Acts of the Imagination

Acts of the Imagination

A first few thoughts on the theme for Greenbelt 2018 from Creative Director Paul Northup.


Since we moved to our new festival site in 2012, our themes have been quite practical – about our journey, and re-imagining in a new festival setting: Travelling Light, The Bright Field, Silent Stars, The Common Good.

For 2018, we wanted to have a theme that reflects our artistic vision and ambition for Greenbelt. One that sums up the creative spirit at the heart of the Greenbelt journey. Which is why we went for ‘Acts of the Imagination’.

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Nowadays, people tend to look down on imagination. There’s no space for it in a world of productivity, getting things done and growth? Our fast-paced, always-on world greets imagination with reactions ranging from suspicion to indifference.

People of faith can be sceptical about imagination too. Some think that, for their faith to really matter, to be authentic, it must avoid the imagination. Instead, many see faith as something that must be rooted in fact and history only.

People of science, on the other hand, often seen imagination as being at odds with their project, too. A flight of fancy – inconsequential at best, and a distortion of reality at worst.

This is a caricature, of course. The world isn’t divided into religious and scientific people, both viewing the imagination with disdain. But it does seem that the imagination – once so central to our idea of being human and our search for meaning and justice – has been relegated. Meanwhile, the pragmatic and ‘productive’ have taken centre stage.

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At Greenbelt we believe that imagination drives artistry and activism. We believe it helps faith, creativity and action to emerge. Our Artistic Vision says:

“Imagination is more than the impulse to create. It is the ability to see something that is not there, to plan, to hope, to empathise. Politics, social outreach and theology are all rooted in the imagination.”

You only have to listen to the late, great Irish priest and poet John O’Donohue, speaking on his last visit to the festival, to realise how vital the imagination is in any vibrant life journey: ‘The Imagination is the Path to the Spirit‘.

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We believe that Greenbelt 2018 can reawaken us all to the power and potential of the imagination. We believe imagination can be the source and drive for both our creativity and our compassion – our artistry and our activism. Far from being a waste of time, we want to celebrate the imagination as being of foundational importance to our humanity and our shared future.

It’s pretty difficult to be optimistic in these strange and uncertain times. But we can still be hopeful. Thanks, in large part, to the gift of the imagination – to see a different world, and then to be energised enough to work towards that re-imagined future.