Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Andy Winter writes about the English YMCA's initiative in programming (& involving) Young People in the Greenbelt Festival -lifts my spirit.

A guest blog by Andy Winter, Chief Executive of Coventry YMCA, 
(YMCA, one of our GREENBELT Festival associates)

The sky is clear, the sun’s light brings an early haze, and the promise of an exciting day ahead meets my awakening. The white cover to roofs and the landscape reminds me that it’s December, not August, but I’m immersed for the day in Greenbelt all the same.

For today is the start of Greenbelt 2017 for the YMCA Greenbelt team. Feedback from 2016, great ideas for 2017, a new theme that resonates with YMCA – The Common Good – and more staff and young people wanting to get involved; a good set of ingredients for this year’s planning group to work with.

68 volunteers from 10 YMCAs delivered the YMCA contribution to the event last year. For most, it was their first experience of Greenbelt and, as ever, the event worked its wonders. These 68 volunteers were a mix of staff, volunteers and young people from YMCAs around the country.

The experience of our young people – some of whom have had lives marred by the constant let-down of adults, where ‘home’ is an alien concept and where the world teaches you to get what you can while you can – is important to note. There is no one forcing you to do anything at Greenbelt; you make the decisions about what you go to, about what you listen to, and you can leave it if it’s not absorbing enough.

In their servicing of the showers, we all meet adults in large numbers and, despite occasional inconveniences, there is humour, grace and thankfulness aplenty – none of which are in great supply in the usual day-to-day of the world of these young people. Their most common response is surprise. Surprise that adults have treated them well and said ‘thank you’.

Meanwhile, in The Den (Greenbelt’s youth space) our team has similar experiences and the new depth of understanding of challenging issues ( Europe, NHS and Mental Health were but a few) by young people is staggering and reminds me that adults need to listen even more carefully to young people.

So, the team now begins to prepare for 2017. Will we find the fictional climbing and abseiling tower that was promised in last year’s programme?! Will thinking about young people in two age groups – 11-14s and 15-17s – create new opportunities for all young people to get engaged with the event? Will the video diary kiosk we have in mind help to bring the voice of young people to The Common Good? Watch this space!

As we prepare for Greenbelt 2017, we pray for all those others making their preparations too, that when we come together on a few fields near Kettering in August we will already have The Common Good stitched through our contributions and that as we gather we will be a great witness to a kingdom that is open, inclusive, welcoming and transforming for those who come to immerse themselves and those who become immersed.

Book the dates now: 25th to 28th August 2017!