Greenbelt 2010 had it all – a celebratory party where philosophy was as important as the bands who were playing; an event which embraced adult contemplation and a childlike playfulness with equal importance. Newcomers were convinced – politician Clare Short wrote that she was “deeply impressed by the mood and spirit of the festival”, and comedian Robin Ince said “People here are very questioning, not merely of other people, but of their own thoughts and beliefs too. It’s a very thoughtful festival”.
Talks from Richard Rohr, Nicola Slee, Stanley Hauerwas, Mark Yaconelli, Peter Tatchell and the aforementioned Clare Short, alongside lively panel discussions including contributors from right across the programme, ensured that theology, political
activism, social justice, and issues of local and global importance were contemplated by huge crowds.
The breadth of the worship programme gave a huge number of other options for those looking to explore this world and any beyond it – with the new venue Abide looking at spirituality and ecology, a Mass inspired by beat poetry, a full day of jazz worship, and the Silent Pilgrimage illuminating the site with audio worship beamed to wireless headphones. And as the centrepoint of the worshipping weekend, the Sunday Communion brought the festival together in a shower of confetti, belted-out hymns, and a moving closing dedication by Kate Coleman.
The Mainstage saw musical pyrotechnics as well, with the soulful power of Beverley Knight, Britpop legends Shed Seven, and the masterful talents of jazz supremo Courtney Pine leading the way. When Monday night headliner Gil Scott-Heron pulled out earlier that day, the festival looked like it might not have a suitably climactic act to round off the festival, until the combination of an extra set by multi-talented Foy Vance and
the rousing anthems of the King Blues satisfied those who had
Kept Monday Special. There was a stronger than ever lineup in the Underground, and the Performance Cafe was as special as ever, with acoustic sets from mainstage acts, and a huge raft
of new talent.
David Morrissey and Emma Wee from CAST were gently interrogated by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode, before Mark took to the stage at the Rockabilly Grand Ball with The Dodge Brothers. Other big names included Jeremy Hardy, presenting his film about Gaza; and James Wood, Tom Hollander, and (briefly) Olivia Colman, speaking about hit sitcom Rev.
Comedy was well-served, with brilliant shows by Milton Jones, the wonderful Jude Simpson, and the irrepressible Robin Ince. Robin also appeared on a panel with a highlight from the Visual Arts programme Bobby Baker, whose exhibition of drawings was a must-see. Other notable Visual Arts exhibitions included the weird and wonderful Water Piano by Holly Yoon, plus exhibitions of photography, jewellery and craft.
The Youth programme was housed in a tented village this year, with three venues containing workshops, performances and panel discussions with speakers from the main Talks programme, plus the ever-popular Skate Park and the XLP Mobile Studio – a recording studio in the back of an old
police riot van.
The Arena was given over to all-age activities, with human table football and juggling workshops taking place alongside craft sessions and open-air dance classes.
Plus this year, for the first time, we had a dedicated TV Studio, recording clips of speakers and performers at the festival, due
to be released on the Greenbelt website over the next year.
And we haven’t even mentioned the children’s festival, classical concerts, Messy Space, yoga classes, brilliant food, and better friends; all the moments of exuberance and contemplation that makes each Greenbelt so special.