as dry as dust".
Anyone expecting a benign introduction to the
politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on Friday evening would have
been quickly disillusioned by Mark Braverman's
rallying cry to the global Church to stand alongside what he sees
as the "inevitable Palestinian liberation".
"Pray for us," he said, "but do not allow us to
continue to build our own prison; all the people in the region
deserve better than our current situation."
Living up to his name, Braverman was unafraid to
compare the cause to the anti-apartheid and the American Civil
Rights movements of the 20th century, as well as tackling
monolithic issues such as post-Holocaust interfaith relations,
Zionist ideology, and Jesus's gospel model for anti-occupation
Speaking with authority and compassion as a
Jewish American with deep family roots in the Holy Land, Braverman
sought to reclaim the long Jewish traditions of solidarity,
liberation, and justice.
In "God, Perhaps", the philosopher-theologian
John Caputo looked first at the ordinary meaning
of "perhaps", in the context of whether a statement is true or
false. Here, it is an indecisive and timid word. However, in the
context of what he terms "the event"; something which could have
unforeseeable transforming future consequences, "perhaps"
becomes a word of hope, a claim that the impossible might
Then talking of God, he says this becomes "the
weak force of a trembling possibility that is impossible". It
speaks of a God who is a call rather than a protector: "not God
Almighty, but the God who might be". He questioned the validity of
a "strong theology" of creeds and dogmas, and argued for
a "weak" theology, one that was more tentative.
Caputo's Saturday-afternoon talk "Can this radical
theology live in the churches?" was moved, at the last minute,
because of a fire in the original venue. A patient crowd filed on
to the grass of Cheltenham's winners' enclosure, and bent their
minds to the speaker's challenging theology.
He carefully deconstructed his own title, word by
word, suggesting that radical theology should be based on a
"groundless ground", because "we don't want anything to be safe".
Theology has a tendency to make things too clear, he said. God,
however, "can't be contained by propositions", and has to be
expressed in parables, poetry, and story.
Radical theology, he maintained, worked most
effectively on "the margins", it should be a destabilising force,
haunting the Church "like a spook". Christianity is "a deed", he
said, and should jump from its credal rails, from facile "belief"
to a deeper "faith".
Katharine Sarah Moody, research
associate in the department of philosophy at the University of
Liverpool, was billed as talking about Paul; was trailed at the
previous two talks as critiquing Rollins and Caputo; but actually
gave an introduction to other radical theologians, particularly
For Zizek, when Paul says "there is neither Jew nor
Gentile", he is calling for a universal collective, breaking free
of a law that causes the sin it condemns, and reintroducing
solidarity and economics into a politics that has become rooted in
disparate communitarian identities (for example, environmental
activists, LGBT, etc.).
Moody noted that Zizek is criticised for not giving
sufficient practical outworkings of his theology, but defended him
on the grounds that this was a "second order" theology, which
reflected on how churches worked out their "first order"
confessional theologies in practice.
John Bell, a Church of Scotland
minister and a member of the Iona Community, is a Greenbelt
regular, largely on account of his marvellous storytelling.
For much of the life of the Church, his would not
have been such a rare gift. The title of his first talk, "Reading
the Bible is bad for your faith", focused on that first word.
Without the written word, the Bible was treated as part of the
family history. People were encouraged to memorise the stories,
and naturally they would change with retelling.
The damage caused by the written word was that it
turned biblical learning into an intellectual pursuit; and that
passages were read out of context, and thus became doctrine when
they were originally just a matter of temporary expedient.B ell
took part in the first of Greenbelt's debates, mused on "What's the
purpose of marriage?" It was rather a consensual affair: the other
panellists were both married, and Bell agreed that, although it is
impossible to erect a theology of matrimony using scripture
(which is, at best, ambiguous about the subject, he said), marriage
was at least useful as a "socially and politically recognised
relationship of commitment which shows that love is more than a
Psychotherapist Chris Powell argued
that marriage enables the fulfilment of fundamental human needs:
the craving for strong attachments and exclusive relationship.
However, the restrictive nature of marriage concerned
feminist scholar Marika Rose; she argued that the
nuptial state not only perpetuates social and gender inequality,
but breaks society down into small, exclusive units - the kind that
Jesus spoke against when he envisioned the radically inclusive
community that would become the Church.
On Saturday morning, Australian social activist
Dave Andrews shared the story of his life so far
with such humility and humanity that his talk seemed more like
listening to an uncle recounting his memoirs.
Dave and his wife Ange sold almost all their
possessions to tend "junkies" in Afghanistan, and then fled to
India at the outbreak of war. On the way, their remaining
possessions were stolen, and they were forced to embrace what he
called "involuntary poverty". In India they worked with HIV
sufferers and challenged the government over their care. On
settling back in Australia - to live the same lifestyle of serving
the lost and the broken - they found that it was often their
friends and family who were most resistant.
Despite the temptation to see Andrews' life as a
resumé of extraordinary action, his gentle manner and honest
self-reflection were a reminder that everyone is called to nothing
less than life in all its fullness.
On "Life begins . . . after death", on Saturday
morning, Ibrahim Mogra, Dean of St Paul's
Cathedral David Ison, and rabbi Shoshana
Boyd Gelfand gave, respectively, their Muslim, Christian,
and Jewish views of heaven and hell.
For Mogra, heaven and hell were physical realities
One's actions in life determined one's destination in death.
However, this was subject to the potential for God to be
merciful, as illustrated in the writings of Islamic tradition.
Ison believed in an eventual bodily resurrection
rather than in an immediate spiritual heaven, and that only those
who refused God's invitation to it would remain in hell. What
mattered was the relationship we had with God now, which would
continue in eternity.
Boyd Gelfand explained that, while Judaism believed
in an afterlife, it had no fixed concept of it; it was content to
leave that to God and did not normally speculate about it. In
particular, the afterlife was not used in Judaism as an incentive
to be righteous in this world.
From the master of African Blues, Ali Farka Touré, to
an interpreter of teenage angst in Indonesia, via an all-women's
choir in Bosnia, Abdul-Rehman Malik's tour of
music, in his talk "Looking for Allah at 33 revolutions per
minute," was a fascinating insight into how different Muslim
cultures give voice to a desire for God. Passionate, learned, and
funny, he played five tracks, each illuminating an attribute of
He described the "profound paradox" whereby God is
both separate, unknowable, and "closer than our own jugular vein",
before outlining, with reference to the music, how humans relate to
the divine attributes. God is Lord of all, but we are masters of
our own bodies; God is merciful, and so must we be. Against a
"maelstrom" of Islamophobia, violence, and intolerance, music is
enabling women in Bosnia to help the country reawaken spiritually;
while in Indonesia a struggle between extremism and normative Islam
is being played out through popular culture.
A talks session on Saturday morning, entitled "How
they stole football from the people - and how we can steal it
back," looked designed to appeal to the committed, opinionated
football fan. Sadly, it didn't quite live up to its allure. The
first 50 minutes of the talk, with Kevin Rye and
Sam Tomlin from Supporters Direct, and Seb
White from the think-tank CentreForum, were dominated by
statements by the panellists, and it was only in the last ten
minutes, that it was given back to the people.
Then, a genuine debate ensued over the pros and cons
of a wage cap, and whether we could afford to lose star players
from the premiership as a result.
The US theologian and foreign-affairs activist
Jim Wallis filled a venue on Saturday morning,
talking about his vision for a new movement for change in America,
based upon an understanding of the "common good".
According to Wallis, when Christians realise that
this means "all kids are our kids", then a momentum for change
begins - and this is already having an impact in the political
arena, he said.
Wallis concluded with a question that must be easy to
answer: "What works better? Drones, or loving your neighbour as
Adrian Plass held little back in his
Saturday-morning session, "The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass,
aged 62¾", while revealing that his first diary, written in the
mid-'80s, was actually a result of his breakdown. His ultimate
conclusion at the time? That, maybe, God was nice.
He delighted the crowd by reading from both his first
two diaries, and his latest one (Adrian Plass and the Church
Weekend), having to pause frequently for the hearty laughing
to cease, and tears to be wiped from faces, before being able to
Plass performed his earlier, larger session his wife
Brigit, who adds a wry, feminine slant on the foibles of Christian
life. Where, once Charismatic Christians were the butt of his
humour, attention was now focused on those who divided the world
between those "like us" and those "in error", i.e. everybody
Beginning his layman's guide to Karl Marx with a quiz
to debunk several myths about the revolutionary thinker,
Simon Mouatt, senior lecturer in economics at
Southampton Solent University, argued that much could be learnt
from Marx's economic method as well as from his socio-political
Marx's hypothesis that capitalism always veers
towards dwindling profitability and ultimate crisis has been
lent weight by the recent era of rampant "financialisation", which
led to the global economic crash. Marx's solutions were now deemed
by many to be equally relevant, he said.
