Martin Wroe handed over the festival chair to Dot Reid, who described seeing images of a muddy Glastonbury earlier in the summer, saying that Scots might be stoical about the weather but she was sure that Greenbelt would be different. Sunny even. And in ’97, along with extra training and resources for youth groups, an Essential Guide to Greenbelt for Churches and Youth Groups was published with the festival guide.
Greenbelt now described itself as “working with Christian Aid.” For the first time the festival had its own fairground and Komedia was the name of a new home for the Performing Arts. The Labyrinth graduated from The Fringe to the centre of attention, the Fashion Show was hosted in The Womb, there was an ‘Open Book’ venue from the Bible Society, and Justin Butcher produced The Man Born to be King by Dorothy Sayers. Another late night show made its debut: ‘The Living Room’, hosted by Andy Turner and Cole Moreton.
But ’97 was all about Monday’s ‘Overground’ event, with Greenbelt and Christian Aid working together in the festival’s first ‘partners for justice’ day to raise awareness of homelessness and displacement worldwide. It featured one of the finest of festival bills, including Cornershop, Three Colours Red, Lamb, the Sneaker Pimps, the Bhundu Boys, DJ Rap and Goldie. The day highlighted the landless movement in Brazil, the reconstruction of Bosnia and displaced mining communities in the Philippines. Unfortunately – would you believe it? – it also rained hard and many people began to head home early, leaving mainstage looking muddy and forlorn.
Other music included the old and the new of folk in Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy, roots torch singer Christine Collister, the UK’s biggest Christian band Delirious?, and Americans Sarah Masen and Pierce Pettis. The Visual Arts programme featured exhibitions and workshops in sculpture, printmaking, painting, and mixed media, while the film programme featured Breaking the Waves, Trainspotting and Shine. Speakers included direct action protagonist Ceiron O’Reilly and Ann Pettifor of the Jubilee 2000 Coalition.
So it rained – lots. And, in a year Greenbelt staked a lot on attracting visitors to its Overground day. Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. No doubt there was a divine comedy at work, but after some festivals it was getting hard to see the funny side.
At the Sunday morning service, Bishop John Sentamu preached an heroically long sermon. As he stood in the dry under the mainstage canopy he couldn’t resist a gag about the “blessing of rain.” Ha, ha, ha! How we laughed, soaked as we were to the skin! What a blessing!
Getting it together
Lots of Greenbelters sent us stories about finding their partners at the festival. Here’s one from 1997. Jon Trip knew that if his girlfriend Helen couldn’t get into what Greenbelt is about then she’d never be his wife. It would be like the manager of an abattoir marrying a vegetarian. He’d been going every year since the early 80s and Helen had, in all fairness, been showing willing in recent years – even camping in ’96! And so Jon decided that this would be the year. After Martyn Joseph’s gig (Dolphins always made her cry), Jon led her down to the lake at Deene, sank down on one knee and continued sinking – down and down into the mud – as he proposed. Helen accepted. It rained solidly for the next 24 hours, but our young lovers didn’t even notice. Aaaaah. The blessing of rain again.
Page last updated 27 Apr 2013