Filling to bursting point a more spread-out site layout — with a whole extra new festival village centre — might have proved difficult. But this is Greenbelt. So, of course, we had more than enough amazing stuff happening in all corners of the site from morning to night, and then to morning again.
With an experimental new outdoor stage, The Groovy Movie Solar Powered Cinema, the always-packed Performance Café acoustic venue, the loud and sweaty Stage 2, Stage 1, and talks, performing arts in the Centaur indoor arena and everywhere you went onsite, and panels, debates, worship, and visual arts happing in all nooks and crannies, the programme was as rich, diverse, challenging and inspirational as ever.
And that’s not to mention all the things we put on for children, families and young people — with a daily programme for all those under the age of 10, great stuff for teenagers with the Mix and Humanic events more integrated into the rest of the Festival than ever, and allage stuff including the ever-wonderful Colourscape.
Specific highlights from 2005’s Tree of Life programme included: stirring oratory from human rights lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith; Bill Drummond giving his manifesto on how to be an artist; religious commentator Karen Armstrong on Fundamentalism; a beautiful exchange of prose, poetry and theology between theologian David Ford and poet Micheal O’Siadhail; worship services ranging from a Marvin Gaye based mass to Orthodox vespers and a ‘Dark’ service in the pitch black; comedy from Milton Jones performing his special new piece on the church and a joke-telling event responding to the Religious Hatred Bill; performing arts and street theatre ranging from lost Polar Explorers to giant slinkies with Bedlam Oz, an open air café hosted by the anarchic Splott Brothers, and giant outdoor dance workshops; while music included rapper and former Sudanese boy soldier Emanuel Jal, DJ Gilles Peterson, a before-she-got-really-famous set from Corinne Bailey Rae, Estelle and the triumphant return of The Proclaimers.