Rather than superficial measures to impose state
regulation on the banks, he advised that we should learn from
Marx's call to dismantle the very structures of a system that
perpetuates injustice; social inequalities which, Mouatt was quick
to point out, the Church has done very little to
As a writer and blogger on technology, religion and
feminism, Vicky Beeching is a spirited advocate
for social media. Acknowledging the tendency to divide life into
the spiritual and the secular, she spoke about how recent
technology has placed the virtual realm at the bottom of the
spiritual pecking order.
After countering negative assumptions about social
networking and online communication - and touching on the central
issue with technology: that it is a tool, and is inert; we, the
users, are the problem or the solution - she was persuasive on the
need for the Church to engage with the digital generation, even to
get excited and lead the way in finding the best way to use new
Mohammed Ansar's "What have the
Muslims ever done for us?" was filled to capacity on Saturday
lunchtime, in which he stated there was "an incredible amount of
ignorance about Islam" in the UK.
The theologian and lecturer on Islam in Britain
talked of the Muslims who have influenced our culture and
sciences, but go uncredited in our history books, along with the
reality of women's status in Islam, and raising children in
Ansar addressed a few misconceptions, the biggest of
which, he said, was that "we are seen as a problem," adding: "I can
do no greater injustice than judge Christianity by the actions of
Approaching this provoking issue with humour and
fact, he allowed the audience to ask questions, restricting his
answers to "Tweet-size" only. He urged those who "served the
community" to help bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians
in their own patch.
Pip Wilson has spent many years
working with inner-city gangs and disadvantaged youth, combating
emotional deprivation in young people. In his Saturday-afternoon
workshop, "Making beautiful", he broke the audience into groups to
discuss their strengths and weaknesses, self-image, and emotional
Wilson's aim was that people should accept themselves
in their imperfections, and see themselves "not as a human being,
but a human becoming", constantly changing and growing. His
staccato Lancastrian style is affirmative, peppered with his
trademark aphorisms. Brits are not used to being told "You
are a beautiful human person," especially by a complete stranger,
but there is a chance that his memorable sayings can help people
learn to get in touch with their beautiful souls.
The Archbishops' Missioner and Team Leader of Fresh
Expressions, Bishop Graham Cray, spoke on Saturday
afternoon on the kind of Church that is emerging from the Fresh
He was at pains to make clear that new expressions of
Church were not intended to replace traditional forms but "to touch
people who have not been touched by the historic Church". He
rejected franchise forms of church-planting. Rather, it was
necessary to "test the soil" and discern what God was doing in a
particular place and to join in. How would Jesus take on flesh and
blood here? should be the question at the forefront of
incarnationally-minded church planters.
Those who become involved in Fresh Expressions of
church - many of whom are not inclined "to respond to requests to
keep the wretched show on the road" - find that they are
evangelised in the very process, Cray said. "They discover new
depths of discipleship. Further riches of Christ are revealed."
Churches for them are not concerned with "dumping the past and
finding something new and trendy to do": they engage in spiritual
disciplines and a shared a rule of life. It was also vital that new
forms of church were connected to other churches. "We don't want
solitary, confined churches."
On Saturday afternoon, an academic and a
singer-songwriter combined to bring to life to a 160-year-old
English protest movement. The singer Garth
Hewitt, had discovered (through the pages of the
Church Times) that Mike Sanders, from
Manchester University, had found the one remaining copy of
a Chartist hymnbook (News. 14 January
In the 1840s, the Chartist movement trumpeted a
handful of very reasonable electoral reforms, which were met by the
deaf ears of the establishment. Largely decried by Church leaders,
the Chartists' faith in a God of justice was none the less
unwavering, and they began, and ended, all their meetings with
their own crusading hymns.
Hewitt met Sanders and set a number of the hymns to
music. These he performed at the festival with a first-class folk
ensemble - the songs interspersed with knowledgeable contributions
by Sanders, who set the stirring music in its context. It was an
eye-opening pilgrimage to a fascinating past.
"Time for Action", a British Christian response to
the Kairos Palestine call of 2009, was launched at Greenbelt on
Sunday, while other Christians sympathetic to Israel protested
outside the racecourse gates.
Kairos means "a critical moment in time", and was
used by leading Palestinian Christians in 2009, when they called
on the worldwide church to support them in the struggle against
Warren Beardsley, convenor of Kairos
Britain, which produced the document, said that it was "not an
interfaith document, not an anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic document,
and not a discussion document".
It was, instead, a call to direct action, asking
British Christians to consider prayerfully the boycott of,
divestment from, and economic sanctions against anything produced
by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
The Roman Catholic theologian Margaret
Hebblethwaite brought her encounters with young mothers in
Paraguay, where she now lives, into her talk about the motherhood
of God, on Sunday afternoon.
Motherhood, in the developing world in particular, is
a risky business. Ninety per cent of deaths through childbirth
are in the developing world, along with 99 per cent of infant
deaths: ten million children a year die before the age of five.
The statistics gave a new context to her work on God
as a mother, first explored in her 1984 book, which caused a stir
through her use of feminine pronouns for God, and an attempt to
wrest the concept of motherhood from the Blessed Virgin Mary
and the Church, where Roman Catholics felt safe with it.
In a session on Sunday afternoon, the founders of
Borough Common, a church in south London, talked
about their community. Many of them have a background in the
Evangelical Church, but these days "Commoners" deliberately
avoid dogma, disagree internally about whether Jesus is the son of
God, and are prepared to prioritise "community over content".
Now four years old, the church is based on three
principles: church as common property; growing together
spiritually and emotionally; and doing good. There are no leaders
and no formal membership.
It was clear that this is a reflective community,
constantly scrutinising itself. But it was disappointing not to
have a longer question-and-answer session, since their approach
inevitably generated enquiry.
Sara Hyde, a criminal (in)justice
activist, has been pondering the question of what to do when/if
your friend commits a sexual offence, since she faced the dilemma
at the age of 16. What was she meant to do as a friend, a woman, a
feminist, and a Christian?
In Sunday afternoon's session, the audience was
challenged to place themselves on a spectrum as to how much they
agreed with statements such as: "I have nothing in common with
In a sensitive and challenging session, she presented
a four-point outline of how we could respond: minding our language;
being empathetic in the face of shame; bringing healing; and,
ultimately, letting God work in the situation.
In "From investment banker to activist", a talk which
was by turns amusing, informative, and inspiring, Jeremy
Moodey explained how he went from being a failed diplomat
and Conservative politician to a successful investment banker. He
then gave it all up, in 2009, to become CEO of what was then
Biblelands, and is now Embrace.
Since then, he has changed not just the name of the
charity, but also its conviction that it "didn't do politics".
Moodey was one of the authors of the Kairos Britain report, also
launched this year at Greenbelt, and Embrace now includes advocacy
and campaigning as an important part of its charitable
Moodey's advice to anyone wondering if they were in
the right job was to carry out an audit of their skills and gifts,
and to then ask whether they were doing something with them that
they were passionate about.
On Sunday afternoon, a 90-minute debate, "What women
(in the Church) want", consisting of two clergy (Rachel
Mann and Lucy Winkett), a journalist
(Chine Mbubaegbu), and a Ph.D. student at Durham
University (Marika Rose) was always going to have
a lot to say on the subject of women in the Church.
The host, Vicky Beeching, quizzed
the panel on its inspirations from scripture and church history,
culminating in a challenge as to what the panel might say to St
Paul if he turned up at the Tiny Tea Tent.
For the audience, it's possible that the language of
feminist theology and theologians was overwhelming at times; a
general discussion about the issues women face in churches every
day might have been more useful to some.
Nevertheless, the audience provided their own
challenging questions, returning again to women bishops, in which
Winkett and Mann were keen to emphasise that progress in the issue
would not be the key to transforming the Church. Mann asked: "What
profiteth the woman for wearing a purple shirt?"
In "Women in dresses", one of the sessions being
recorded by gtv for release on its website later in the year,
Kate Bottley (whose flash-mob wedding turn was a
YouTube hit earlier this summer) chaired an amusing session of
anecdotes and jokes on the place of women in the Church. Bottley
shared the stage with two other priests, Rachel
Rosborough and Sandra Millar, as well as
with Katharine Welby, who combines an active blog
and Twitter profile with life as the Archbishop of Canterbury's
daughter ("I'm sorry, Mum - I think I might be in the news
Fr Christopher Jamison, a former
abbot of Worth, is a self-confessed religious person ("I have the
clothes to prove it") trying to become more spiritual ("it's hard
work!"). In Sunday afteroon's talk on "Finding Sanctuary" he
began by explaining the left/right brain divide: the left side is
analytical, focused, puts things into words. The right side sees a
much wider perspective, and yet cannot form language.
Sermons and Bible study appeal to our logic and
reasoning, but we often neglect the more ruminative right side.
Silence allows us mental space to escape words, quiet our inner
monologue, and encounter God.
Jamison explained the disciplines of obedience,
silence, and humility, drawing from the monastic lifestyle to
advise the audience on how to find sanctuary within the busyness of
our daily lives.
