Thousands brave rain for 39th Greenbelt Festival

This weekend the arts, faith and justice Greenbelt Festival celebrated its 39th anniversary on the at the Cheltenham race course. Despite the pouring rain, around 20,000 people from all over the world and across every age group made their way to the festival to engage in talks, art workshops, worship sessions and literary readings.

The theme of this year’s festival was "Saving Paradise" and focused on offering people an understanding of freedom and human agency that calls for the responsible use of power to create relationships through a love of beauty. This activity of love lies at the core of justice, freedom, human rights, sustainable life, and peace.

Large crowds turned out to hear gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell argue that the UK Government was homophobic and that the current marriage laws show that society regards gay couples as less deserving.

"If we treat everyone equally, we are a better society," Tatchell said. "Anyone who values love, who values marriage should support same sex marriage.”

In a talk on simple living, A Rocha’s Ruth Valerio addressed the issue of consumerism and how it impacts our relationships. She argued that consumerism is one of the factors that breaks the threefold relationship God has created us for - our relationship with Him, with other people around us, and the wider human race.

“Consumerism changes our focus and encourages us to make money our focus,” she said. Moreover, it makes us categorise others either as consumers or producers, she contended. The question is how to find a way forward and life simple lives as Christians in a consumer driven society.

Quoting the American poet, philosopher and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau - "A person is rich in proportion to the things they can leave alone" - Valerio defined simplicity as an attitude of "saying yes to important things" such as relationships and "getting rid of clutter which hinders threefold relationships".

She encouraged Christians to use money to develop connections and relationships instead of separating, and to connect with the way things are produced. She also suggested that people set intentional limits on their consumption and give time to community and relationships.

One of the most anticipated events was "A Frank Conversation" hosted by comedian and practising Catholic Frank Skinner who entertained the audience with his wit, analysing the absurdity of everyday life.

Further highlights of the festival included a performance of James Cary´s romantic comedy "The God Particle", which addressed faith, science, love and the importance of keeping an open mind.

Other speakers over the festival included Tony Campolo, Tom Wright, and Giles Fraser.

The Greenbelt Festival ended on Monday with an electro swing party and prayer leaving the crowds deeply impacted and more aware of topical issues.

Paul Northup, Greenbelt Director said he could not be more pleased with how his first festival as director had gone.

“We've worked incredibly hard all year to curate an outstanding programme and this has been proven by the amazing reactions and engagement of Greenbelters right across the weekend in all the venues.

“Yes, we've had some challenging weather conditions to deal with. But our careful planning and site management systems meant we – and our audience – coped.

“Greenbelt prides itself on providing an environment that is more than just a weekend of entertainment. We want to provoke thought, inspire debate and challenge preconceptions. We believe that there is always a better way and that engaging with and participating in great art and great ideas is what inspires us to see the way forward. Next year at Greenbelt, life begins."