One of the joys of Greenbelt is hearing summaries of talks from friends and family and having the opportunity to let conversations run around the topics raised. I am fortunate to have the luxury of camping by my parents in their caravan and as my dad cooked us breakfast my mum talked about the importance of mutual dependency, the lessons learnt from a recent operation, teaching her how profound it is to need people and be needed.

This was in preparation for Giles Fraser’s talk on helplessness which I missed in order to speak to the inspiring Michael Northcott who talks on Monday about re-earthing Britain and our connection to place.

On my journey between venues I bumped into friends who gave a glimpse into missed events and raved about Dave Andrews who they described beautifully as an Australian Santa Claus delivering a talk entitled ‘The Jihad of Jesus’, encouraging us to loosen our grip on owning the truth.
Next up was one of my favourites from last year: The Daily Mirror with Cole Morten. Cole firmly denied that it was a news panel show but it followed the format, starting with a look at the day’s newspapers. As an introduction he admitted to writing for the Daily Mail magazine and encouraged all views to be heard. Despite many appeals he failed to find a Daily Mail reader from the audience to join the panel which consisted of Sara Hyde and Giles Fraser with musical interludes from Iain Archer. It became clear that for all the appeals for diversity we were almost unanimously a Radio 4 listening group of middle class lefties.

Giles, the Guardian‘s vicar, opened with a Sun article about the world’s largest willy which caused much amusement and Sarah who works with women in prison chose a piece about conjugal visits from the same publication. I think it was the beautiful and soulful interlude of Iain Archer’s music that calmed the innuendo and set up one of the most moving moments of Greenbelt so far.

Cole introduced an article on immigration from the Daily Express referring to the ‘swarm’ trying to come to this country and Giles pulled no punches in laying into it. As the conversation opened up there was a real wrestling with our revulsion at its language and our need to acknowledge that there was a keen audience for this message. While we, the lefty middle class, didn’t want to hear the dehumanising language of swarming migrants, there were those who did.

Do we need to listen more to the voice of the white, poor in our society who may feel the impact of migration more than us? It was at this point in the debate a self-proclaimed economic migrant took to the microphone and spoke on the brink of tears of her hurt at the attitudes towards migration.

She called on all the other economic migrants in the tent boldly proclaim themselves in their churches as such, forcing those that hate, to acknowledge the human being in front of them. She said she came to the UK because she believed in the values of Great Britain and despite being so proud to get her passport she now feels like handing it back.

Iain closed with a song giving us space to sit in discomfort at the hurt caused by the rhetoric of our prime minister and press alike.
As I finish this piece I’m preparing to hit the Jesus Arms for a Christian Connections event to meet fellow singles. A sign of how varied each day can be and a test of our ability to transition from one setting to another. Conversations and unresolved thoughts have a tendency to leak between events and I’m looking forward to the tapestry of conversation ahead.


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Written by Chris Ware

Chris works for a homelessness charity in south London, and volunteers with Housing Justice campaigning for proper housing for those who don’t have it. He’s a fine art graduate from the north who finds the big city too big and too busy. Often found pontificating over a pint of ale.

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