Getting past the Punch and Judy

Getting past the Punch and Judy

Panels for Greenbelt 2019

In these polarised and divided times, rather than our panel conversations seeking to generate any more heat, we wanted to go for light instead.

There’s a value in going deeper, in listening, in learning. While the world in which we move bristles with fake news and claim and counter-claim, our panel conversations at Greenbelt are deliberately designed to be kinder. Not benign and ineffectual, but generous and gracious.

Greenbelt has always been somewhere to listen, learn and reflect. We don’t exist in isolation either. That doesn’t mean that every last point of view is slavishly platformed. Instead, our particular theology and worldview – knitted around our three-stranded DNA of artistry, activism and belief – forms a frame for our conversations as together we seek to deepen our understanding, to seek engagement and inspiration so that when we leave the festival space to join the fray again, we can do so with wit and wisdom. 

So, with that in mind, here’s just a quick canter through the subjects that we’ll feature in our panel programme at Greenbelt 2019. (This list is not exhaustive – there will be other intriguing and inspirational conversations at the festival.)

Extremism and the Rise of the Far Right
In the mainstream, populist politics is on the rise everywhere. While, in the margins, extremism and far right movements and thought are thriving. Why is this and how can we counter it? It’s time for hope not hate. A panel of former extremists, victims of extremist attacks and those working to counter extremism, debate this live and worrying phenomenon.

The Laugh Temptation: Is everything funny? Or are some things off-limits?
In association with the URC
Forty years ago this autumn, churches were picketing Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now university campuses ask comedians to sign agreements not to touch on a range of issues before taking gigs. A panel of comedy practitioners and fans debate whether there are any taboos in comedy or whether everything should be fair game.

A Yearning for Learning: The state of education
In association with Winchester University
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”  So said Kofi Anan. But are we teaching our young people wit and wisdom in our schools and universities? And what might a good education look like? A panel conversation with academics, students, teachers and policy-makers.

Artistry and Activism: Is protest art is just propaganda? Or is all art a form of protest? 
A group of arts activists at the festival chew the fat about whether art is just a reflection of life and the world in which we live, or something that can change the world we live in and the lives it reflects.

White Saviour Complex 
In association with USPG
When David Lammy set to with Stacey Dooley following her Comic Relief trip and her picture with an African baby, it was only the last and most public example of a tension that has been rumbling since the beginnings of the British Empire. A panel of theologians, church leaders and NGO staffers and cultural thinkers debate this important issue.

Mental Health and Creativity
Great wits are sure to madness near allied / And thin partitions do their bounds divide.
So wrote the poet John Dryden way back in 1681. But is this romanticisation of the link between creativity and poor mental health helpful? Or is it cliched and clumsy? Join a panel conversation of artists as they talk openly and honestly about their journeying with their work and their mental wellbeing.

Event Horizon: How the way faith sees the the future affects us all in the present
The world’s religions have stories about the way the future will go. Those different stories, and how literally we take them, can have profound implications for our living together in the present. Join a panel of thinkers from different faith traditions – and an atheist – as together they look forward to the present.

The Wisdom in Telling and Holding Stories
In L’Arche, community members often sit around a table, or cross-legged on a floor, telling stories. We tell stories, our own and each other’s, some sung or signed, as a way to belong and become known to each other. Join us for a conversation exploring the wisdom, and humanity, in the stories told by people society often forgets, and how storytelling teaches us what it means to be human and to belong.

Civil Disobedience: When does rebellion become right out of order?
Is it ever really OK to break the law when it’s there to protect and defend our rights, including our right to protest? A panel of law enforcers, direct action activists and campaigners debate the lines that we draw on this increasingly contentious and vital area of our life together.

Pictured above: Clive Stafford Smith, Salma Yaqoob and Sahar Vardi at Greenbelt 2017