Friday, September 09, 2016

Starring roles George Luke reviews this year’s Greenbelt Festival

Starring roles

George Luke reviews this year’s Greenbelt Festival, which took place over the August Bank Holiday weekend at Boughton House, near Kettering.
I think it’s fair to say that 2016 will be remembered in Greenbelt folklore as ‘the year of the kids and festival-goers’.
Juggling with, and wearing, fire! A performer outside the Glade Big Top.
Greenbelt has always encouraged people to have a go at things, but this year the organisers took the audience participation element up a notch — getting children to lead the Sunday communion, and then letting dozens of festival-goers join in with the headline act on the last night.
And how brilliant both moments were!
Worshippers at the communion service gave each other “the high five of peace” with gusto, and you just had to smile when the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked who would win if he and the Pope were to have a fight!
Even in its scaled-down version, Greenbelt still packs a lot into its programme, and there was a lot I wanted to see that I missed (the torrential rain on the Saturday didn’t help much either). But of the things I did get to see, these were some of my highlights.
HoverAid demonstrated how it can reach remote areas quickly.
On the music front, I liked the Scottish band Tongues and their upbeat synth-pop. The Hot 8 Brass Band gave jazz, reggae and soul the New Orleans treatment in grand style, and veteran Ghanaian musician Pat Thomas lit up the Glade Big Top venue with his lively highlife and Afrobeat rhythms.
The Barely Methodical Troupe’s performance Bromance was one of the festival’s biggest crowd-pullers; three extremely agile men exploring the awkwardness of male friendships using a mix of mime and acrobatics. It was spectacular and funny in equal measure.
The Revd Cathy Bird, minister at Stoke Newington Mission Methodist Church, east London, has been doing a lot of research and writing on the subject of darkness, and her Night Eucharist, held in an open-air venue called The Grove, challenged us to see God at the heart of something many of us have been afraid of at some point in our lives.
It was warm, challenging and uplifting, and kudos to Cathy for soldiering on despite the pounding drum and bass music coming from a nearby venue.
Another highlight was hearing Lemn Sissay talk about life in care, tracking down his biological parents, forgiveness, his Ethiopian roots, and, of course, poetry.
Lemn’s sessions got very emotional at times (especially when members of the audience shared their own stories of life as foster parents) — but were also full of hilarious banter between Lemn and some of the northerners in the audience.
The Jesus Arms once again served artisan beers, ciders and soft drinks. Thousands gathered on the Monday evening for the annual ‘Beer and Hymns’.
Hope & Social’s ‘A Band Anyone Can Join’ project was as much a heart-warming experience for those who saw it as it was for those who’d taken the plunge and signed up to be in it, making great music and several new friends in the process.
It was the perfect end to a great festival. Boughton House is really beginning to feel like home.