Last weekend was my first outing to the festival known as “Greenbelt”. In fact, it was my first real festival outing anywhere.

Greenbelt is a music and arts festival. But it needs a little bit more categorisation than that. I shall explain.

A note on sub-cultures

Now, I’m always careful about talking about “Christian” stuff in a way that makes it sound like there’s a whole faith-based sub-culture around. But the truth is that there IS. There is music that you won’t have come across if you’re not a Christian. There are books and magazines targeted at those of the faith. There are websites and organisations and a whole host of other things. I think that, to some extent, this is OK and helpful. It’s the same with cycling. It’s probably the same with Kung Fu and plumbing and…well, every specialist activity probably has some sort of specialist media targeted at it.

What I think is important is that we don’t get so wrapped up in the Christian sub-culture that we ignore everything else, or worse, label everything else as bad or evil in some way.

With that in mind I’ll try to describe my impressions of Greenbelt.

Impressions of the festival

Before I went to Greenbelt I was under the impression that it was mostly attended by people who would call themselves Christians of one sort or another. Yet I was led to believe that it was not an overtly “Christian” festival. You’d fit in quite well if you weren’t a church go-er at all.

To some extent those initial impressions turned out to be true. However, when I arrived, I found myself swinging the other way. There seems to be LOTS of stuff targeted specifically at Christians. As time went on I found myself swinging back to the middle ground. You can’t miss the stuff that’s overtly Christian, but I reckon you can safely attend and enjoy the festival without having any of this forced upon you.

I did enjoy the festival, though I struggled with the social dynamics of trying to get a group of people to meet up at certain times when they all had plans that changed by the hour. I think next time I’ll go with the aim of being more independent and if other people want to arrange to meet me at certain times then that’s fine.

The weather for the festival was fantastic. Sun and warmth and dryness for a few days with it clouding over for the last day. As an introduction to festival life it was a very good one. The company was excellent too and we got to meet up, catch up, and generally have fun with some of our best friends who had gathered from around the country.

Festival Discoveries

We probably didn’t actually see or do as much as I thought we would. We were quite selective and, often, got turned out of full-up venues. Though we did discover, or re-discover, the following artists:

  • Michael McDermott – American accoustic rock guy with an edgy voice and some great tunes and songs. Probably my highlight.
  • Martyn Joseph – We’re already big fans and he’s a Greenbelt regular so of course he was there and of course we went to see him. He was mostly running a show where he interviewed other singer songwriters, but he did play a short set in the music shop tent. He seems to be having a bit of a mid-life crisis; he’s started playing up-beat rock and roll (as opposed to his usual hard political folk). But I like this. He’s releasing a new album called “Vegas” in September and the stuff he played from it sounded really good. Looking forward to a proper gig in November!
  • John Bell – One of the leaders of the Iona community, gets a mention for being a REALLY good speaker. He did a great talk looking at how we can interpret stories from Genesis and apply them to our faith that we live today.
  • Kathryn Williams – Referred to by one of my friends as one of the few “proper famous” people at Greenbelt. I love this ladies voice and songs and dry wit, but I thought the overall performance needed polishing. I think she was very nervous about performing a solo live show.
  • Core Magazine – who look like an attempt at an english version of Relevant Magazine. Compare the straplines “God, Life, Progressive Culture” (for Relevant) and “Life, Spirit, Adventure” (for Core). I think this is a worthy venture and I wish them every success. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have updated the website since April, so who knows what the status of it is.
  • Iain Archer – who’s one of those artists (like the Shins) who sounds a bit dull on CD but, as I’ve just found, does a great live show. Perhaps I’ll look up some of his newer stuff.