Greenbelt’s Creative Director Paul Northup shares his thoughts as the festival announces the bill for its 49th incarnation – Greenbelt 2022, Wake Up.
We always get a thrill as we announce our festival lineup. And that’s heightened this time around, after two long years without staging the festival and having lived with many of these bookings through a double rollercoaster of cancellations.
At the same time, we know that for many long-term Greenbelters, it’s not really the lineup they come for primarily. It’s the community, the connection, the vibe, the inspiration, the welcome, the homecoming.
As passionate Greenbelters ourselves, this adds a curious dynamic to making our first lineup announcements in more than two years: on the one hand we couldn’t be more excited and proud; and on the other we know that the lineup doesn’t define what Greenbelt is.
We’re painfully conscious, too, that the backdrop to our making these announcements could not be more fraught for us here in Europe, as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. In recent years, we’ve had the privilege of connecting with the struggle against Putin’s autocracy more deeply – through courageous and creative artists like Pussy Riot, Belarus Free Theatre and Balaklava Blues. Our hearts and prayers go out to all whose lives are being blighted by the pervasive plutocratic power of Putin. See more here on our blog.
So, it is in the brave and creative spirit of these artists that we make our first lineup announcements for the 2022 festival. And, while these names may not define us entirely, we know that our lineup signals so much about who we are and the space we’re trying to make.
It signals our belief in artistry. We believe that truth and meaning are most powerfully encountered in and revealed through the arts, through the imagination, through our creativity. That’s why you’ll find such a carefully curated set of music, theatre and comedy names and acts on our bill.
It signals our ambition. In artists and speakers like Kae Tempest, Jeremy Loops, Angela Saini, Bonnie Greer, Richard Dawkins, Shaparak Khorsandi, and so on, we want to celebrate and platform the very best creativity and thought we can. We may not have the budgets some festivals do to parade an array of household names and global stars before you, but we work hard to bring you the very best and bravest we can. We hope you’re as excited as we are by the names you see here.
It signals our desire to be inclusive and diverse. We recognise that Greenbelt is a predominantly white, mainly Christian space – meaning we’re a very partial and particular representation of the global human family. And so, in our curating of the festival we are determined to reflect something of the essential and wonderful diversity of the human identities and belonging we are a small part of. We welcome the beautiful reality that human flourishing takes myriad forms. We hope the bill is just a small reflection of that.
It signals that we don’t have all the answers. We deliberately invite and platform artists and speakers from well beyond our own traditions and circles: those with different faiths to our own; those with no faith at all; those who would view the Christian story and the church with grave reservations. That’s because we want to foster healthy conversation and debate. That’s where we think that meaning and progress are made. Greenbelt is not a space we make simply to reinforce what we already believe. Instead, we’re committed to shaping a bill that stretches, inspires and provokes us – that raises way more questions than it ever answers.
It signals that we want to have a party – after all this time! We know that a festival needs to feel like a celebration. It needs to be a party. One that works for and includes everyone. And we’re conscious that, after such a long time without gathering, that primal need for celebration, release, relaxation, letting go will be deep and visceral for many of us. So we’re hoping that festival will feel like the very best of parties. One at which we feel glad to be alive and lifted and energised for the lives we’re living.
It signals that we want to connect deeply with the culture we are a part of and have a responsibility for shaping. Too much of the history of religious belief and practise has led to communities withdrawing and isolating themselves; to a lack of engagement and – frankly – unhealthy and sometimes even cultish behaviour. At Greenbelt, we’re whole-heartedly committed to opening ourselves to the culture in which we live and move, to listening to its heartbeats and heartaches, to learning from its yearnings and to being an integral part of making and re-making it for the common good. We do this because of our Christian convictions. Not because we’ve abandoned or are embarrassed by them.
It signals that we are not one thing. Instead, we are eclectic and wide-ranging, interested in and energised by so much. Where else would a former Archbishop, a musical about the life of Nina Simone, an immigrant Afghani novelist and a nature-punk band from New Orleans be on the same bill? This blend of inspiration only happens at Greenbelt. It’s what makes us distinct.
We hope that what you see here in our first lineup announcements fires you up as much as it has excited us in the making of it. We hope it gives you a flavour, a hint, of what will unfold in the field at Greenbelt 2022. We can’t wait to be there with you.
But today’s lineup is just the start. There is much more to come. Exciting aspects of the festival still to unfold – like worship and spirituality, our youth offering, our children’s and family programme, the wide range of workshops we’ll be offering, the many other activities that connect us with the great outdoors at Boughton – from sports to guided walks. And so on.
So keep your eyes peeled and your hearts wide open. We can’t wait to Wake Up together at Boughton this August.