Jamison's most memorable piece of advice? "Humour
keeps us humble. If you ever meet a religious person with no sense
of humour, be suspicious".
Artist Bobby Baker's introduction
for Sunday's "We need to talk about nutters" set the tone for the
discussion: "Hi, I'm Bobby with a 'y' and I'm a woman. People often
make that mistake."
Baker was warm and funny throughout, but her good
humour did not detract from the seriousness of her message: one in
four people at any one time are struggling with mental-health
issues, and if we are to address this statistic, we need to break
the stigma and embarrassment surrounding "nutters".
The noted that after being diagnosed with cancer she
was inundated with practical help and messages of support. No
such assistance was offered, however, when she was overworked,
overdiagnosed, and mentally struggling to stay afloat.
The way forward, in Baker's experience, is to
combine the knowledge and support of crisis survivors, health
professionals, and trusted family and friends.
In "Can white middle-class people be radical?", on
Sunday afternoon, Marika Rosegave gave a
dense but engaging talk on theology and capitalism.
After a whistle-stop history of Christian theology
and its legacy in the Western world-view, she briefly reviewed the
main threads of radical theology, and considered where each of them
fails to provide a stable framework for real solutions to society's
Her message was that the white middle-class, the
principal beneficiaries of our economy, are complicit in economic
oppression. Money has taken on a religious vocabulary, transplanted
from our heritage of Christian thought; capitalism is the religion
of our age.
We cannot simply step outside the system, since
absconding fails to acknowledge our guilt, and does not challenge
the status quo. In the same way, attempting to isolate ourselves
from the institutional Church is a lost opportunity to debate and
reform from within.
There was standing room only for a Sunday afternoon
talk by the Christian writer and activist Symon
Hill, who spoke on his new book Digital Revolutions:
Activism in the internet age.
The Arab Spring, Occupy, and the Uncut movement
against tax dodging were just a few of the causes that, he said,
had spread rapidly as a result of the internet.
But he cautioned against seeing digital protest as
essential, or dismissing it entirely. Both views made the mistake
of seeing the web as exotic and detached.
People who protest use whatever tools are available.
Nevertheless, Hill told a number of stories about how the "hashtag
revolution" had helped various protest movements to spread globally
under one banner.
On Sunday afternoon, the journalist and Church
Times columnist Paul Vallely told a packed
and enthusiastic audience why he was optimistic about Jorge Mario
Bergoglio: Pope Francis to the rest of us.
On researching his biography of the Pope, Vallely had
discovered a transformed man, someone who had changed from being a
traditionalist, and a scourge of liberation theologians, to an
"icon of radical humanity".
This "profound spiritual metamorphosis", rooted in
Bergoglio's remorse for his failure to prevent two fellow Jesuits'
being tortured during Argentina's "Dirty War", changed him, Vallely
said, into someone for whom justice for the poor was central, and
for whom "pastoral care was more important than dogma."
As a freelance journalist for the BBC, and Bill and
Melinda Gates, Bidisha is well-placed to comment
on journalism in the digital age.
Her talk, on Monday morning, was not entirely
reassuring. She contended that journalism is no longer a paid
profession; it cannot provide the living wage the work
Instead, she sees aspiring journalists taking a
relevant day-job, but writing articles in their spare time.
Although a blog is valuable for beginners, she suggests a two-year
deadline before upscaling to paid venues. Her advice to budding
writers is to find their particular passion, and be rigorous about
researching and producing high-quality work.
In an age where people no longer trust governments,
she believes there is still a place for considered essays that
display a truly global perspective. At the same time, a backlash
against digital media is evident in the popularity of stationery,
and the rise of literary festivals.
L'Arche is an organisation that
builds communities made up of people with and without learning
In a discussion on Monday morning, two L'Arche
members, and the vicar of their parish, explained what it's like to
negotiate church, life, and community when you're trying not just
to be inclusive, but to love each person as an individual, and a
There were some sad and shocking stories of disabled
people being sidelined, and some wonderful examples of what church
can be like when we let go of what we feel things "should" be like,
and make space for every member to teach us something.
The Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral,
Mark Oakley, was warmly received by a large crowd
on Monday morning, as he made a case for same-sex marriage.
Oakley was critical of the House of Bishops'
"ironically-called pastoral statements" concerning same-sex
relationships, and the "odd state of affairs when a priest can
bless a battleship, or a pet hamster, but not two people who
love each other".
The Church should be supporting, not opposing,
same-sex marriage, because "where love is, God is". Opponents could
"fire off. . . biblical bullets, but the truth is you are not
treating the children of God equally", he said.
Allowing gay and lesbian people to be included in the
sacrament of marriage would complete it, not undermine it, he
argued. Furthermore, far from the introduction of same-sex
marriage making society unstable, "such stable relationships will
make it more secure".
Robert Cohen's Monday-lunchtime
talk "Confessions of a border-walking, road-crossing,
inter-faithing Jew", drew the crowds, as the former BBC producer
and prolific blogger recounted episodes of his journey, such as
sitting in school assembly wondering "is it OK for me to say the
A practising Jew, Cohen relishes his place at the
margins of the traditions in his life (being also married to an
Anglican priest), observing that "Jews have always been the
perennial and expert outsiders."
He also dedicated much of the session to charting his
own journey from inherited Zionism to radical criticism of the
state of Israel, attempting to rescue "Jewish ethically rooted
dissent" from the taboo-strewn Israel-Palestine discourse.
Author Francis Spufford spoke
eloquently and entertainingly on new atheism, and "outing himself"
as a Christian.
Pitched as a study of Christian emotions, his
bookUnapologeticseeks to broaden the field of debate from an
intellectual ding-dong about science and reason, to a discussion
that encompasses art, imagination, and emotions - the everyday
Spufford read aloud his retelling of the parable of
the prodigal son; a compelling and sincere reimagining that renders
both sons uncomfortably close to home.
The questions that followed the talk focused largely
on how to handle Dawkins devotees, but to treat Spufford as a
Christian writer is to miss the mark.
It would be a shame if he found himself pigeonholed
into popular apologetics when his real genius lies in
The founder of the Oasis Trust and Faithworks,
Steve Chalke, spoke twice. He told a large crowd
on Monday morning, that the UK was "heading into a post-welfare
state era". Local authorities were starting to "lose traction", and
corporations were taking responsibility for running schools and
prisons. The only way that services would not end up in the hands
of big business was if churches became involved. "We're called to
the table, and asked to be involved."
Mr Chalke's church had been granted permission to
launch a credit union, and it was involved in running its local
park and leisure centre. Such projects were not a distraction from
the gospel, but integral to it, he argued.
On Monday afternoon, he answered questions about his
openness to same-sex relationships. The Baptist authorities were
considering disciplinary action, he reported: "Perhaps they
should." But public opposition seemed to be more about ensuring
funding and stability, he suggested. Many leaders had said
privately that they agreed with him.
He told the story of a friend, now 30, whose
admission of gay leanings at the age of 13 had lead to years of
attempted exorcisms. "At the age of 18, he wasn't an alcoholic,
drug-dependent, and suicidal because he was gay. It was because
he had been abused by an Evangelical church."
Sam Lee &
Friends are on a mission: to collect and breathe new life
into forgotten folk songs and ballads, many from the 1700s and
It mainstage, on Friday night, the sounds of lost
spiritual and political protest-songs rubbed shoulders with laments
about injustice and oppression - as well as a refreshingly
politically-incorrect warning about sleeping around and the risk of
herpes, in "The Ballad of George Collins", a 200-year-old
With cello, violin, and mandolin parts, among others,
it could have sounded antiquated, but with Lee's new arrangements
the sound was surprisingly contemporary. A quiet triumph.
From the bluesy swagger of "Willow Tree" to the
modern-day sea shanty "James Clark Ross", the partnership of folk
heroes Eliza Carthy and Jim Moray
proved a formidable one at mainstage, on Friday, following on from
Individually, their fiddle solos were blistering, but
what really boggled the mind was how they played virtuosic licks in
unison with an accordion, underpinned by a rhythm section which
galloped on apace.
The 12-strong band was deliciously versatile:
Eliza's vocals sailed over a sumptuous bed of string quartet, and
backing harmonies, while the percussion and horns gave the
energetic groove a country-meets-carnival feel. Pared-down texture
enabled songs to bloom from what seemed at first to be two band
members absent-mindedly jam-ming, building into a foot-stomp-ing
frenzy, with an unpretentious exuberance that made them a joy to
Before a French-led fight-back, two-thirds of Mali
was controlled by Islamic rebel groups this year. In these occupied
territories, music was banned, forcing the famous Festival in the
Desert into exile. The call for "Le Mali tout entier" was amplified
by the country's musicians, 45 of whom joined to record a new song
"Peace". Among the cast were Amadou & Mariam,
perhaps the most recognised Malian musicians in the West.
