Roger and I enjoyed a gentle week in Birkenhead spending time with Roger’s Mum. We enjoyed some nice trips out with her, including a visit to Birkenhead for the shops, a visit to Lady Lever’s Gallery in Port Sunlight followed by a visit to the museum which was fascinating. Roger and I took a trip out to Red Rocks – so named due to the colour of the rocks, where we had a lovely wander climbing up the rocks with lots of children. We then had a trip to Liverpool where we went to the docks and visited the Tate Gallery. We also saw a tower in the main street set up so that people could abseil down the high street above the heads of the shoppers. Stunning but we didn’t have a go. We stayed till Saturday when we welcomed back Melinda, Jim and family before heading off to Eunoia for a couple of nights.
Monday saw us heading off to Boughton House in Kettering, the new site for the Greenbelt festival. This was our first year as volunteers so it was odd but very nice to be there before the crowds. We settled in on the site and met our good friends John, Caroline, Naomi and Abi whilst walking to the vibing meeting. Unfortunately we walked in the wrong direction, but after a quick call we were back in the right direction and found the rest of the team only slightly late. We had a briefing and then a tour around the site which was really beautiful before heading back to the camper. It was at this point that we decided that we’d move, so unpegged the awning and headed to our new chosen pitch, got set up and settled in for the night.
Tuesday saw us up and working to vibe the site. We worked hard trying to understand and capture Saga’s vision to get the job done and became adept at climbing ladders, lugging bunting around and the mass use of cable ties of various sizes. Over the course of three and a half days the team that I was in managed to vibe 5 venues, including one that involved the separating, scoring, folding and individual attaching of 100’s of leaves.
Friday lunch time arrived which meant that our work was finished and we could go and see friends who had also arrived and most importantly our children whom we hadn’t seen for ages.
After greeting everyone and having special hugs with Jack and Polly we helped to get kit from cars and then settled down with a cup of tea. In our absence Polly had celebrated a birthday and knowing that I wouldn’t be around to make a cake, I’d asked my good friend Sue if she could bake and bring a cake for her and for Abi who’d celebrated her 18th whilst in Kenya away from her family. Sue had subcontracted to her daughter Katherine who had made 30 beautiful cup cakes. Cake is such a good way to start off Greenbelt, so thank you Sue and Katherine. Very well done.
The festival started on Friday evening with a full programme of talks, music and a reception for Angels. All good stuff and a particular highlight for me was Brian McLaren’s talk The Bible 3.0. It was all good stuff and a great start. Roger had decided that he wanted to help out at the Christian Aid cafe and so went and volunteered his services washing up which was gladly accepted for 4 hours every day.
Saturday arrived with good weather to another full day. I managed some interesting talks under the titles, The Crisis of Religion in the UK, Can we reimagine Marriage – where the lovely Vicky Beeching received a standing ovation when she arrived (she’d had a tough fortnight!) and A response to Violence Against Women. All very thought provoking. I enjoyed listening to Hope and Social but the highlight was a drama by Hannah Nicklen called A Conversation With My Father. This was the story of Hannah and her father. Her father was a retired police officer and Hannah was a protester and the play examined working out what matters and standing up to protect it. I thought it was done really well and was an honest portrayal of the police side of things.
Sunday started off with the communion which was again in beautiful sunshine.
I thought the service was lovely, but would have enjoyed a more upbeat hymn/song to end the service.
During the day I attended a really thought provoking talk about Migrants, which challenged some of my views, and enjoyed some poetry including Harry Baker. We’d heard that there was going to be Beer and Hymns in the Jesus Arms so went over to ensure that we got in. It was so worth getting there in time and whilst there was a delay it was brilliant. We sang, danced and praised with gusto whilst drinking beer. Fantastic and as ever, one of my highlights.
The day finished with music from Grace Petrie, comedy from Jo Enright and finally Port and Stilton on the camp site with our friends. It was lovely to see all of our friends and chat over the day and the last 6 weeks that we’d been away.
Monday brought the forecast rain which was hand work for putting tents down and clearing the campsite, and the ground within the festival began to break up in several places. The programme continued and I went to a really good discussion about Gypsies. I also went to the Mount for one of their Sermons on the Mount which was lovely and then spent the afternoon in the Canopy listening to music from the Jonny Walker Band, Marcus Hummon and Performance Poetry Showcase. A very entertaining afternoon with the highlight being Harry Baker doing his Falafal poem – very funny. In the evening we said goodbye to Jack, Polly and everyone else and settled in for a rainy night ready to take down the next morning.
Tuesday we were up bright and early and starting work at 8 taking down all the bunting, leaves, voile and other pretty things. Fortunately it stayed dry and so whilst it was messy under foot at least we didn’t get wetter whilst we worked. It seems the take down is complicated in not just taking things down but packing things up so that they can be reused next year by ensuring they’ll not be damaged whilst in storage and that they’re not damp when put away. All quite pain staking work. We were released at about 5 to go and pack the awning up, then came back to help out further leaving sometime after 6. Home was a welcome sight and thanks to Jack and Polly for having a hot meal ready for us on our return.
My reflection on Greenbelt and its new site is that the site was beautiful and made a lovely backdrop to the festival. The talk programme was great and I found lots to challenge me and make me think. The Main Stage headliners musically weren’t as high profile as normal and whilst I quite enjoyed Sinead O’Conner there was only one song that I recognised from her. It was a shame that the campers and caravans were pitched in a different area to the tents as this made for a disjointed event for groups but was manageable with a bit of effort from us. The new site was gorgeous but did suffer from the persistent rain on Monday. Not sure how it would have fared if the rain had come on the Saturday or Sunday – but thankfully we didn’t have to consider this. Another wonderful festival and loads to think about and consider.