festivals Religion

Greenbelt 2019: It’s not just for Christians, you know…

Greenbelt 2019
Written by Nathan Olsen

A lot of the news I cover in the Religion section can be negative. This is due to both the newsworthiness of negativity and the ongoing politicisation of religion across the world. But it’s not all bad. One shining example of positivity in this scary world is Greenbelt, a nominally Christian festival which takes place every year in Northamptonshire. This year was the first time I’d been to Greenbelt in four years and a few things had changed since the last time I went. Yet, as always, the festival served as a timely reminder that there are a few reasons to be cheerful.

What Happens at Greenbelt?

Greenbelt is similar to a lot of festivals, as it hosts a wide variety of bands, artists, comedians and generally interesting people! Yet, it’s also quite different from a lot of festivals. Greenbelt holds a giant communion service on the Sunday of the festival weekend. Greenbelt is full of places where you can worship and meet other Christians. It still has lots of places where you can get drunk! They’re just called The Jesus Arms and The Blue Nun. The brilliant thing about Greenbelt is that, although it is pretty Christian, it’s very open-minded. Two of the more famous names to perform at Greenbelt this year were Russell Brand and Frank Turner! Brand is spiritual, though not strictly Christian, and Turner is a raging atheist. Yet, they were both made very welcome at Greenbelt because the festival is not Christian in the sense that only Christians can perform and attend. Rather, Greenbelt is Christian in the radically inclusive ethos it promotes and embodies. A few of my highlights from Greenbelt this year were A Super Happy Show About Feeling Super Sad, a poetry reading by Tony Walsh and all three of the Danny Dorling talks I went to. And there you have it, my Greenbelt experience involved a brilliant musical about depression, riveting slam poetry straight from the Mancunian working class, and Britain’s most prominent social geographer somehow providing hope and humour whilst discussing Brexit and ‘peak inequality’! Other festivals can claim bigger headliners and unrivalled debauchery, yet no other festival I know of has the strength in breadth that Greenbelt does.

Why We Need It

Greenbelt is a good example of what Christianity should be about – including everyone, celebrating everyone, and learning more about the world we live in. It truly is a remarkable festival, providing hope and happiness for thousands over just a single weekend in August.