Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Well, I have taken a little while before writing something up about this years Greenbelt. Last year, I wrote a number of posts about various aspects, but this year there were less thought starters for me. Which doesn't mean it was worse, just that it was more an overall experience. There were highlights, and there was a lot to experience, a lot to understand.

Music: Well, there were some highlights here. Lau, on the Friday, were superb, bringing an interesting perception of folk music, after it has been taken round the back and given a good kicking. Or folk music played while listening to metal. Really enjoyed them, a great act, and a good choice. Luke Sital-singh on the Saturday was also very good - a brilliant voice, if somewhat lacking in stage-craft. And finally, Sinead O'Conner on the Sunday who was exceptionally good - I would put her as one of the best live performances I have seen. She totally owned the stage.

There was also the extraordinary Grace Petrie, who is still brilliant. And something different which was Giles Peterson, playing a DJ set on Sunday afternoon. The setting of the Glade stage meant that there was a field where people were dancing in the sun, and sitting and listening, and just enjoying the music. I have thrown in a video of a couple of girls who were having a wail of a time for the whole 90 minutes (sorry that the sound is appalling). This was something fantastic, and we should have this more often. It did appeal to all ages, there were a whole range of people dancing and enjoying it.

Talks: Well I didn't hear that many talks, partly because there were some great ones that started at 9:00, and I couldn't easily get in for that time - I do intend to download these when they are available. I did hear Brian McLaren, who was very good, and made me think a little. I need to explore his ideas more, and have purchased one of his books. I also heard Nadia Bolz-Webber and Sara Miles, who were very relaxed and very interesting. I don't wholeheartedly agree (which is perfectly reasonable - I don't expect to agree with anyone, and find it a pleasant surprise when I do), but they were open, honest and enlightening. I was especially struck by the first question - the talk was on accepting the "others" - which was "what do you do when the person who rejects you has a dog collar and is the vicar". What was most intriguing was that they were stumped, and struggled to believe that it could happen. That - and the huge applause that the question got - said it all for me.

Worship: I don't tend to do that much of the worship at Greenbelt, struggling to find anything that really resonates for me. However I did go to a guided meditation run by Moot on "the Mound" - a huge, man-made hill. It was excellent, and a really important and positive aspect of my time. There was also the Sunday Communion, which I always struggle a little with, but this year, I found it reasonably acceptable. I know that others didn't, which is the problem with this service that you cannot please everyone, or even all of those who attend.

There are so many other aspects I could talk about. the food selections were, as usual, excellent. The layout of the site, and the location of the site in the park were brilliant. The village was easy to get around and to find places. There were various food offerings wherever you found yourself, and there was not too much wandering between venues - sometimes, at Cheltenham, you could find yourself a long walk from the other end of the site. This was much less of an issue - and everyone I spoke to agreed that the village site was brilliant. This is a huge achievement for the first year there.

Boughton House is a great place for the festival. The sculptural landscaped gardens, of which The Mount is a part, are odd, beautiful, and a brilliant resource to have for just messing about in. The estate as a whole is also fantastic - unfortunately we couldn't wander in the trees, but they did set the festival in the countryside, which was brilliant.

Of course there was one issue - that of getting between the car parks and the camp site or the village site. Each day, I had a 20 minute walk from the car to the site, which was tough at the start or end of a 14 hour day. However - and this is crucial - these are issues that can be resolved. The organisers know this is an issue, and they will be looking at how to resolve it. Some of the resolutions are to take the theme of this year seriously, and "travel light" - take less stuff, make sure that you can carry it. I might be staying on site next year, which will ease the problems I had. The mud on the Monday/Tuesday was an interesting challenge to deal with. But these teething problems.

The festival has been at a very different site in Cheltenham for 15 years. The challenges of moving the festival somewhere different are huge. The fact that the festival happened, and that it was a great festival, is testament to the amazing effort. I hope we can stay at Boughton House, because I love the site and the potential of it is enormous. It will take time to sort the teething issues out.

Was it a good Greenbelt? Yes absolutely. If you have never been, I can recommend it. If you are unsure about the new site, then give it a try, and talk to those who have been. It will take time to settle down, but the site is brilliant, inspirational, and I can't wait until next year.


  1. I don't think someone who didn't camp can really comment on 'travelling light' with the things necessary for camping. I couldn't take any less and I couldn't carry it.

    1. My son did camp though, and he could have taken less. I realise that there is a lot whatever, but people have got so used to unloading from their cars next to site.

  2. Having camped for C.10 years, at least the last 5 of which I have been on my own, I never take more than i can carry in one trip. It is certainly doable.