Greenbelt 2019 – what we’re hearing

Greenbelt 2019 – what we’re hearing

Thank you to the almost 1,500 of you who completed our festival survey. The lucky winner of a pair of weekend tickets for 2020 is Amélie! We love hearing what you tell us as it helps us to learn, develop and make a better festival.

There’s a lot of love out there for the festival – and we’re very pleased to hear that! 96% of survey respondents were either very satisfied or satisfied with their festival experience. We’ll take that. 90% are very likely to recommend Greenbelt to someone else. And 94% say they’re likely or very likely to return next year. Boom!

The love is good. We need that. Thank you. But there’s so much else for us to get into. Here’s just a handful of the early themes emerging:

The good

Visual Arts
We heard a heartening amount of enthusiasm around the developments in the visual arts programming. Lots appreciated the quirky, subversive signage around the festival village and the large-scale billboard ad art. A good number described their experience of Mark Wallinger’s ‘Threshold to the Kingdom’* up in the Tapestry Suite at the main house as their most moving festival experience. And, perhaps best of all, the new adult workshopping venue, The Studio (home to the Art School and a whole range of making and creating activity) was mobbed from beginning to end with people loving the opportunity to get hands on, learn, and make.

*We are so grateful to Greenbelt friend Stuart Evans for loaning us the video installation. Mark Wallinger wrote to us after the festival: “I’m thrilled to hear about the reception for ‘Threshold’ at the festival … it’s wonderful to have been given the opportunity to show work at Greenbelt.”

We got lots of fantastic comments back on the return of the Amal Muslim artistry thread of programming – this year across all venues at the festival. People loved seeing it pop up across the festival rather than just in its own venue and seemed to particularly value experiencing forms they had never done so before – like amazing Qawwali devotional singing and Sona Jobarteh’s gobsmacking kora-playing. Deepening understanding and appreciation between religious traditions is something that you are clearly excited to do more of, according to the survey. And, in our tribal and divided times, we’re excited about this too.

The site itself
Lots of you commented on just how beautiful an environment the Boughton Estate was to be in. The majestic trees offered much-needed shade and our site vibing team worked their magic inside and outside the venues and across the festival site – such that the landscaped backdrop we festival-ed in made the perfect setting in which to re-connect with yourself, with others and with God. From foraging with Miles Irving, to nature walks with the Estate staff and Bob Gilbert, to den-building with Instinctively Wild and the The Grove’s nature connection sessions, the great, big, beautiful outdoors proved a real winner.

The not so good

A lot of you had real issues finding your way to the festival site this year. We’re really sorry about this. A late decision to do major roadworks at the A14 junction we usually use led to the local authorities imposing a completely different traffic plan only weeks before the festival. We did as much as we could over the weekend, but much of it was out of our control. We want to acknowledge that getting to site was a difficult and stressful experience for some of you this year and we’re reminded about just how important arrivals and first impressions are. Sorry.

We build a compact festival village. Small and perfectly formed. As a result – as with any festival environment – this means that venues compete with one another for your attention. For some of you, the noise spill from venue to venue was an issue at times. We build everything close together for accessibility and navigability. But we’re always exploring ways in which we could lay things out slightly differently. We know the layout works really well for most people and most programming most of the time. But we know there are exceptions – especially when audiences are spilling out of venues and craning to hear one PA over another.

Different voices
There was a calm but firm challenge about wanting us to work harder to bring more diverse voices and opinions into the festival conversation. In these tribal, divided times, we hear that critique. At the same time, we can’t, in one weekend, present a fully-rounded set of perspectives on all the issues we raise. Greenbelt does not exist in isolation, but as one weekend in people’s year-round experience. We do often platform views and opinions not usually heard in mainstream media or churches year-round. And, we hope we offer a collective ‘voice’ back into the wider, year-round conversation of which we’re all a part. But we will work harder to avoid complacency and groupthink.

Too hot
Lastly, quite a few said it was too hot. But we’re just not sure what we can do about that!