Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Greenbelt 2009: Standing in the Long Now

Just got back from our 5th Greenbelt and the more we go, the less it seems to be about the programme. What is seldom is, indeed, wonderful as my mum always reminded me and Greenbelt provides the opportunity to catch up with friends from other parts of the country. Most notably, I get to see my 'family' from my fave blogs, ASBOJesus and Sanctuary. ASBOJesus has, in particular, provided a safe space for me to be me. Never one for feeling entirely at home in a typical church setting, the virtual community at ASBOJesus accepts me as I am, complete with my many foibles which then enables me to cope with the frustrations of being in the margins of church. It has evolved into something which is far more than the sum of its blog parts. Not having had the smoothest of times in the past couple of years, I have felt hugely supported by Jon, Clare, Sonia and Dennis so it was great to meet and chat in person.

The spin-off from these relationships is that we found ourselves at a couple of Proost events over the weekend. My particular favourites from the superb line-up were Andi Mac's 'I Love Elvis', a quirky little animated parable and Dubb, who was confident last year but whose presence had grown considerably since we last saw him at GB08. Not only is he a hugely talented wordsmith, his verbal dexterity in delivering the lines is nothing short of breathtaking. His debut album, Rhythm and Poetry, is now available from the Proost website. Speaking of breathtaking, on Saturday he was more than ably supported by Tyte, the human beatbox. I'm sorry, I just don't get how you can make so many sounds with one little mouth! Tyte has some beatbox tutorial videos on youtube and I once remember having a go myself...yes, I know it is not seemly for a 47 year-old mum to do such things, but I did it in private and I wasn't hurting anybody...anyway, I only succeeded in getting spit all over my laptop screen and it didn't even sound any good. So hats off to Tyte. I thought Jon was an extremely good sport joining in with the 'singy' bits, perhaps next time he should turn his cap around the other way and wear a bit more bling, just for aesthetics! Anyway, I thought it was all good but those were my fave bits. I suggest that, if you want a bit more of a flavour of what Proost is about, you download these freebies.

The Sunday service was a bit disappointing this year because there was no communion, due to all the swine flu bollocks, and the peace was an 'elbow bump'. I really think that if I am going to catch swine flu it is more likely to be via droplets catapulted from someone's vocal cords in an over-enthusiastic fit of congregational singing than by a handshake. Anway, after the main service, a significantly smaller congregation gathered over at the children's festival where consecrated elements were available for those who wanted them. I wondered who was going to be responsible for glugging all the leftover 'wine'.

The beer tent was a better layout this year - a smaller bar meant it was more spacious inside. In addition, there was a wine bar (or was it a wind car?) which provided a rather more sophisticated ambience. It was called 'NUN' and was adorned with blue lights, Aah! the days when all you had to worry about was whether to drink Blue Nun or Black Tower...it was all Liebfraumilch to me... Far too much choice these days and it leads to snobbery; any old plonk used to be the sophisticated alternative to half a lager and lime. Anyway, I digress. Back to the point, we met Dennis and Sharron there on Sunday evening and DJ Jonny Baker was providing the chilled beats (is the poor lad having to moonlight to make ends meet?)

What else did we actually do there? We listened to Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop (is that right?). He seemed a nice man but I had trouble staying awake in his talk. Hmm...sex and spirituality - either is great on its own, but for some reason, the instant you get a clergyman combining the two, somehow it becomes inert. I couldn't be bothered queuing for Rob Bell, having been turned away from his first talk which was hugely over-subscribed. But I listened to the Q & A session at the Grandstand. I liked him but I'm not that keen on farties from the audience asking questions. Some come up with good questions but often they are completely dire. I checked out Maggie Dawn and will probably get hold of her Advent book this year. At least one John Bell talk is de rigeur at GB and this is how we chose to open our festival.

Oh and I loved the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. A big selection of horns and a drummer with a little bit of hip hop thrown into the mix. I was reminded of Earth, Wind and Fire's funky horn section and couldn't resist the temptation to shrug off my terribleh English sensibilities and have a little boogie in the Bank Holiday sunshine...just kinda got me in the zone, if you know what I mean. Just as long as no-one saw me! I now discover that my EWF connection was well-spotted since the eight brothers in the band are sons of one Phil Cohran, a jazz trumpeter who worked with some of the EWF horn section and was a musical influence on Maurice White. So there! Enjoy!