In previous years I have drifted into the maelstrom of fascinating and enlivening content that is Greenbelt without any preparation. This year however, I have been spurred into action early thanks to the the lovely people at threads. I’m going to highlight a few events at greenbelt this year.
My number one tip for Greenbelt is this: enjoy wherever you are. Don’t let FOMO – the fear of missing out – spoil your weekend. There are too many good things at Greenbelt to see everything. You are going to miss something. So inhabit the moment and enjoy what you’re looking at and listening to. That said, here are some of the things I’m looking forward to.
I met Pádraig Ó Tuama at the bar last year and he persuaded me to go to one of his storytelling events the following day. The event is called tenx9 because at each event, nine people have 10 minutes to tell a true story from their life. Pádraig is part of a team that started the event in Belfast, where they meet each month. The tenx9 brand has spread and now groups meet in Dublin, Glasgow, Chicago, Nashville and Rijjsen. The structure is very simple and the result can be stunning. There is something incredibly powerful about sharing our truthful stories. The variety is huge – be prepared for tears and laughter. You can find tenx9 at the venue ‘shelter’ on Friday and Saturday night at 9pm.
One my favorite speakers last year was Marika Rose, a vibrant theologian from Newcastle who says uncomfortable things. If you want the status quo to be challenged, she’s likely to do it. This year she is talking on ‘Angels and cyborgs’ and going places I’ve not thought about before. Her preamble gives a good flavour of the direction she’ll be going in:
“As the Christian vision of a new heaven and a new earth gets increasingly displaced by science fiction imaginings of technological utopias, our ways of thinking about the limits of human nature change too. What does this shift from angels to cyborgs tell us about being human in a machine society?”
She’ll be talking at the Pavilion at 8:15pm on Sunday night. She’s also chairing a panel at 6:30pm on Saturday on ‘Faith in Science?’ with Tom McLeish, Neil Messer and Lizzie Coyle.
Another radical speaking at Greenbelt this year is Noel Moules, who describes himself as a “thinker, teacher and activist for peace, justice and deep ecology”. He has spoken at events as diverse as Spring Harvest, Greenbelt and Pagan Pride. This year he’ll be bringing the talk he delivered at pagan pride: ‘Animism: common ground where Pagans and Christians meet.’ This will be at 10am on Saturday in The Grove.
Noel is a passionate vegan who used to butcher turkeys; so passionate that I was nearly tempted me to give it a try. His passion for life is infectious and I would encourage you to go and listen despite the slightly racy mention of paganism. He’s also talking at the same venue on Monday at 10am on the theme of ‘Jesus and Wild Nature’. Both of these talks will be a chance to get hear how the environment is not an add-on to faith, but at its centre. To get a stronger hint of what might be talked about you can peruse his new website Christian Animism.
One of the joys of Greenbelt is that if you need a break from the challenging talks, you can imbibe the essence of the festival through different media. The raw political songs of Grace Petrie channel the anger of injustice and passion for a better world. I’d recommend her as a modern-day Billy Bragg, a Greenbelt favourite. Another option is to sit down to a showing of ‘Open Bethlehem’ on Sunday, a documentary about the plight of modern day Bethlehem by a director who calls it his home.
Another place to absorb the spirit of Greenbelt is at the festival pub, the Jesus Arms. Open every night, it’s a great place to process and react to the day’s events, ideas and inspiration – either with old friends or new ones. If you are on your own and want a little structure to your meeting strangers, you could consider the ‘Social drinks for single Greenbelters’ on Saturday, 7pm at the Jesus Arms.
Whatever brings you to Greenbelt, try your best to inhabit the moment and enjoy your surroundings.