In Friday night, on the mainstage, the duo, who met
at Mali's Institute for the Young Blind, sang about peace,
solidarity, and love, entreating the audience to dance and
specifically jump, together. Despite the rain, there were willing
dancers within the crowd, some attempting to follow the amazing
moves demonstrated by the two dancers on stage, who combined
nonchalance with effortless grace. Mariam's voice was best in the
lower register, while the Afro-blues set gave Amadou plenty of
opportunity to show off some highly accomplished guitar solos. An
energetic reminder of the resilience and unifying power of
A number of the founders of Greenbelt used to play in
a blues-based gospel outfit called All Things New. At lunchtime on
Saturday, the now appropriately-named Fat
Band climbed, with slightly less agility, on to
mainstage. They stoked up the 40th party, with a great revue of
soul, R&B, and bluesy classics.
With Richard Gibbons on bass, Martin Evans (vocals,
tambourine) and James Holloway on lead vocals, rigging-climbing and
crowd-teasing, they were joined by Holloway's niece, Polly
Gibbons, a marvellous jazz vocalist in her own
Despite all the fun, James
Holloway, a central figure in the festival's formative
years, had the final inspirational words, telling the audience:
words, "Be rebellious, be radical, be relevant."
Andrew Howie, in his first solo
appearance at Greenbelt, treated the Performance Café audience to a
chilled mix of his new songs and some classics, such as "Change the
World" from his time as a member of Calamateur.
As part of a much appreciated encore, while they
waited for the next act, which was delayed, Howie's soulful and
thoughtful sound, with the simple combination of voice and guitar,
created a seemingly timeless set.
On Saturday afternoon, returning to where it all
started was Why?, who began their career playing on the bandstand
in 1986 - and who went on to play mainstage with their mix of folk
rock, becoming Greenbelt favourites.
Their bandstand set acted as a warm-up for their
mainstage Sunday performance, and, despite occasionally tripping
up over the words of their own songs - having not sung them for a
few years - the crowd enthusiastically jigged and sang
Some bands should never reunite; this is not the case
Slam poet Harry Baker hosted the
"Solas Festival showcase" at the Performance Café on Saturday
afternoon, offering a wide selection of performers from
Greenbelt's Scottish sister festival.
In between acts, he delighted the audience with his
own poems, to a roaring response, offering wonderful nuggets of wit
in his haikus and puns, such as "I think I'm in love with some wet
concrete - it's cement to be!"
His own set included old favourites such as Dinosaur
Love,as well as a Monopoly/One Direction mash-up featuring the very
talented Chris Read on guitar and vocals.
Among others, the line-up included the dreamy,
rhythmic guitar and sweet voice of Rory Butler,
and the electric sound of three-piece band
Haight-Ashbury, layered with blended female vocals
over a solid heartbeat of drums. At first this seemed a little out
of place at the usually chilled venue, but it brought a real
flavour of the breadth of Solas.
Following Greenbelt legend Garth
Hewitt, on Saturday evening, the Performance Café hosted a
talent from the new generation: Grace Petrie (Feature, 23 August)
and her band the Benefits Culture. Continuing a long tradition of
the likes of Hewitt, Petrie's gritty, yet angelic, voice filled the
canopied space of the new home of the Performance Café with a
prophetic voice for the 21st century. Supported by a simple
combination of two guitars and drums, this young singer-songwriter
from Leicester sang about subjects as varied as politics,
relationships, and issues of equality. She delighted the packed
venue as much with her warm wit in between songs, as with her
clever, sometimes challenging, compositions. It was no surprise to
see the standing ovation which finished such a wonderful set.
Finally, Ian Morrison brought an
earthy sound, blending guitar, cello, mandolin, recorder, and
Northumbrian pipes. This transcendent experience brought the heart
of Scotland to Cheltenham.
The a cappella beatbox quintet The
Boxettes wowed the Performance Café audience on Saturday
with a beautiful evening set. Repeated riffs and simple but
effective lyrics added to a rich sound palette, all of which came
from nothing more complicated than five voices, and five
This was stunning to hear up close - the group had
already impressed the mainstage audience, but a smaller venue
provided a perfect showcase for their honeyed tones, powerhouse
solos, turbo-charged beats and speaker-rattling bass.
The highlight of the set was a track made up on the
spot, inspired by words provided by the audience. It's not every
day you hear a potential chart-topper on the theme of
The London Community Gospel Choir,
who got the mainstage crowd moving on Saturday night, are a mighty
machine. This may well have been the best performance of the many
they have played here. Detractors felt that the slickness of the
performance, and the dominance of the band overshadowed the
choir, but these were quibbles.
They were certainly crowd pleasing - their upfront
Christian witness, matching content with powerful gospel vocal
performances, brought many rounds of applause, mid-song. And the
choir brought the metaphorical house down with their finale of "Oh
Happy Day" - a form of ecstatic utterance.
In Saturday night in the Big Top, Graham
Kendrick told a packed audience that his grandmother lived
to 105, so he's "not going anywhere". This news was cause for
celebration for the crowd, hands in the air, who readily joined in
on the "four claps" during "Shine, Jesus, shine" (which is 25 years
old this year). Described by oneChurch Timescolleague as "The Magic
FM of Christendom", the set was a reminder that he really can write
Song after song - "Meekness and Majesty", "Servant
King", "Knowing You" - was immediately picked up by the crowd. It
was moving to sing them alongside those for whom they are old
favourites, some with their children, and grandchildren (many
sitting on shoulders).
Confident and chatty, Kendrick's voice remained
strong throughout the evening. A couple of new songs were
introduced, including one based on the story of the Old Testament
character Caleb. The message of "Shine, Jesus, Shine" remained as
relevant as ever, he said, and the fervour with which the crowd
responded suggested that his songs retain the power to move and
The Roots stage is open to all-comers, and the
quality can be mixed. In this case, on Sunday, 12-year-old
Rosa Sargent displayed impressive vocal ability.
Backed ably by a schoolfriend on an acoustic guitar, she covered a
range of recent pop hits from the likes of Rihanna and Katy Perry.
Perhaps such a strong vocal delivery should be expected from the
granddaughter of festival founder (and bass player) Richard
There are probably not too many Seventh Day
Adventists at Greenbelt, but Rick O'Shea more
than makes up for it. And at least he was free to play on
Coming over like a black Bob Dylan and a white Thomas
Dorsey, O'Shea's self-penned songs reflect on life, death, love,
hate, and "The hardest love is real, that which is not based upon
feelings. . ."
Clearly inspired by Bruce Cockburn, and with a voice
that almost echoes the depths of Barry White, O'Shea also showcased
an excellent choice of (mainly negro spiritual) covers, and
facilitated some audience participation with call-and-response
parts. On a small stage, he was one of the quiet successes of the
The English alt-folk band Moulettes
played to a chilled Sunday early-evening crowd on mainstage, just
as the sun decided to make an appearance. They played a rousing,
anthemic, yet dark, set of original music.
These multi-instrumentalists featured, among
others, a bassoon, electric cello, violin, the auto-harp, and
double bass (played by Ted Dwane of Mumford & Sons). Haunting
harmony, and a great deal of stamping, kept "Requiem" on the right
side of sinister, while "Songbird" bared the raw vocal qualities
of Hannah Miller and Ruth Skipper.
At one moment classical, at another folk, or
jazz-like, and, at times, reminiscent of dubstep, Moulettes have
drawn inspiration and technique from a smorgasbord of genres. They
are seriously talented.
The Temperance Movement, a
London-based rock band formed in 2011, played mainstage in the
difficult early-evening slot on Sunday night, but their energy
and melody quickly established a crowd around the main stage.
Joe Cocker was another era and another festival, but
there is a lot of him in Phil Campbell's raw vocals. Campbell's
style, though, is completely his own: he never once stopped
dancing around the stage, even during the guitar duels between Luke
Potashnick and Paul Sayer. The band's first album is out next
month. Clever of Greenbelt to get in early.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BMRC) played mainstage
late on Sunday evening. The band's lead singer is the son of the
late Michael Been, an American musician who died suddenly, earlier
this year. Been had been involved in Christian music for many
years, and had previously played Greenbelt with his band The
It was fitting that The Call's biggest hit, "Let The
Day Begin", was BRMC's opener. Been had worked with his son's group
from the start, and their lyrical concerns undoubtedly reflect
Christian concerns of God, the Devil, heaven, and hell. Many in the
audience found their dark themes, and even darker stage-set, too
much, and began to divide, along musical and aesthetic
This was real punk rock: located somewhere between
the Clash, White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, and Iggy Pop. They pounded
through some stand-out tracks, not least "666 Conducer" about men
of evil, "Six Barrel Shotgun", and the hit single "Spread Your
Love", which closed the set with screeching feedback.
One teenager in the crowd described it as "the
sickest gig I've ever been to". That was no mean compliment.
The Old Plough, Greenbelt's folk
club, welcomed audience members to participate. On Sunday evening
the entries ranged from traditional sea shanties and fiddle-playing
through to original guitar compositions. The level of experience
also varied from amateur to near-professional, with younger people,
in particular, encouraged to try out their skills.
