Every year I long for Greenbelt, this year was filled with anticipation of the unknown, for it was to be at a new venue, Boughton house, Deene Park, was a long time ago and Knebworth also time past but of recent years Cheltenham had become home, with its concrete concourses and posh loo’s. This year though was back to green fields and a compact site with the theme of Traveling Light. I think the theme really referred to the amount of infrastructure, well and the paucity of main stage acts Monday evening.
Worship – well there’s loads of it! From the loud and boisterous Beer and Hymns (often sadly unofficial, although this year it meant I had the fun of leading it with the amazing Hannah and support of Phil) . Silent Eucharists, formal Catholic Mass, Celtic liturgies but best of all the main Communion service on the Sunday morning. Thousands of people gather in the Glade in front of the Glade Stage, communion is given to groups of 20 who are randomly formed together often not knowing each other. For me this is the beating heart of Greenbelt, maybe because I am an Anglican but more probably because Christ commanded us to remember him in this manner. Each year the theme changes and each year it is different for me this years was the best in many years and could only be improved by not messing about with the hymns and having a clear starting point.
Listening – here there is a problem! Too many talks competing, it’s a fantastic problem which to choose. The talks however are not all just presentations of ideas in didactic fashion, some are over coffee (when speaking about Fairtrade). Some of the talks are disguised as walks and talks (foraging) others are traditionally delivered with passion, pathos, intensity and humour. Whoever you are you will be challenged, fed, you will agree with some and disagree with others, I would suggest you try some in each category.
Hymns – Just sing them and take part, but then I would say that about any part of the festival, taste and see many things but don’t be half hearted. You will only miss things by not getting involved.
Food – Essential to life, essential to enjoyment and such variety. I love the ultra thin pizzas, fish curry, pies with cheesy mash. You choose there’s so many kinds of food on offer.
Beer – perhaps not essential to life but very close! The Jesus arms as always had a great selection of beers and ciders, and the Blue Nun some great wine, (at least so I’m told). It was great to have The Jesus Arms so close to the Glade Stage, particularly when it was inclement. For me Beer and Hymns is a massively important part of the festival but I want to be clear as a person that helps lead it it is about the worship of God in song, not the worship of beer (that would be idolatry, I will blog about the theology of beer and hymns latter). The thing about the beer is enjoy it like everything else but in this case a little moderation!
Coming back to the site there were problems this year, possibly not enough toilets/ or maybe they were in the wrong place, the water pressure was at first too low in the caravan and motorhome area, 30 minutes for 40 litres is way to long! The site was rutted and difficult for the disabled and this is possibly the most difficult thing to correct but I did notice that the staff to The Jesus Arms were camped much closer to to the festival than anyone else and there was a close by vehicle access. As for the mud on Monday, if it rains and thousands walk on clay soil then it will get muddy, end of! Particularly if people will walk on the grass and not the plastic track and I guess they will so there’s little to be done but pray for fine weather.
So yup there were a few teething problems but the amazing team that plan it, added by the excellent army of volunteers will sort many of these things out and no doubt refine even the great and good things. Otherwise, put your heart and soul in and be refreshed, learn and have great fun.