Youth festival, music festival, political festival, evangelical
festival, development festival, broke festival, harvest festival…
there’s something in all these myths about Greenbelt that is accurate,
but nothing entirely true.
Jane and I last went 20 years ago and got engaged while there1.
So how did it go?
Greenbelt is now at Cheltenham Racecourse and has been for many years. Obviously our first time there. It was good to be able to have some permanent buildings, some non muddy ground, some real toilets and all the extra rooms for talks, music etc. The buildings are a bit of a maze and are not ideally suited for the number of different things happening at the same time. That made finding the right queue tricky at times and also slowed the changeover between items at times.
The site seemed well laid out with plenty of space and yet the festival bits reasonably compact.
Obviously being somewhat older I was interested in different stuff to the last visit. For me the highlight this time was the talks. For starters I got to Johnny Baker, John Bell (x2), Maggi Dawn, Norman Kember, Michael Northcott, Sally & Sean Robertshaw, Jim Wallis. Jane went to some others and so did Andrew. Sadly Walter Wink was unavailable so his talks were cancelled. I failed to get into a couple of others (including Maggi Dawns other talk).
Timing was an issue. You need to judge the venue and the speaker popularity to know how early you need to be, that means it is often impossible to get to back to back talks. Fortunately, having the "Wesley" venue outside meant that everyone who wanted to could get to some of the really big names.
I may well comment more on some of these talks separately as they were excellent and challenging.
We all went to the Sunday morning communion which was a good service, although a time of praise all together at the main stage before or after would have been good. Sadly, did not manage a lot of other worship for one reason or another (getting Stephen to/from the excellent Kids Festival, meal preparation, kids to bed etc), but all I did experience was good and yes ideas are coming back to Methodism in the Nene Valley Circuit.
Managed to catch Ben Okafor at the Christian Aid Performance Tent, sadly missed Garth Hewitt (but bought two CD’s instead). Also heard the Mohabir Sisters again in the performance tent. Kids heard a lot more and have come home with a variety of CD’s from bands they had not heard of before (Titus, Electralyte and Fischy Music). Caught lots of other bits and know the older boys spent time listening too stuff at Stage 2, the Mix and Main Stage.
You might have thought that we had enough of camping after our cycling holiday. Anyway we went fairly lightweight with 3 small(ish) tents. Our little used 18 year old Vango MK 5 came out and worked reliably as always. We were on campsite 9, a fair walk away but it worked well (especially after they added more toilets after problems Friday night/Saturday morning).
We were with 3 others from Raunds who had a tent with a large seating area, with hindsight a good idea. Now we realise that you can take caravans into the main camping area we might have a little more comfort next year. It would free up a lot more time to get to the festival as cooking and eating is so much easier.
Oh and the toilets are a million times better than 20 years ago.
Everyone says they enjoyed it and wants to go back. The Kids Festival was great for Stephen who had two really good mornings there. Peter found "The Mix" superb and only seemed to emerge for donuts and sleep. On the other hand Andrew did not get into Humanics much and tended to go to main festival things. Mobile phones were very useful for finding each other.
The food on offer was pretty good although not cheap. We found a quick breakfast at the campsite and some solid pasta or rice in the evening was all we needed to prepare and then bought the rest around the festival – but that meant around £10 cash per person per day (some lunch, couple of drinks and a snack). Make sure you take all the cash you will need as the cash machines on site ran out very quickly (and charge for withdrawals).
Some highlights were organic sausages in a bun, Mocha Mania coffees, and Falafell.
One of the joys of Greenbelt was meeting lots of old friends. I just kept bumping into them. Some I had not seen in many years, others I have met online (hi again Dave), which included a whole lot of the wibsite bloggers some I read and others I have not yet, many with connections to Richard as well. Also met Youthblog. and Pedallingmythoughts. Also we met Inderjit & family.
Fantastic. Go in 2007 if you possibly can.
1: Actually, opinion is divided. Jane maintains that she got engaged to me a couple of weeks earlier, while I am sure that I actually popped the question while at Greenbelt 86.