Enthusiastic audience participation in well-known
choruses such as "American Pie" and "On Ilkley Moor baht 'at", made
for an informal, supportive atmosphere.
The Silent Disco, on Sunday night,
was full of bouncing green LEDs, as people were picked out when the
lights swept over the crowd. Silent Disco-goers each had a pair of
headphones, picking up radio from the DJs, with a choice of two
channels, and a personal volume control.
It took a while to get used to watching a tent full
of people dance, at the same time, to dramatically different music,
but, once the novelty had worn off, the Silent Disco felt
The highlight, on Sunday night, was the playing of
"Billie Jean". Practically the whole tent was singing along,
unable to hear themselves, and throwing the kind of groovy shapes
that would make your Dad cringe. Good clean fun.
Near the end of his set in the Performance Café on
Sunday night, Martyn Joseph jumped down into the
packed audience, which was where he had wanted to be all along. One
of Greenbelt's greatest fans as well as one of its most frequent
performers, he says that he receives as much as he gives when he
Like the festival itself, Joseph, these days, is
asking questions when he sings about faith. "There's Always Maybe"
seemed to echo the theologian John Caputo's talk, "God perhaps",
from Friday. He is as certain, and as angry as ever, however, when
singing about injustice. His recent visit to Palestine has
re-energised his concern for the area, demonstrated in this
One line into his final song, "Still a Lot of Love
Around Here", the 11 p.m. curfew hit, and the sound was cut.
Nothing daunted, Joseph carried on, unamplified, and the crowd was
still singing the chorus long after he had left the stage.
Sea+Air played their first British
gig on Monday to a bemused lunchtime crowd. They are a married
couple, Daniel Benjamin, a German, and Eleni Zafiriadou, a Greek,
who have played as a support band to Whitney Houston and the White
Stripes on their European tours.
Their looks were striking - Benjamin sports a waxed
moustache, Zafiriadou has flowing black hair - and their
musicality was impressive.
Perhaps there are other artists who play the drums
and the electric harpsichord (Zafiriadou) and the drums and the
guitar (Benjamin), but probably not at the same time.
The final "retro" gig of the festival, on Monday
lunchtime, in honour of Greenbelt's 40th birthday, was the one that
many had been waiting for. This was the return of Fat and
Frantic- arguably the most popular (British) Christian act
of the 1980s and '90s.
Over the course of an hour and a half - in their
trademark multi-coloured suits - they played all their essential
stuff and more, including "The Best of Wendy Craig", and
Jim Harris (now an art historian at the Ashmolean) on
lead vocals, lost a button on his trousers, leading him to strip
down to his shorts and vest. Hard-core fans lobbed items of fruit
on to the stage (a Fat and Frantic tradition), and cheered to the
skies the final number: "Last Night my Wife Hoovered my Head" - a
song, strangely enough, about Old Testament prophets.
Thea Gilmore warmed up for her
Monday-night mainstage appearance with a set in the Performance
Café in the afternoon. The stand-out folk performer remarked that
the last festival she'd appeared at had been a folk-punk event:
"This is a different beast altogether, but still wonderful," she
She led on guitar and vocals, with a line-up
consisting of a pianist, bassist, two violinists (one of them only
six years old), and a second guitarist. She was at her strongest
when her country roots showed, performing songs of human longing,
It was an imaginative idea for the 40th Greenbelt to
culminate with the popular return to the mainstage of Belfast's
Duke Special (aka Pete Wilson), the six-piece
band, augmented by a 30-piece Greenbelt orchestra co-ordinated
by the cellist Harry Napier.
The music-hall sensibilities of the dreadlocked Duke,
and his penchant for a memorable pop chorus, proved a good fit for
a light classical makeover. The party atmosphere at the close of
the festival was tangible, with close to 10,000 people singing
along to "Last Night I Nearly Died", "Everybody Wants a Little
Something", and "Our Love Goes Deeper than This".
Even the bleak and beautiful cover of Joy Division's
"Love Will Tear us Apart" seemed to find a kind of redemption, as
one of the best-received mainstage programmes came to an end for
Greenbelt, it seems, has
broken with at least one tradition - the succession of earnest but
confusing communion services on Sunday morning. For the second year
running, this was in the assured hands of John
Bell and the Iona Community. It was
varied, but never chaotic.
The 40th-birthday theme was prominent. It began with
vintage worship songs from Greenbelt's first years (most of which,
of course, are still thought of as new in many churches): "Give me
oil in my lamp" given the Caribbean treatment, and "Our God Reigns"
to a fetching banjo accompaniment.
There followed a set of responses split between the
under-40s and the 40-and-overs - which divided the 15,000-strong
congregation about 50:50. The next part of the service was split
into three sections, each comparing life in 1974 and now, in the
areas of female equality, a global perspective, and ecology.
The same pattern was followed in each: a short
introduction to remind the congregation of how people talked about
these themes 40 years ago, a list of people and movements that have
made a difference (this was how Germaine Greer got a mention in a
religious service), a biblical reading, a one-minute "talk to your
neighbour about" session on an inspiring woman/favourite fairtrade
product/creative bit of recycling, and a two-to-three-minute
related talk, these in place of a conventional sermon.
Thus Mary Grey spoke about the
barriers in her journey towards becoming a theology professor;
MacDuff Phiri touched on the plight of the Congo,
suggesting that, like illegal diamonds, electronic devices be
relabelled "Blood Blackberries" or "Blood iPods"; and
Barbara Brown Taylor described the steady progress
being made by the organic-food movement in the United States.
Then, after the collection (taken, as usual in the
champagne buckets of which the Cheltenham Race Course has far too
many), some more songs, including a swoopy 1980s-style version of
"The Servant King", all with electric piano and saxophone.
The bread and wine were distributed, once again, in
small groups of about 12, and the members of these then held hands
and celebrated the peace: the service booklet suggested 40
different languages:vaka'equ,tsumukikiatu,uxolo,soksang, and so
A 2013 song followed:
"You could have honoured
than children shouting in the street.
You could have chosen safer diners
than those with whom you chose to eat."
Finally, a pantomime blessing, with the alternative
responses "Oh, yes he did!" and "Oh, no he didn't!" Thus: "Jesus
said, if a man slaps you on the right cheek, kick him in the
goolies." "Oh, yes he did!" Scriptural accuracy sometimes takes
second place to adolescent devilment.
John Bell gave the final blessing:
"Go and be good, or stay and dance." Both options seemed more
possible after such a service.
The Sunday eucharist was just one of nearly 100 acts
of worship during the weekend. There were many other highlights, if
it is permissible to use such a term. One was the Nursery Rhyme
mass, organised by Blesséd. It attracted a crowd
that was truly all-age, to sing the confession to the tune of "Baa
Baa Black Sheep" ("All like lost sheep, we have gone astray. . ."),
and the Lord's Prayer to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel".
A few hours later, the same group was transformed,
celebrating to a loud rock backing from Metanoia.
Sanctus 1, from Manchester,
organised a service of sorts, celebrating elemental beginnings. We
were given coloured blobs of Playdough, and told to bond into
molecules. We were herded (willingly) into a tighter group; we
explored water features, including a very thorough sprinkling; and
we were handed bead water molecules on leaving.
By contrast, the OuterSpace LGBT
eucharist was remarkably conventional, reinforcing the unspoken
message of the weekend: "Gay people are ordinary. Get over it." The
only thing different was the friendly three- or four-minute sharing
of the peace.
Heppenstall welcomed a diverse group to explore the
journey of life and faith through the Celtic cross, on Saturday
afternoon. In this interactive workshop, the group created a
worship space based around a large Celtic cross fashioned out of
rope on the grass.
Reflecting the influences of historic pagan festivals
on the Christian calendar, Heppenstall drew her listeners in with
gentle encouragement, enabling strangers to work together in
exploring the significance of the four points of the compass on the
Celtic cross, which has "God at the centre of a circle with a
circumference encompassing all creation".
This explored times of letting go, of retreating for
rest, of waiting in hope, of growing or depleted energy. Reflecting
on Jeremiah 6.16, this workshop was a taster of Heppenstall's
writing for Wild Goose, such as The Healer's Tree.
On Saturday evening, the Sisters of
Bethany led Vespers, which was preceded by a rehearsal to
familiarise the congregation with reading and singing psalms.
This was a chance to experience the Divine Office, a liturgy sung
by religious communities several times a day.
The psalms, led by a "cantrix", are chanted, verse by
verse, to a repeated melody, which makes them slightly easier to
commit to memory, but also encourages a more contemplative state
A section of the congregation sang the whole
service, but many also listened with eyes closed. Some felt relaxed
enough to drift off for a moment.
