Greenbelt’s Creative Director Paul Northup muses on the 2016 festival programme …
A tough economic climate has forced us to dream harder about the programme we make. And that’s been a good thing. A very good thing. We’ve had to look longer, travel further, check out way more submissions and shows. We can’t wait to introduce you to what we’ve found.
From Sunday night headliners Nahko and Medicine for the People (pictured) to the avant garde vaudeville of Bourgeois and Maurice and from radical economist Paul Mason to comedian and activist Josie Long through a myriad of devotion, trails, ideas, laughs, looks, games, workshops, conversations, debates, music, theatre, poetry, this is Greenbelt 2016 : Silent Stars. This year, more than ever before, perhaps, we’ll see what you make of a bill that contains few household names. A bill that instead focuses on introducing you to stars that have been silent in your worlds. Until now.
Our festivalgoers tell us they don’t come for big names and headline acts. That content plays second fiddle to community. So this year we’ve upped the community and participatory elements of the programme – with more opportunities than ever for you to take part, to be more than an audience. From Big Sings and Open Mics to A Band Anyone Can Join and from workshops on everything from banghra to comic-books to a Village Hall venue where you can set the programming agenda.
Still, as festival bookers, we are incredibly privileged. You trust us to build the programme. Our role is to curate, to introduce, to surprise, to challenge, to encourage you. We get to invite you into the world we have created.
Sitting as it does between mainstream church and culture, Greenbelt is distinctive in not just programing a narrow strip of content that is purely and obviously Christian. Yet the festival is distinctively and definitely Christian at the same time as feeling culturally relevant and credible.
We are not looking to reinforce opinions, beliefs and experiences as much as to enlarge, disrupt, and animate them. We do this in the firm belief that arts and ideas can transform our hearts and minds, our sense of who we are, and our idea of what we can do with what the American poet Mary Oliver calls our “one wild and precious life.”
We believe that festival clearings like Greenbelt are some of the most significant spiritual and political places there are in our culture today. As the influence of the established church wanes, festivals are increasingly where people gather to celebrate, to remember, to re-charge, to re-think, to tap into some sort of communal meaning and purpose.
Instead of stonemasons working for decades to construct their cathedral choreography, we build a temporary encampment in a field for a few short days each year, believing in its lasting effects and life-changing potential.
And that’s why the setting matters, too. It’s why we’re so in love with our site here at Boughton House – with its tranquillity, beauty and order providing an antidote to the stresses and strains of everyday life.
Greenbelt is a safe space. For those on the edges, who feel like you don’t quite fit or belong, Greenbelt is for you. It’s for all ages, too. From the bonhomie of the Jesus Arms after hours to nappy changing in the Parents Support Venue early the next morning, Greenbelt is an intergenerational festival like no other.
They say that necessity is the mother of all invention. But when that necessity shapes activity that – as it turns out – brings you even closer to the heart and vision of what you’re trying to do … well, that’s divine inspiration.
Pictured: Nahko from Nahko and Medicine and the People