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Greenbelt online: festival audience buys into Plan B

03 September 2020

Speaker compares this year’s Greenbelt to the great banquet in St Luke’s Gospel


Becky Tyler spoke online at the Great Big Festival Picnic

Becky Tyler spoke online at the Great Big Festival Picnic

THE organisers of the Greenbelt Festival have said that they were “bowled over” by the level of interest in this year’s online festival. Thousands of people bought passes for online talks, music, and worship, under the theme “Wild at Home”, organised in place of the traditional festival over the Bank Holiday weekend at Boughton House, in Northamptonshire.

In an email to supporters on Tuesday, the organisers said: “Our field of streams might have been virtual, but there were lots of times over the weekend when it felt mighty real.”

facebook/greenbeltClockwise from top left: Ahed Tamimi discusses annexation in Palestine; Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan reads poetry; Harry and Chris; and a special performance from Folk On

The virtual festival, announced in April (News, 24 April), included secret concert footage of Pussy Riot and the Glory Fires, among other acts; a discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement; footage of past Greenbelt performances; and virtual Beer & Hymns.

On Sunday, “The Great Big Festival Picnic” was streamed online, in place of the usual festival eucharist. It included prayers, hymns, and a talk by Becky Tyler, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and who preached at the festival eucharist in 2017 (News, 1 September 2017).

Ms Tyler compared the festival to the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14: “The venue was booked, the food was ordered, the entertainer was scheduled, and the guests were invited. But our beloved festival was cancelled for the first time in 47 years. And, like the master of the banquet, we might feel disappointed, frustrated, or angry about all that has changed or been lost.”

She continued: “When life takes such uncontrollable twists or turns, a lot of people might think: this is not the way my life was meant to be. Things went wrong when I was born and my brain was starved of oxygen. In just a few minutes, I lost the ability to walk, talk, and use my hands, and I will be dependent on other people to care for me for the rest of my life.

A Greenbelt regular, the Revd Kate Bottley

“Some people might say that I missed out on Plan A for my life as an able-bodied person, and that my disabilities have meant that I have been forced to live Plan B, which is considered an inferior life as a disabled person. However, that is not my perspective nor my experience. I believe God knew in advance what would happen to me, and I am living God’s Plan A for my life. And I do not believe that God has a Plan B. He is still in control of our lives, and he is sovereign over everything.”

Ms Tyler concluded: “Maybe it takes a life-changing event like this pandemic for God to grab our attention and show us what is really important.”

The main sessions (a total of 17 hours) are still available online for the rest of this month. A pass can be bought for £7 from greenbelt.org.uk/buy-tickets. Earlybird tickets for next year’s festival are also on sale at the same web address.

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