On Saturday evening, Dream, a
community of worshippers from Merseyside, encouraged an all-age
congregation to seize the God-given potential in those moments in
life when circumstances change and we are offered a fresh
A montage of black-and-white images depicting moments
of human intimacy or pain formed the backdrop to a series of
monologues. The audience was asked to inhabit stories of shame,
loss, and instability before weaving individual threads into a
large communal tapestry - a visual representation of St Paul's
assertion that "all things work together for the good of those who
A final service of holy communion provided the
space for worshippers to harness that moment, by breaking bread
among strangers, as an "unlikely beginning".
If you thought had thought they were missing during
the main service, worship leader Ben Cantelon
offered shedloads of worship songs when he took to the Big Top, on
Cantelon's session, appropriately titled "Shedloads",
gave people the opportunity to praise God through modern worship
songs, at a slightly different pace and noise level to Graham
Kendrick the night before.
It was a noticeably young audience, made up of
mainly teenagers and young adults, who sang along to the powerful
guitars and strong voices. With no words behind him when he started
playing "Bless the Lord", the crowd took the mantle and the
powerful words echoed around the tent.
This gave many from more Evangelical
backgrounds a feeling of a little bit of Spring Harvest or New Wine
at Greenbelt, and rounded off a wonderful morning of worship.
There is a well-known spiritual exercise where you
imagine your own death. Only Ikon would do this
all dressed as Elvis in his Las Vegas days. And only Ikon would
find, too late, that the requisite dark glasses meant they couldn't
always see their scripts and computer keyboards in the dim
lighting. . .
When, at the entrance to Ikon's "The End" on Sunday
afternoon, participants were given a balloon and string with the
instruction "This is your life. Tie it to yourself and blow
yourself up," it was obvious how the service would end.
Before the balloon popping, the congregation wrote
what they hoped their lives' legacies would be, only to have them
ridiculed, and stuffed into a child's potty (another Elvis
The underlying message was an invitation to give up
the comfort of a God who will make things right, and to embrace a
community of decay. Like the invitation to leave the venue
blindfolded, with which the service ended, that was probably still
a step too far for most participants.
In the "Les Misérables Mass" on Sunday
evening, Transcendence - a
sacramental-worship group from York - took the music and themes of
the classic musical, adding them to the communion liturgy. The
queue stretching out of the venue was a testament to the
enthusiasm of the Greenbelters for such a concept, and it was a
disappointment to many that there was too little space for
Victor Hugo's story provided the structure of the
service, with Boublil and Schönberg's score underpinning key
moments: "On My Own" became the Lord's Prayer, while "Castle on a
Cloud" was the Sanctus.
Overall, it worked well, and there was an atmosphere
of worship rather than theatre, but the leading of the singing
could have been stronger, and venue overcrowding made the screens
difficult to see. Concluding with "Do You Hear the People Sing",
people were heard singing all the way back to the site.
Following on from last year's emotional
U2charist, this year's service on Sunday evening
was, wisely, held in the festival's largest indoor venue. It meant
that the bread and wine could not be received in the gallery, for
logistical reasons, but otherwise, several thousand people
worshipped God, led by clergy and the music of U2, played by
musicians from Luminous and Metanoia.
They also heard a short sermon that dovetailed with
the group's social-justice concerns. "Alongside", "One", "Yahweh",
"I Will Follow", and "40", among others, contemporary liturgy and
prayers helped to create a celestial worship environment.
On Sunday night, Celtic Springs, a
worshipping community from Durham that blends Christian liturgy
with Druidic practice, overcame several technical glitches, and
some unfortunately bright lighting, to lead the congregation in a
celebration of the "Divine Feminine". They believe that the female
aspects of God (or "Godde") are too often neglected. Accompanied by
harp-strumming, and readings about Lady Wisdom from the book of
Proverbs, the women in the congregation were invited to tie red
ribbons around each other's wrists, which were then used to bless
the men ceremonially.
The sharing of communion followed using an altered
liturgy - "Lord God of Hosts" became "Our vulnerable God", and the
Lord's Prayer was chanted in Aramaic, on the basis that the
word now translated as "Father" is said to be gender-neutral,
meaning "Birther", or "Life-giver".
Once a year a group of musicians and singers come
together to lead Greenbelt in Taizé worship. A
note at the bottom of the service sheet, on Sunday evening, said
that "from time to time" there are vacancies for musicians "of a
good standard" to join them.
The standard of the music is indeed very high, but it
also created a common paradox in Taizé services. Good musicians
want to stretch themselves, and the chants chosen were therefore
less well-known, and more complex.
The result was that, even with the musical parts
printed out, congregational singing was limited. On the other
hand, the music from the choir and orchestra soared.
To great popular acclaim, "Beer and Hymns" was
officially back on the programme, on Monday afternoon. Formerly
held in the Greenbelt "local", the Jesus Arms, Beer and Hymns was
exactly what it said it was. The stalwart landlord used to announce
the hymns, Monkeyboy Dave belted them out on the piano, and the
audience roared along, downing pints in between.
In its last official appearance, in 2010, it was a
victim of its own success, with hundreds of angry Greenbelters
excluded because the venue was too full. This year, the Jesus Arms
was able to extend its licence to include the Big Top, and everyone
could happily join in song.
Sacred Harp singing took place on
Saturday and Monday afternoons. Lesson One: it has nothing to do
with harps. It is a four-part a cappella tradition that
originated in the 19th century in the southern United States.
The Sacred Harp is a book of hymns written in a musical
system using different shaped note-heads, so that untrained voices
can more easily sing in harmony.
This was a first for Greenbelt, but an enthusiastic
crowd of 400 turned up for the first session, making it arguably
the largest Sacred Harp event ever held in the UK.
The folky harmonies blended beautifully. The notation
system undoubtedly helped with learning the four parts, but an hour
was not quite long enough for people to become comfortably
familiar. But it worked well as a taster, and the participants
loved the flavour.
Despite the intrusion of rock music from nearby
venues, Fr Christopher Jamison led a rapt audience
in a session on prayer, on Monday evening.
Having asked for a show of hands, he concluded that a
complete beginner's guide was not quite the thing, so he explained
three strands: personal prayer, sacred reading, and corporate
He said that repeated phrases to mull over can
greatly help with praying ceaselessly. Sacred reading is a way
mentally to chew over God's word in your heart rather than your
head. Corporate prayer is greatly enhanced when a gathering of
people have, individually, spent time with God.
To finish, Jamison led a short meditation in the
monastic tradition. The music drifting through the window faded
into the background, as the congregation searched for silence
A full film programme
was run throughout the weekend. Among the most popular were
Brave, about a red-headed tomboy princess, and
Looper, a Bruce Willis action movie about time travel,
assassins, and all things adolescent.
Greenbelt at 40, was premiered at the festival. To call it
a home movie would be unfair, but there was an element of a family
watching its own history unfold - complete with oohs and ahs, and
affectionate laughter from the home crowd that gathered to watch
The film's director, Pip Piper, made
a decent job of encapsulating 40 years of history, given the
scarcity of archive footage. There were moments of hilarity,
conjured by the quantity of hair and width of trouser bottoms, but
also moments of genuine pathos as old friends and great moments
It was not afraid to tackle the more difficult
moments, of financial hardship and embarrassing misjudgement,
but it did so against a background of positive celebration of a
remarkable event, whose history, has, as the film demonstrates,
changed people's lives.
In Friday night, Malcolm Guite, a
true priest-poet in the tradition of George Herbert and R. S.
Thomas, introduced his work. He is committed to reviving
traditional forms such as the sonnet, villanelle, and sestina. His
ambitious recent collection, Sounding the Seasons, is a tour
through the Church year, with a series of meditations on the
Stations of the Cross.
We read from this as well as from his forthcoming
book, which includes tributes to saints, official and
unrecognised, such as Hildegard of Bingen, C. S. Lewis, and Dante,
to whose Divine Comedy Guite returns again and again,
considering it "not dodgy theology, but a picture of the human
soul". Guite's own verse is not all soberly theological; he also
recited a delightful poem about finding his work jamming a
photocopier - the triumph of art over technology.
On Friday evening, journalist and novelist
Melissa Benn spoke of her dual roles as passionate
feminist and careful mother of teenaged daughters.
Shaped by Second Wave feminism, she is alarmed by a
current resurgence of misogyny, along with the Disney-princess
effect on femininity.
Countering the view that feminism and female
sexuality constitute "dangerous, diluted poison", Benn embraces
feminism's potential to promote female achievement and change a
culture of suspicion that allows only one in 30 female
sexual-assault victims to see her attacker tried.
Her new book, due in mid-September, is What
Should We Tell Our Daughters? She wants girls to become
confident in a safe family setting, able to have their voices
heard, and achieve in all areas, including maths and the sciences,
while also appreciating that money and status are not the only
markers of success.
Benn is a clear communicator of her strongly held
ideas - just don't call her "daughter of Tony".
The novelist Jo Baker's fifth novel,
published just weeks before Greenbelt, enters fascinating literary
territory. Longbourn maps Jane Austen's Pride and
Prejudice from the point of view of the servants.
