Festival

Greenbelt 2009 – Standing in the Long Now

The start of this year’s Festival was heralded by a typically audacious piece of performance art – a huge rainbow over the site. From the outset, it seemed that someone up there was looking forward to a pretty good show.

And so, the Mainstage headliners set to it – Sixpence None The Richer returned to play their first European show in five years, Royksopp brought bouncy beats and an owl-based stage show, Duke Special and his band were treated to a hero’s welcome, and Athlete set many a Festival heart a-flutter with a definitive closing set. Further down the bill, Sway, The Apples, The Welcome Wagon, Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac, Shlomo, and Foy Vance all gathered new fans with stunning shows, and the Performance Cafe and Underground were vibrant with music, both quiet and loud.
The importance of Talks to the Festival was underlined by blockbuster audiences for Nooma’s Rob Bell, and Bishop Gene Robinson enlightened and inspired, answering the questions of a packed Grandstand. Greenbelt’s Just Peace campaign was reflected in talks by ICAHD’s Jeff Halper, Festival favourite John Bell delighted the GB masses, Alastair McIntosh challenged on climate change, and Harriet Lamb took us inside the Fairtrade Foundation, a vital global movement for the developing world.

The full gamut of Worship took place – from impromptu worship on walkways, to the Big Sing with the Wild Goose Collective; from a raucous Bluegrass Eucharist to calming Soul Space meditation; from Ikon’s experimental Pyro-theology to the more traditional gutsiness of Beer and Hymns. The Sunday service brought this wide range of worshippers to one place, with a focus on our Israel-Palestine campaign, with musical input from Reem Kelani and Agents of Future.

The Performing Arts programme was given a boost this year with a brand new venue – the glorious Big Top – which hosted performances as varied as Ockham’s Razor, who wowed the GB crowds with feats of aerial dexterity, Alex Horne’s comedic charm, and the closing night Grand Ball, which Kept Monday Special with dancing, merriment and a lot of very natty eveningwear. Elsewhere, Stan’s Cafe brought their rice-based installation to the Christian Aid tent, amusing, entertaining and provoking Festival-goers. Those with a desire to laugh were also catered for, with Barbara Nice running amok in the new Festival Bowl.

The Youth programme was packed this year, with the Freestylers breakdancing workshops, Beatboxing Masterclasses with Shlomo, and the Truevan making films with young Greenbelters. There was also a Q&A with Tim Hughes & Al Gordon on their careers. The Children’s Festival also went from strength to strength with more young people than ever before attending.

As the Festival aims to reach a wider amount of people than just those on the racecourse, the Greenbelt Media Capture team gained a greater significance. Videos of a wide range of events were posted on the GB website, our onsite Twitterers picked up tweets from Festival-goers, and produced a newspaper collecting together photos, blog entries, and articles from people across the site. And, as part of this wider reach, this year we’ll be looking into some Greenbelt 365 projects – events that can happen throughout the year to bring that uniquely Greenbelt collision of faith and arts to people who might not get to Cheltenham in the summer, and to fill some of those long hours until Greenbelt 2010: The Art of Looking Sideways.