Thursday, August 31, 2006

This man is what Greenbelt is all about - seen here keeping in touch with the community via text.

I seem to have been a bit slower than everyone else when it comes to blogging about Greenbelt, despite coming home onthe Monday. I guess I just have less free time than others for these things.

It was a very enjoyable festival, apart from going down with a heavy cold on the Friday which meant I felt pretty ill all weekend - missed the Sunday service as only managed to get out of bed at mid-day. Just as I was starting to feel better it was time to go home.

As I was not working at the festival it was a time for meeting old friends, some who I had not seen for many years. It was nice to see old faces from Liverpool who were making their first appearances at Greenbelt since becoming parents many years earlier. And my former church colleagues from London who now live around the country.

Biggest surprise was left until the Monday when I bumped into a former work colleague who had decided to bring the family toGreenbelt after about a 20 year gap - I'd tried to persaude him last year late on, but this year he had no excuses!

It was also nice to be back in our usual hotel after a break last year. This meant everyone under one roof and lots of late night, deep, thoughtful conversations. It is always nice to see old familiar faces, as well as new ones joining our late night gathering. It was also nice having a decent hotel room - I'd booked seperately from Greenbelt and got an Executive double room (free chocolates and soft drinks + air con) at the same price as the Greenbelt standard single. I also did the same for Hey Gravity! A tip for hotel bookings is - I use them quite a bit at work.

Not being used to wander freely round the festival it was quite hard at times deciding what to do. I decided to focus primarily on music and light entertainment as these would not be recorded and downloaded like the seminars. I did manage a few seminars though - Cole Morton who I always enjoy listening to, the Manchester passion, seminar on activists based in New York. Tried to get in to see John Davies but "house full" signs up. Gave the big speakers a miss as I prefer to listen to them on my IPOD.

On the music front saw Randy Stonehill on his first return visit since 1983. I've got some great pictures of him in 1983 and apart from his hair being shorter he doesn't seem to have changed much. Unfortunately his set was VERY short as they were running very late in the venue - Union Dance was on later and they normally require a massive warm-up time - certainly more than the programme allowed them. Caught the Rising shows as always a good way to see a few acts at their best. Nice surprise bumping into Juliet Turner - sad to hear she is taking time out to study - but wish her well in this other career. Also saw Stocki's Redemption Songs which was again a good way to see acts. Other acts I caught up with were Brian Houston, Kevin Max (he we introduced into our late night session at the hotel), Dave Sharpe, Maria McKee (who I somehow ended up acting as chauffeur for), My Morning Jacket, and best of all the Greenbelt children's choir. Somehow failed to see Cathy Burton which was quite hard to do given the amount of slots she had been given over the weekend.

In addition of course I had Hey Gravity! playing Stage 2 on the Saturday night. It was a great performance and the band really enjoyed playing at the festival.

We spent the rest of the evening in the organic beer tent for the hymns and beer night. Amazingly there were a number of people in the beer tent that knew different members of the band and came over to say hello. There were some nice comments from the younger generation who had come from seeing All Stars United and clearly felt Hey Gravity! were miles better. Later back at the hotel Justine got to meet Pip whilst the rest of the band clearly couldn't keep pace with us Christians and crashed out in their rooms.

On the Light Entertainment front I finally caught up with Darren (who books the acts) and Andrea (who was singing with the Greenbelt Orchestra Monday) to see the magic comedy show Sunday evening. John Archer was as good as ever - I'd seen most of his tricks before but still very good. Barrie & Stuart were also excellent. I also saw their late night repeat in uncensored format which may just create a few letters of complaint from the purer members of the public. Last Orders and the magic show in Centaur seemed to be a big success - having put forward the suggestion 2 years ago to deaf ears it was good to see someone else pushing it. I also caught a bit of the stand-up comedy in the Ox Bar each night, including the performance by Greenbelt's own Sarah Dean which I managed to capture most of on my phone video.

Big successes of the festival for me were the return of main stage, the ever growing organic beer tent, and the switch in Centaur to holding acoustic sessions earlier inn the day. The site continues to grow but still remains easy to navigate round. On the downside I thought the Performance Cafe lost some of its charm in the big top as it was just too big with too much noise from people there not interested in the music. Also I saw too many acts destroyed by those damned drums! Still need to have 2 one-way walkways to central section of race course - everyone I was ever with there said the same thing.

Came home with loads of CDs - and also gave out edited copies of Michael McDermott's new album to a number of people at the festival. I guess my one regret (apart from Helen not being able to come to the festival) this year was Michael not being there. Financially it was the right thing to do but I suspect he would have made a big impression. Still next year is less than 365 days to go now and getting even less as I type this!

Photos to follow when I can persuade Blogspot to upload

Dave - there's a few good Hey Gravity! pics on the Greenbelt flickr pages if you browse through them.
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