Life begins at 50

Life begins at 50

Greenbelt turns 50 next year: a landmark moment that offers us a chance to reflect. To take stock but also to glimpse the future ahead. So in 2023 we’ll be making two changes to Greenbelt that we’re excited to tell you about. Both changes are, we think, creative responses to the situation we find ourselves in, and both say that even at 50 – especially at 50 – we won’t be resting on our laurels.

It’s tough out there

Plenty of us are experiencing the cost-of-living crisis, as rising prices start to bite. We know that money is tighter than ever before. For our festival that pressure is combined with the post-pandemic impact on the events industry. There’s an accompanying cost-of-festivaling crisis too, as the sums involved in producing a festival have – and we hope you don’t mind the technical language here – absolutely gone through the roof.

It’s an industry-wide challenge that’s going to be causing sleepless nights for every independent festival in the UK. Throughout the trials of the last few years, Greenbelt has always been blessed to have the support of our festival Angels, whose generosity has helped to carry us through thick and thin, and whose wings have sheltered us in ways that other festivals can only dream of.

That shelter has given us the valuable thinking space to consider two major changes for 2023 that harness the power of the Greenbelt community and the faith we have in you. The first change is around when we come together, and the second is how we pay for the festival we all love.

When we come together

The first change we’re making is to ensure we’re squeezing every single buck to get the maximum bang. So in 2023 we’re going to time-shift the festival, bringing it forward by 24 hours. We’ll begin gathering in the fields on Thursday, with caterers and a bar open for those who want them. It’ll be a day to reunite, rewind and reconnect with one another amidst the rolling fields of Boughton. Then the festival programme will kick off on Friday and build to a climax on Sunday night, before we all head home on Monday (instead of Tuesday).

By rethinking the festival’s timings like this, we can do a few different things. By making the programme a little more compact over three (rather than three and a bit) days, we’re making sure that every penny we spend goes as far as it can in the making of our festival and the abundance of riches we can book.

Gathering on Thursday means that we remove the slightly manic feel we know some of you experience currently on Friday, and introduce a natural breathing space just before the festival begins. We know that for lots of us, time spent with one another is as much part of the Greenbelt experience as the programme. We also know that some people struggle to stay over on Monday night, so we hope that by closing out the festival on Sunday evening, we can all be together for it.

How we pay for it

Every festival is wrestling with their budgets at the moment. One simple answer is to pass the cost on and whack up 2023 ticket prices. The problem we have with that is that it doesn’t feel very…Greenbelt.

For one thing a hefty increase on the cost of a single ticket would (even if there wasn’t also a vice-like squeeze on everyone’s spending at the moment) put our festival out of financial reach for lots of people. We’ve spent nearly 50 years doing everything we could to be a festival that everyone and anyone could afford to come to. We’re not about to stop now.

If anything, the fact that Greenbelt turns 50 next year means we feel like this might be the perfect time for something that feels radical and inclusive. Something that shows the trust we have in you, our community. Something, if we’re honest, that’s an experiment – and one we really hope works.

So here it is. For next year’s festival, we’re going to let you decide how much you pay. We’re scrapping our usual, tiered ticket deadlines too. We’re replacing all of it with three simple price-points for adult tickets. They’ll be the same across the year: Supported, Standard and Supporter. You’ll be completely free to decide which option best suits you, and if you buy now in September, you’ll be able to spread the costs over the next 10 months completely interest-free.

  1. SUPPORTED £150– a subsidised price for anyone who needs it, one that tries to make sure we’re an accessible, affordable festival for everyone

  2. STANDARD £190 – a standard price that is, realistically, what we need adults to pay to make the festival work at the high standards we’re used to.

  3. SUPPORTER  £230 – a premium price that enables those Greenbelters who are able (and want) to offer their generous support to pay over the odds (or to ‘pay it forward’) so that we can offer the Supported price to those who need it.

And don’t worry we haven’t forgotten Concessions (£100) and Under-18s (£70).

We’ve crunched the numbers long and hard on this and we’re confident it can work (as confident as anyone can be of anything these days, of course). 

But it is an experiment. And, like all experiments, we’ll have to review the results. And if the results aren’t what we expect we’ll need to change tack. We’re taking a calculated creative risk, rather than a gamble on the future of the festival.

It’s not a magic trick either. This new ticketing structure doesn’t make the rising costs go away. And we’ll still need to earn every penny from ticketing to make the budget work. But rather than put ourselves beyond the reach of many in 2023, instead we are choosing to be honest and transparent with you, our community, about the costs and realities, and that’s why we’ve put together this creative response that tries to make room for everyone.

As we head into our 50th year, what better demonstration could there be that the radical, inclusive, counter-cultural Greenbelt spirit of justice and equality is alive and well?

It feels instinctively right to us. It feels…like somewhere to believe in.

Get your tickets for next year.