Greenbelt 2006 saw the return of an outdoor mainstage – graced by the likes of Daniel Bedingfield, Michael Franti and Spearhead, My Morning Jacket, Maria McKee, All Star United, Nizlopi and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Meanwhile, Courtney Pine, Randy Stonehill and Brian Houston played the Centaur, Stage 2 hosted the new, unsigned bands, and the Performance Café saw Greenbelt collaborate with Christian Aid on a new Big Top venue. And that’s just the rock n roll. Maverick Bill Drummond led a small group to form ‘The 17’, a choir with no rules, and the classical music programme included recitals, the Greenbelt Festival Orchestra and scratch choirs for children and adults alike.
The worship programme hosted services from dozens of different groups in multiple venues. New Forms became a café-style venue and Soul Space’s Spiritual Direction merged with contemplative worship.
The Centaur welcomed VJ worship from Switzerland’s Fuselab, Taize prayer led by Brother Paolo and Belfast’s iconoclastic Ikon. The communion service on Sunday morning was led by John Bell and members of the Iona Community.
The visual arts programme featured an eclectic mix of exhibitions addressing some tough issues, installations, and workshops. Greenbelters built a city of clay and ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ was screened, followed by a Q&A with director Nick Park. The performing arts featured cutting-edge dance from Union Dance, award-winning mime from Andrew Dawson and family fun from the Big Wooden Horse Theatre Company.
There were more than 100 talks and panels, featuring the likes of Norman Kember, Jim Wallis, Christopher Booker, Kathy Galloway, James Allison, Timothy Radcliffe, Steve Turner, Naima Bouteldja, and Father Timothy Radcilffe.
The Literature programme welcomed writers and poets including the poet laureate, Andrew Motion. Comedy and light entertainment featured everything from knock about slapstick family games to a Magic Showcase in Centaur featuring Barry and Stuart.
More young people were at Greenbelt than ever since our move to Cheltenham and they enjoyed the Mix Big Top, the Humanic Academy, the YMCA’s 24-hour café, the skate park, a huge graffiti installation,
and the support of a re-formed Detached Youthwork Team.
As always, our Children’s Festival was chocca, with more venues added to cope with the more-than 1,000 children in each session. Besides this we made even more effort to schedule all-age activities all weekend and introduced a new family venue called Messy Space. And Miller’s Ark Mobile Farm was especially popular.
The site and programme were busier than ever. The challenge of making Greenbelt work better each year at Cheltenham is about using the Racecourse site and the buildings there more effectively. But for 2006 Redemption Songs filled the skies above Greenbelt. They might still be hanging there as we meet again this August, bringing in heaven in ordinary.