In Saturday lunchtime the author began by reading a
passage in which Sarah, a Bennet housemaid, dreams of never having
to wash other people's underclothes ever again.
Baker was alerted to the presence (or absence) of the
servants in Austen because, given her own background, with a
grandmother and a great-aunt in service, she realised she would
never have been able to go to the Netherfield ball.
Reading Austen closely, she became aware that "there
were other people in the room where Pride and Prejudice
was being played out."
Baker's research into servanthood was practical as
well as academic: "You wouldn't believe all the things you can do
with cold tea." The result is an intriguing account of this section
What's the secret to writing a good novel? On
Saturday afternoon, Catherine Fox, novelist and
lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, invited her
audience to revisit their childhoods: the imaginary friends, games
and even entire worlds. This reversion to and reliance on our
imagination is key, Fox said.
Novels don't need to be sheer escapism, however; from
them, useful facts and truths can be taken back into the "real
world". They can even raise theological possibilities such as: what
if there is a God?
She spoke about her most recent book, Acts and
Omissions, a novel about the fictional diocese of Lindchester;
and she confessed: "Write about what you know? I write in order to
find out what I know."
In "The Beginnings of Fiction", on Saturday evening,
the novelist Jenn Ashworth introduced an extract
from her latest manuscript by rebutting the tendency of male
novelists to compare the creative process to pregnancy and
childbirth. "The only thing they have in common," she mused, "is
that at the time it's so terrible you say you'll never do it
Ashworth's understanding of the way that inspiration
works is more akin to ancient ideas of the muse: as a
"conversation" with someone else in the world who is having the
same thought or experience, transmitting the lives of others in a
blend of "co-creation and telepathy".
Far from the sublime experience it sounds, the
author's frank testimony was one of procrastination and
"self-sickening"; only when there was nothing left to say did she
find that the words finally came.
On Saturday evening, Catherine Fox
and Gregory Norminton, of the Manchester Writing
School, pondered whether we can have faith in fiction when
traditional publishing is falling by the wayside.
Norminton decouples the art of fiction from the
business of publishing. He said that he writes about his passions,
without thought for the market. Self-publishing, print-on-demand,
and crowd-funding speak to this desire to move publishing out of
the hands of corporations.
Likewise, Fox, frustrated by publishers who loved
her books but deemed them unmarketable, took a new tactic with her
fourth novel. She is publishing weekly instalments on her blog,
allowing for reader interaction.
Cox read from this work-in-progress, while Norminton
shared extracts from Beacons, his anthology of climate
stories. Passionate about the environment from the age of 12, he
wanted to bring the issue to a wider readership without resorting
Writing with an agenda may be anathema to some, but
telling stories still has great power to broaden perspectives.
On Sunday lunchtime, the poet Paul Cookson hosted
"Between the Lines", where four writers brought a favourite piece
of writing of their own, a new piece nobody had heard before, and
one by someone who had inspired them.
An eclectic panel included the poet Anthony
Wilson; the writer Deborah Fielding (who
read a short story from a collection inspired by the paintings of
Edward Hopper); the performance poet
Harry Baker; Katharine Venn,
who began writing poetry at a time when she was "reconfiguring" her
faith; and Simon Mayo, the Radio 2 DJ, who read
from his debut novel Itch.
Andrew Tate, senior lecturer in
English Literature at Lancaster University, led a discussion on
Sunday afternoon, on the future of books and reading. The novelist
Jenn Ashworth said that it had never been easier
for writers to publish their work, but "how do we navigate through
this mass of literature . . . and find what's going to speak to
Jonathan Taylor, the poet and
novelist, expressed concern about the influence of mass
corporations such as Amazon which exercised "massive control" over
the book trade. Writers were receiving "less and less money", while
corporations were receiving "more and more".
Simon Jones, the editor of Third
Way, thought it was important to consider "who is being
enabled to write". It was easier for those with financial means to
pursue a writing career and to access teaching such as creative
writing courses. "We're narrowing the band of people who have
access. . . A shared culture should be something to which
everybody has access."
Anthony Wilson was diagnosed with
non-Hodgkin lymphoma on Valentine's Day 2006. In a twist on this
year's theme, he called his talk on Sunday evening "Life begins
His memoir Love for Now is a
minute-by-minute journal of the cancer diagnosis and his treatment,
whileRiddanceis a collection of poems written after he entered
remission that autumn.
In readings from both books, Wilson looked back at a
maelstrom of emotions, but also a time of overwhelming support from
his church community.
He argued that martial imagery (such as "battling")
about cancer is unhelpful, because it romanticises disease. Such
language falsely divides the world into winners and losers. His
poem "I Am Fighting" mocks the battle metaphors, while "How to Pray
for the Dying" skewers the banalities that people spout at cancer
patients. Instead, Wilson advised, with trademark candour, "Try
saying, 'Shit happens'."
The novelist Jon McGregor made a
theatrical entrance to his session on Monday afternoon, dressed in
suit and tie and carrying a battered suitcase. He came on stage to
the sound of American music played over footage of a British
Fenlands landscape. Like a travelling salesman displaying his
wares, he opened the suitcase to reveal copies of his books, and
then began to read.
The stories from his recent collection, This
Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You, are
set in Lincolnshire's fens, and named after particular towns: one
set in a lost-property office; another, the one-sentence tale of an
arsonist. There are stories inspired by the "V" section of the
dictionary, Philip Larkin's poem "Wires", and the constant threat
As he concluded, the theatrics recurred. Gathering
his things, he recited a litany of Lincolnshire place-names,
throwing the last few over his shoulder as he exited. And so the
troubadour went on his way.
You had to see the crowds attracted by poetry to
believe them. The Big Top was packed at lunchtime on Monday to
listen to a line-up of performance poets. One of the best of them,
Harry Baker, then joined Jim
Wallis on the main stage for a YouTubed "crash mob",
banging pots and pans to accompany a campaign poem against tax
10×9 was a storytelling event where
nine people have up to ten minutes each to tell a real story from
their lives. There were two sessions this Greenbelt, gathering
together audience-told stories on the themes of growing up and love
- short tales with truth and style, sometimes both at the same
Stories are naturally unpredictable, but some of
these were exceptional. There was humour, confession, a polished
double-act, even a song with actions.
Instantly recognisable as the
Hawaiian-shirted master of the one-liner, BBC regular
Milton Jones began in characteristic pun-tastic
style, firing off whimsical wordplay that was sometimes slightly
more surreal than the audience could keep up with.
The meanderings of his oddball brand of scrutiny led
him from Scots to taxis to dead baby ghosts (Jones believes an
artist's job is to see things differently), at the Big Top on
After a short but silly set, Jones sat down to talk
faith, art and the creative process in a frank but warm and
light-hearted interview. From reminiscing about performing at
Greenbelt in the 1980s with the bizarre band "Norman" to the fickle
nature of fame, the take-home thrust of his thinking about
Christian artists is that they should not limit themselves to
making "Christian" art. After all, as Jones put it, "should bakers
who are Christians just make hot cross buns?"
VISUAL ARTS, PERFORMING ARTS
As ever, Greenbelt's visual arts strand provided very
different kinds of spaces, and a rare opportunity for hush. The
main showing space, a standard racecourse bar, had been
transformed into a well-lit professional-looking
The title of the group exhibition housed there was
"Through a Glass Darkly", which explored inner "underground
worlds". Six artists were featured, and, while the subject-matter
was sombre, it fell a long way short of gloom. The key piece was a
large work by Jake Lever, The Blue the Dim and
the Gold, depicting a gilded lake and a treeline inspired by
the trees that fringe the hilly horizon at Cheltenham. A lone
figure in a boat floats, almost invisibly, on the lake, an emblem
of human weakness.
This was complemented by the work of British-born
Indian Caroline Jariwala, whose meditative
works, made of earth-colours, gold, and henna, formed a series of
"silent prayers", exploring the commonalities between her
(Quaker) Christian spirituality, and her Hindu cultural roots.
The work of Chris Hoggett and
Diana Green also paired nicely. Hoggett's
illustrations, which spring from his long experience of
depression, echo William Blake and Francis Bacon. The etchings in
Green's series "Life Began" look like rubbings from ancient stones,
and chart the process of creation as narrated in the Authorised
Version of the early chapters of Genesis.
Claire Watson's ceramics, part of a
series entitled "Life Goes On . . .", also appear to come from some
ancient place. Inspired by the Norman church at Hailes, these
faded, stone-like pieces hint at antiquity, evoking the passing of
time, but also the endurance of peace, and harmony to be found in
There were also two artists with considerable
international reputations who had works on show. Nicola
Green (Features, 15 February) showed her powerful
series In Seven Days. . ., the result of her stint
as artist-in-residence during the 2008 Obama presidential
campaign, including an imposing image of Obama himself, taken on
the night on which he received the Democratic nomination.
Sokari Douglas Camp (Features, 9 August)
brought her imposing, steel, bigger than life-size figures, which
commemorate the ending of slavery: All the World is Now Richer.
