About Greenbelt

Our mission is to create spaces, like festivals, where art, faith and justice collide.

What is Greenbelt?

Engaged with culture, inspired by the arts, sustained by faith, we aspire to be an open generous community re-imagining the Christian narrative for the present moment. Our mission is to create spaces, like festivals, where art, faith and justice collide. Where artistry and activism, spirituality and politics, faith and justice are held together.

This mission is primarily lived out annually, over the August Bank Holiday weekend, when we host a rich multi-arts festival programme of music, visual and performing arts, spirituality, comedy, talks and discussion. The diversity of content not only demonstrates our commitment to the arts, faith and justice, but also our underlying values of tolerance, dialogue and hope.

We do all we can to keep the festival as accessible as we can, offering a range of discounted and concession ticket deals as well as giving away some tickets each year (through our Open Festival scheme) to people who otherwise would not be able to afford to go to Greenbelt – or any other festival. And we try to make a difference beyond the festival, through our campaigning activity and through Trust Greenbelt, which gives grants to quirky, entrepreneurial, risky community projects combining arts, faith and justice.

Our focus will always be on running a festival over August Bank Holiday weekend. But we are also open to hosting and collaborating on events around the country year-round that reflect the openness, bravery and creativity of the festival’s community and its spirit.

Who we are

Our history is firmly rooted within a Christian tradition which is world-affirming, politically and culturally engaged. Ours is a belief that embraces instead of excludes. And, as such, the festival is an inter-generational celebration, inclusive and accepting of all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background or belief.

We stand for an inclusive and progressive Christian faith, which means we are committed to:

Transforming life for the common good

  • working for justice
  • challenging oppression
  • listening to those with no voice and standing with people on the margins

Using our resources wisely and responsibly

  • reducing our impact on the good earth
  • trading and investing with people and communities in mind, not simply to maximise financial return
  • celebrating the power of people to change history
  • inspiring and resourcing each other to live lives marked by artistry, activism and spirituality 

Putting people first

  • igniting community which celebrates life
  • welcoming all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, disability or background
  • nurturing an empowered staff and volunteer body in a culture of openness, creativity, humility and accountability

Collaborating, conspiring and conversing

  • partnering with like-minded individuals, groups and organisations to dream new dreams, and become more than the sum of our parts
  • helping staff, volunteers, Angels and festivalgoers to re-imagine Greenbelt both as an annual festival and around the year
  • modelling through creative friendship compelling approaches to art, activism and and spirituality in our time

Cherishing the journey as much as the destination

  • questioning intolerance, greed, prejudice and injustice
  • exploring ideas, beliefs, stories and traditions, both those which challenge and those which affirm
  • creating spaces to incubate new perspectives, celebrate curiosity and enrich our understanding through dialogue and diversity

Our History

The Sun newspaper billed the first Greenbelt Festival in 1974 as ‘The Nice People’s Pop Festival’, but perhaps it was more subversive than it appeared. Back in the 1970s, Greenbelt’s holistic take – ‘Bible in one hand and newspaper in the other’ – had a transforming impact, believing that all artistic expression and endeavour was God-given. And, while the initial draw of the Festival in the 1970s lay in this celebration of the arts (and music especially), its appeal broadened through the 1980s as a growing internationalism emerged from the concerns of festival organisers.

Among significant new voices heard at the festival in this period were Nicaraguan minister Gustavo Parajon, South African anti-apartheid activist Caesar Molebatsi and Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Melkite priest from Nazareth. Then, in the 1990s, as the evangelical musical subculture slowly dried up, the heart and mind of Greenbelt broadened and strengthened still more.

Artists were invited not just because they were believers or had a distant churchgoing relative, but because their vision overlapped with a biblical one of global justice (Bob Geldof) or engaging with the political powers (Midnight Oil) or was simply fuelled by a divine sense of wonder (Waterboys). 

The festival grew from an initial 2,000 in 1974 and, by the early 1980s, there were more than 20,000 people coming each year. But, for a whole variety of reasons, numbers declined in the 1990s. And a series of disastrously wet August Bank Holidays didn’t help. Only the loyalty of a small core of committed believers who’d grown up with the festival kept an increasingly unlikely show on the road.

These believers became Greenbelt’s ‘Angels’ in the mid-1990s. And then, in 1999, with attendance at its lowest since the first festival in 1974, Greenbelt moved away from its green-field locations and de-camped to Cheltenham Racecourse. 

To some, it seemed like the end. Yet, the move proved to be a lifesaver. Greenbelt spent 15 happy years there, regrouping, regrowing, rediscovering itself. Then, after celebrating its 40th edition in 2013, the festival moved again – back to a greenfield site in Northamptonshire, to Boughton House, near Kettering.

Over the years, as Greenbelt has cemented its partnership with Christian Aid and other associate agencies, Greenbelters have translated debate about political engagement and international injustice into vigorous campaigning, re-imagining the Christian community as an infectious global conspiracy.

And still Greenbelt believes – along with Scottish writer and broadcaster Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh – that only the arts come close to capturing the mystery of The Other that haunts us.

… all great art … breaks through the frustration of language and unites us with that which language only usually signifies.

The future at Boughton brings with it exciting challenges and the chance to keep producing the UK’s leading festival of artistry and activism – fuelled by a uniquely progressive spiritual vision.

Trust Greenbelt

Trust Greenbelt takes the generous contributions of our festivalgoing public at our festival communion service, and, whenever finances allow, turns these gifts into something greater than the sum of their parts.

Trust Greenbelt extends Greenbelt’s reach and impact beyond its annual festival – geographically and across the year. It’s about Greenbelt’s wider vision, mission and values – inspiring and resourcing artistry, activism and spirituality. Distributing resources far and wide to projects that embody Greenbelt’s three-stranded DNA – arts, faith and justice.

To find out more about the projects we’ve recently supported, check out our blog here about the £80,000 we gave away in 2016. Over the years, Trust Greenbelt has given away more than half a million pounds.

Right now, the trust is closed for funding applications. But we plan to reopen it just as soon as we have rebuilt the fund itself and we are able to give again.

Deborah Fielding

‘The award has given me focus, a sense of legitimacy as a writer and an enthusiasm for my topic.’

Research grant towards her work on her debut novel engaging with ageing and dementia.