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O’Connor headlines at Greenbelt

11 April 2014

By Simon Jones


ALTHOUGH the Greenbelt festival relocates to a new site in Northamptonshire in August (News, 13 November), familiar names will be there to welcome visitors.

The festival organisers say that they just "couldn't make camp" without a slot in the Big Top for the singer Martyn Joseph; and, in the talks programme, the returning names include Brian McLaren, from the United States, who will be talking about his new book We Make the Road By Walking.

One or two names are expected to enliven the line-up, however, not least Sinéad O'Connor (right). Since her time as a number-one artist, O'Connor has been a campaigner on issues such as child abuse, pacifism, and gay rights, while maintaining a recording career. She is also a priest in the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.

O'Connor once tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on the American TV programme Saturday Night Live, as a protest against what she saw as his oversight of clerical child abuse. The New York Times wrote: "After Madonna had herself gowned, harnessed, strapped down, and fully stripped to promote her album Erotica and her book Sex, O'Connor stole the spotlight with one photograph of a fully clothed man."

A survivor of abuse herself, she has said that her Christian faith gave her the strength to live through, and then overcome, the effects of that abuse.

Also attending this year will be the left-wing columnist and author Owen Jones. Jones's book Chavs: The demonisation of the working class, reignited a debate around class in the wake of the London riots. He argued that policies on poverty were being complemented by a cultural contempt for the poor among those who were better off.

At Greenbelt, poverty abroad is considered alongside poverty at home, and the festival will also welcome the Revd Mpho Tutu, a preacher and public speaker who wrote The Book of Forgiving with her father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Ms Tutu runs the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in South Africa, which campaigns for an activism inspired by theology (Back Page interview, 4 April).

The line-up is as serious about having fun as it is about the politics, and the folk band Stornoway will be adding some shanty song-craft to the mix. An old-time band for the modern era, anyone who's heard their "Zorbing" or "I saw you blink" will expect to leave the new site dancing.

Feature: Dave Walker visits the Greenbelt festival site. The Church Times is Greenbelt's media partner.

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