Their monumentality deserved a larger, and better lit venue; but,
squeezed as they were, the intimacy of the space in which they
found themselves ironically enhanced the power of these awesome,
In Abdul-Rehman Malik's perfoming
arts workshop "Is that a bomb in your bag? How does it feel to be
the 'enemy'?", on Sunday afternoon, Malik could simply have told
the tale how, in the 1990s, a man in Starbucks, in Canada,
demanded to know if he had a bomb in his bag.
Instead, he joined with a drama facilitator to stage
a session incorporating role-play, conversation, and human
sculpture. Each person was invited privately to identify, in the
audience, a protector and an enemy, and, as we walked around the
room, ensure that the former was always between us and the latter.
Feedback afterwards revealed just how powerful this exercise was,
triggering all sorts of feelings.
Later, before hearing Malik's own story, we enacted
the Starbucks scenario, showing through our posture our reaction
to the confrontation. With an impressive lack of British reserve,
people felt rage, shame, fear, and stress.
Half an hour was far too short for the large audience
that gathered to watch Configurations, performed by
Shonaba Jeyasingh Dance, on Sunday afternoon.
Four lithe dancers performed to a composition by Michael Nyman,
played on stage by a string quartet. The work, first performed in
1988, was breathtaking for the audience as well as the dancers,
who were trained in Bharata Natyam, a classical Indian dance form.
There was no narrative, but much emotional interplay between the
dancers, bringing out themes such as menace and escape, but also
Inua Ellams's one-man show The
14th Tale received a standing ovation from the audience on
Sunday evening. They were gripped by the lyrical beauty that
brought alive a simple story of a young boy's migration from
Nigeria to London.
Using his skills as a poet and playwright, Ellams
blended metaphor, rhyme, and refrain to paint vivid pictures of
African family life, and schoolboy antics. "I am from a long line
of troublemakers," he said, "inheritor of fast feet, and a father's
contempt for authority, born with clenched fists and a natural
thirst for battle, only quenched by breast milk."
But in among the comic stories of playground pranks
and teenage crushes, were moments of profundity, as the young poet
hinted at a greater power at work in his life: "A vague order to
things, of things happening when they're meant to - like a
star alignment or pendulum swing."
This year's festival began
with a special "thank you" for the festival supporters known as
Greenbelt Angels. Among the performers was singer-songwriter
Martyn Joseph, who performed a couple of new
Joseph was, as usual, at his agitated best in song
and anecdote, as he recalled a recent trip to occupied
On Saturday afternoon, for one day only, "Last
Orders" was early, and on tour, bringing a village fête to the Big
It was opened by the Revd Gerald Ambulance (aka
journalist Stephen Tomkins), praising all the good
things that come to us from heaven "like monosodium glutamate and
E177". Like every fête should, it featured a wonky vegetable
competition, plus some almost realistic parish
Grace Petrie got the crowd singing,
as did Beer and Hymns. But the undoubted stars were Folk
On, who brought the fête to a close with "The Lovely
Song", and its rousing chorus of: "Find me somebody to love".
The Christian Aid tent hosted baking
sessions throughout the festival, offering Greenbelters the chance
to "prove" themselves and their baking skills.
The Christian Aid Collective showed young and old how
to make soda bread. As people were kneading, the volunteers
recounted the story of people's benefiting from projects in various
countries around the world - such as farmers in Kenya who are
equipped with mobile phones and can receive texts about the
weather. This tells them the best time to plant their crops; so
farmers can yield a successful harvest to support themselves.
Saturday's bakers were invited to make two loaves:
one for the festival eucharist on Sunday, and one to collect later
in the day to enjoy themselves. The sessions were a wonderfully
creative idea, feeding the body, mind, and soul.
Hidden away in the Greenbelt campsite was a new
venue: "The Grove", the temporary home of the new Forest Church
A range of activities took place there over the
weekend - from fire rituals to circle drumming - as well as "Mossy
Church" on Sunday afternoon: a simple, loosely structured form
After listening to the story of St Brendan,
participants were free to explore activities that linked elements
of his life and ministry with elements of nature (making seed
balls, prayer arrows, candle holders and origami boats), before
closing with a prayer and dismissal via a paddling pool. From the
green setting to the relaxed, inclusive, slightly quirky feel, it
was "very Greenbelt".
Clare Balding's warm broadcasting
style put a live studio audience immediately at ease when she
presented her regular BBC Radio 2 show,Good Morning Sunday, from
Alongside live acoustic-guitar performances from
Garth Hewitt, Thea Gilmore, and Martyn Joseph, Balding was joined
by Vicky Beeching, who was interviewed on the compatibility of
faith and social media.
Richard Coles brought a "moment of
reflection", celebrating Greenbelt as a place of unity in a Church
that can sometimes seem "impossibly diverse", and the bestselling
author and White House adviser Jim Wallis gave
an impassioned plea for the Church to be "movement-builders - the
This, he said, can influence politicians to act in
the interests of a long-forgotten principle: the common
CHILDREN AND YOUTH
The village was the place to
be if you were parents with children: a group of venues with
programmes aimed at children too young for the youth zone.
The "Village Green" offered a wide variety of lively
activities, from Zumba to Greenbelt's 40th birthday party; the
Village Playhouse was the venue where stories came alive for young
Blunderbus Theatre Company brought
two of their shows: How to Catch a Star and Dotty the
Dragon. The latter a story that helped children and adults
alike learn about forgiveness, not taking people at face value and
the importance of helping and accepting others.
Lunabug entertained with their
Dreams of Philomena show - an enchanting tale of Philomena
and Albert - whose last request before going to heaven is to see
his wife again.
In the tale, which sensitively tackled issues of
bereavement, loss and saying goodbye, Philomema is whisked off to
the land of the waiting place where her late husband Albert is
looking for the last train to eternity.
Simon Buckley gave a powerful
retelling of the prodigal son through puppets and comedy, and
Snail Tales storytellers performed the premiere
of their show A Pinch of Pickle, A Whisk of Wise.
The Village Hall, the smaller of the family venues,
provided space for a wide variety of activies and
Ola Samba had everyone playing samba
drums and dancing carnival style; there was story time with author
and illustrator Rebecca Elliot; and play songs
with Greenbelt favourites Nickie and Gill, whose
simple blend of actions and easy-to-pick-up songs, delighted
toddlers and parents alike.
The Make and Take tent was a firm favourite, with a
wide variety of things to make, from sock puppets and bird feeders
to bees and giant windmills. The Village Orchard - which had plenty
of indoor and outdoor toys and books - was another well-trodden
The Shed and The Chillage hosted the lion's share of
this year's youth programme. Featuring debates, workshops,
chill-out zones, and movies, the two spaces provided both a
welcoming and open space, but also retained an allusive aspect of
exclusivity by strictly barring old fogeys.
The Chillage, in the bowels of the racecourse
grandstand, was, actually, extremely chilled, until "Gangnam
Style" started blaring. Complete with a Wii, table football, sofas,
and snack bar, the space was a lovely warm hangout for youth and
students, and, by Saturday afternoon, they' ha already sold out of
Films in The Chillage included Cool Runnings,
Mean Girls, Toy Story and Mamma Mia.
Friday at The Shed featured 40th-birthday
celebrations, including a quiz. Saturday kicked off with a fitness
boot-camp, magic workshop, and a girls-only debate about beauty,
but the highlight of Saturday was the gospel-singing workshop by
the London Community Gospel Choir ("Say
'hallelujah' like you really mean it!") which had people spilling
out of the doors as we clapped and swayed to "Oh Happy
In the covered space outside you could play ping
pong, giant Jenga, and other games, from morning to night, as well
as a festival-wide treasure hunt, using GPS, called
Cake and Debate sessions proved popular, as did the
Acoustic Café, which brought a select programme of performers up
Sunday offered, among other things, a clothes swap,
scriptwriting, comedy, and debate, while the truly exhausted could
kick back and watch The Hunger Games in the
Monday's highlights included Capoeira, a Brazilian
martial art; a "Jesus was a lobbyist" activist workshop; the
Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, and a screening of
The Lion King (in which most people probably dozed off,
after a full weekend of Greenbelting).
In the Big Top, at lunchtimes, "Shedloads" took
place, providing youth events in a larger venue, led by the Youth
RoBo Disco, Big Games (including a very amusing
cling-film olympics) and a youth worship-session with Ben
Cantelon all attracted good-sized crowds.
The sheer range of this year's Youthbelt programme
enabled Greenbelt's up-and-comers to appreciate a full
spectrum of arts, politics and worship.
Reviews written by Sarah Brush, John Cheek, Liz Clutterbuck,
Madeleine Davies, Malcolm Doney, Rebecca Foster, Paul Handley,
Jemima Lewis, Mark Montgomery, Annie Porthouse, Matilda Reith, Ed
Thornton, Clare Truman, Mike Truman, Helena Wright.
On-site production by Abi Renshaw and Naomi James.
Edited by Christine Miles