Up until this year, I had always looked back on Greenbelt 97 as ‘the one that was wet’ – very wet. At Deene Park near Corby, located in the fields surrounding a country house usually occupied by cows, there was no escaping the mud. I cant remember the intensity of the rain from back then, but I do remember that the main festival concourse became a river of mud in which you could easily lose your wellies. I, that year, didn’t have any wellies and consequently had a pair of trainers that never recovered. That was also the year that Greenbelt attempted a festival tie-in on the Monday, part of which included bringing the band Cornershop in, before they had their one major hit. The weather, however, put a dampener in and the extra crowds that were due to come in on the Monday never materialised and left the organisation in debt. The following ten years was a process of rebuilding from a low of only about 6000 attendees in 2000 back to and past the numbers of the mid 1990s.
Now I shall think of Greenbelt 2012 as ‘the other on that was wet’ with very heavy showers on Saturday and persistent rain on Monday evening. Fortunately, due to the facilities at Cheltenham racecourse – the had standing ground and indoor venues, most of the festival was unaffected. There were however still rivers of mud in the sections of the festival village that were on grass. And the campsite was very muddy too. With the help of a borrowed tent, we managed to keep ourselves and our children mostly dry. And the rain made great puddles for a toddler (but this splashing did backfire on a couple of occasions).
Despite the mud (and the children) we did manage to get to a few things that we wanted to see. On Friday night Tony Campolo spoke about power and authority – how one tends to coerce whereas the other is earned from acts of love and respect. He basically encouraged us with the gospel and with stories of people who have earned their authority and were living out God’s kingdom.
On saturday I took my toddler to a very entertaining puppet show – and was impressed how they kept the attention of a 2 1/2-year-old for 50 minutes. Then a Conversation with comedian Frank Skinner, who is usually open about his Catholic faith. He was interviewed about it whilst the storm came through, struggling to make himself heard, speaking quite candidly about his need for God, his return to the Church and the need to keep reading to explore his faith. It was interesting if not quite as funny as I’d hoped (due tot he nature of the questions).
The highlights of Sunday were the Proclaimers once again playing an excellent Greenbelt gig. On the whole, we didn’t get too much music this year, only catching snippets of various people (whose names I didn’t catch) and a couple of half-gigs from Bellowhead (folky) and Shlomo (amazing beatboxing).
One other highlight was going on a Walking Church walk, which I will blog about later.
Overall though, this is a Greenbelt that we have survived as well as enjoyed. For the first time after a Greenbelt, I was actually quite glad to get home and fully dried out. Usually I am disappointed to leave but this was entirely down to the weather. It has to be said that the volunteers were great in difficult situations, especially in organising people getting off the campsite on Tuesday after it was closed to cars.
I expect we’ll be back next year for Greenbelt 40!