Greenbelt Festival 2021

Grace Petrie is the weekend’s headline act. I took down my tent unhurriedly, helped by neighbours, and stayed, chatting. Over tea, a woman told of the trauma of being brought up Catholic- terrifying small children with Hell- then of how she needed a church, so was now Anglican.

I cycled home with the tent, then checked if there were tickets available: I bought one. I decided to commute in, so cycled to the festival on Saturday without my tent. On Monday Paul N. had greeted me by name as I came in, and now Joe does. We chat of Quakers.
All the venues are next to each other: Caravan of Love, Tiny Tea Tent, Indian street food, Long Barn main venue, Café, Shed talks venue. There are toilets at both ends, showers at the downhill end away from the path out. I love “Please do not be a selfish tit” signs, and this is a prime example.

A little way away is the Clearing, for worship, with logs to sit on among the trees. All the tents are close to the venues. 1500 is a good number attending. The Long Barn is a large marquee without sides, and for Harry and Chris the audience spills out. We are lucky it did not rain at all in the day, with only one brief shower in the night. And still, in front of the stage in a large dancing crowd I wonder if we could spread covid. Its friendly. I parked my bike, with clothes to keep warm in the evening, by the top end, unlocked.

I am here for the music, but went off for the introduction to stargazing. So now I know what the Summer Triangle is: the bright stars Altair, Deneb and Vega, from which constellations can be found. The man pointed out Saturn and Jupiter.

There was also a poetry workshop. We went into the clearing, and first looked down to what was underneath our feet. I loved the ladybird. I saw the creeper all across the ground, the leaves and twigs not yet mould. The creeper has been cut from the trees, and apparently the dead, hanging strands cannot draw life from the trunk itself, but new creepers are climbing.

Next exercise was to pick a tree and write about it. The trees are tall and straight, but I picked a shorter one. I noticed some of its branches had no leaves at all.

Come late? No matter.
Hungry leaves at all levels below the canopy
Keep trying. Spread wide. Reward success.

You can address the tree, as I did, or give it a voice.

In the café, a woman told me she worked in a mental hospital locked ward. I had for a time. She wanted to train as an advocate for the patients. One says that the nurse on suicide watch overnight fell asleep, and she felt unsafe. The staff member denies it, and the patient is ill, so not believed, but then the same thing is said by another patient.

Another nurse told me that she worked in palliative care for a bit, and one of the nurses had managed to steal morphine, diluting the vials. Trust can cause problems. Now, she works overseeing the first human trials of new drugs, on healthy volunteers.

I got chatting to another Scot who had come to England after Uni, and went to her tent for coffee. There is a trans flag on a tent, and I ask her if she knows what it is, but she does not. She introduces me to the people in the tent opposite, who share their chocolate brownies. Then I wander off to another tent as the gazebo has a Pride flag, and chat for a bit. They may volunteer with the Out at Greenbelt group next year. There’s a Welsh flag further on, and I could have gone and said Shwmae. Someone told me her flag was Devon’s.

There were about fifty for the Quaker meeting, and after I went for tea with a woman who had found Quakers at Greenbelt in 2015, and just become a member.

Music. This is Nick Parker and the False Alarms

and this is Daudi Matsiko.

I am here for Grace Petrie, and her fiddler. Of course she sings Black Tie. I turn to the woman next to me, and say, “This is what I am here for”- and then burst into tears with the chorus. After all the hostility of the anti-trans campaigners, it is wonderful to hear such a strong blast of goodwill and sanity. Then I cycle home.

2 thoughts on “Greenbelt Festival 2021

  1. I completely love Grace Petrie, and believe I introduced you to ‘Black Tie’ when it came out?
    Am I understanding correctly that she played at greenbelt?? One of her lyrics goes ‘and yes, it’s true God aint my thing…’


    • You did, just after I missed her at Greenbelt. She has played there at least seven times. They are a Christian festival in that they have a lot of worship and their talks are often Christian-related, but they don’t do Christian music or drama particularly, and you could go and experience a full festival never hearing anything Christian-related.


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