Sunday, September 04, 2011

Greenbelt Festival / Blog / They let young people in, don’t they?

They let young people in, don’t they?


Hannah Kowszun helped bring youth programme Shedloads to Greenbelt 2011's Big Top and was kind enough to write a bit about the experience for us. You can see a video Hannah made for the show on youtube, and get involved in the youth programme for 2012 as a volunteer or attendee.


My experience thus far of young people at Greenbelt has been little more than a sidelined awareness of their existence and, during several stints working the beer tent, their occasional persistence in getting served. They are usually the ones sporting strange hats – this year the theme seemed to be animals – talking loudly and excitedly as they roam in packs from place to place, or hanging around looking shifty in the stairwells.

Young people are, frankly, a little scary. Even the nice ones. They give you looks that say: ‘impress me’ which after a little while become a quizzical: ‘what is that?’ and eventually: ‘please stop’. This is the kind of honest interaction from which we as adults have trained ourselves away, except during job interviews.

And so it was with trepidation that I approached the new venue for 11-17 year olds this year: the Shed. Technically I wasn’t allowed in. In fact throughout the festival there was an ever-present small crowd of adults loitering outside for a surreptitious catch of the excellent programme inside. However, as someone helping to bring Shedloads – the hour-long lunchtime showcase in the Big Top – together, I needed to know what it was referencing.

Running the show was Greenbelt’s new Youth Participation Coordinator Becky Smith and youthworker extraordinaire Mike Palin. Two energetic, inspiring and effortlessly uncool people, who were just brilliant: creating a safe space for young people at Greenbelt to relax, have fun, bring their questions and mingle freely.

On Saturday night at 8pm I joined for the Acoustic Cafe, where both Rend Collective and Luke Leighfield performed and then answered questions on the sofa. They asked some good questions. Move over those people who queued up at the Jerusalem microphone; if you want to learn some real truths get a 12 year old to ask the questions.

I went back on Sunday night too for Hope and Social and LZ7. And again on Monday for a talent showcase chaperoned by XLP. Eight acts from among the young people of Greenbelt, ranging in song choice from Adele to Jeff Buckley and even some of their own work: these kids were seriously entertaining. More than one will have a slot in the Performance Cafe within the next few years, guaranteed! I ended up staying until Last Orders.

The Shed’s programme was about more than music though. Tournaments, debate (and cake), spoken word, workshops and even a chocolate-tasting session. I felt privileged to be allowed across the threshold for what seemed to be a great new venue for Greenbelt. And I don’t find young people quite as scary anymore. It seems we’re both making progress.