Greenbelt is a festival on the August bank holiday each year. Fifteen thousand people gathered, many of us camping, round a group of venues in marquees and canopies. My idea of Heaven. In the venues there was a mix of serious talks, music, and comedy.
How Christian is it? K thought it in great part post-Christian, with social and environmental concern. But then she told me that two years ago at Greenbelt she had the painful realisation that she does not believe Christianity any more, yet still loves to come here. Someone else, a Methodist, found it insufferably Anglican, but independently of us there were Quaker speakers. There were hoodies on sale with the tag “Jesus is my Superhero” and the reference Romans 5:6– not my theology, or mode of expression- but I only saw one being worn.
That hoodie seriously tempted me, though, because of the cold. “Coldest night in August on record” said someone- I doubt that– but we shared stories of lying awake, cold and miserable. Someone said someone else had frost on their tent one morning. Instead, I got a soft wool blanket which would double as a shawl. The rain came down on Monday, and the ground became muddy quickly, but before then we had only a few short showers. Then on Monday morning I woke at 3am too hot, because I had wrapped myself so well, and lay groggily wondering whether I should risk taking any off. My tent kept rain out and stood the wind, but I found that except in the most propitious conditions- dry, sunny, no wind- I could not erect it or take it down alone. So I asked a passer-by, who helped gladly. K stayed in a B&B: all the hotels locally are booked up.
On Saturday I wandered down towards the showers, past stalls selling jewellery and pottery, music books and more clothes. “Come in out of the rain!” said a man. OK. I love this hand thrown bowl, £150, but it is quite out of my range. We chatted for a bit. Also there was a stall selling stuff for circus skills. They had been doing work with the young people. I had chatted at one talk with the wife, who is thinking of retiring. Their arthritis is playing up. They can pass the firm on. I got a pretty glass pendant.
Then as the rain stopped, I had my best musical experience of the festival: Hannah Scott on the Roots stage. It is open mic, and the pottery-seller commented that many of them could not even tune their guitars properly- it is hard, in the open air, hot in a tent, etc- but someone had pulled out and she stepped in there though she was paid to play at the Canopy. Not realising this, I heard the quality and stopped to listen. Twenty of us sat in the sun under the trees, with this beautiful music, just a voice and one guitar.