Greenbelt festival of arts has been a great combination of music, comedy, art, faith and activism since it started in 1974. I’d known the name for a few years but had never taken the time to attend, so when James sent me an email asking if anyone fancied going I jumped at the chance (when someone offers free tickets you always say yes!)
After negotiation the parking system and getting all our tents, supplies and everything else down to the campsite we set up; Fathers David, Martin and Selvam, Jess (not a Father), Rachel, Jen, Maria, Chris, James and myself along with some friends from London Catholic Worker and CAFOD not far away.
The highlight of the first evening (apart from Martin’s chilli; which proves that living in tents is no obstacle to having great food) was Courtney Pine, one of best jazz musicians in the country playing on the main stage, with James (and some of the rest of us) dancing near the front!
A great thing about Greenbelt was the way that it is run so that faith isn’t something ‘weird’ or ‘out of place’; going from a theology lecture (take a theology student with you to explain the complex bits (thanks Chris!!!)) to a gig, to evening prayer and then to the on-site pub (The Jesus Arms! – Prayer and a Pint!!) is the most normal thing in the world.
One draw back (as with all great festivals) was that with so much going on there were clashes and it was impossible to get to everything; I went to a lot of events connected with the situation in Palestine; especially the non-violent movement taking place there, but with wide range of campaigns, musicians, theologians, arty things and prayer sessions going on there was little time to be bored, and loads for everyone.
On Saturday evening there was Mass led by Fr Martin Newall (from London Catholic Worker) which showed the diversity present just in the Catholic festival go-ers; along with LCW and ourselves I met friends from CAFOD and people leading the Catholics for Women’s Ordination group. Sunday morning saw everyone gather at the main stage for an ecumenical service led by various ministers with hymns and us showing our Salesian side by going over the top with the actions and dancing!
The other highlight was the prayer session that we were leading; in previous years Martin and James had come just to take part, but this year the Salesians were running a prayer space; a chance to share our style and spirituality with others. With Martin playing some of his songs and David leading, Salvam sharing some of his experiences and the rest of us helping out where we could people were given a chance to reflect on their emotions over the last few weeks and then to think about out our emotions and state of well-being can be a link to God and a form of prayer. We ran the session on Sunday and Monday and over all had about 120 people come and take part (including one lady who was looking for the ‘Franciscans of Don Bosco’ – well close enough!)
A fantastic time was had by us all and it was very sad when we had to pack up and leave. Plans are being put in place for the Salesians to go this year – so watch this space for more information about the best way to end the summer!