Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Greenbelt 2011 - Dreams of Home

We've been back from Cheltenham a few days now and it feels like we've never been away. I really love Greenbelt but it is always over too quickly and this year was no exception. The weather was a bit of a let down this time round, it has to be said. Torrential rain on Friday evening meant that we bottled out of Billy Bragg on the main stage and sought shelter instead in the Jesus Arms where we encountered assorted ASBOites. We rolled out around one-ish, significantly later than anticipated. There were sporadic showers all weekend, which, apart from the Friday evening, tended to be light, fine rain but the worst of it was that it was ridiculously cold for the time of year. However, you can't let the weather spoil the weekend and we made the most of the event.

The content of our Greenbelt took on a more political flavour than usual. We listened to Faisal Islam, the Economics Editor of Channel 4 News who clarified the finer points not just the national but the global economic crisis. He later took part in a panel with three others. We also attended a talk by David Loyn, the International Development Correspondent for the BBC, who raised interesting points about what shapes the news as we see/hear it and how the nature of news is changing with the advent of social networks. The talk which affected me the most this year was brought to us by Palestinian, Salim Shawamreh who was speaking on behalf of ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions). He invited the audience to imagine what it would be like to have your house demolished, something which he has experienced not once but 4 times. It is an utterly horrendous situation. Recognition of Palestine as a state would certainly be a move in the right direction to resolving the plight of the Palestinian people and the UN will be voting on this issue next month. William Hague is undecided as to how the UK will vote so there is still time to lobby MPs. So, Esther McVey can expect something in the post! The only talk I attended of a spiritual nature was by Padraig O'Tuama. I was intrigued by the name of the talk, Our Lady of Greenbelt. As a Catholic, I struggle with Marian spirituality. On the one hand, I think that many of my fellow Catholics can have a tendency to deify Mary and understand why Protestant Christians can accuse us of 'worshipping Mary'. On the other hand, I always think that Jesus must get a bit hurt the way some not only disregard but actually insult His mum. I know that sounds simplistic and childish but it is the way I think about it. I must admit, Padraig left me feeling much happier about Mary's role and my attitude towards her, which is the last thing I was expecting.

We took in more music than usual with Soweto Kinch, Gentlemen's Dubb Club, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Duke Special, Idlewild, Kate Rusby and Ron Sexsmith. Phil had spent most of the last few months looking forward to seeing Ron Sexsmith and we weren't disappointed. We had originally planned to stay over until Tuesday, but this plan was scuppered when Phil discovered that Ron was on at 7pm on Monday I had to miss the Unthanks and Mavis Staples...oh, well, you can't have everything. Probably some follow-up music purchases are in order.

Sadly we didn't get up in time for the Greenbelt Communion this year which is a shame. But we managed to get to the Blessed service at 5.30 on Friday evening to support Metanoia featuring Robb and Dr Ruth. If only all masses could be like that one. We also managed to get to a service by our friends at Sanctuary Bath - a late one at 11.15pm but a very relaxing and focused end to the day.

The trouble with Greenbelt is that it is so packed with activity and punctuated with conversation, it seems to be over so very, very quickly. Oh, well, there's always next year!

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