Greenbelt is a community as well as a festival

Greenbelt Festival 2009 review

By Helen OSullivan | Published: Tue 8th Sep 2009

around the festival site (Monday)

Friday 28th to Monday 31st August 2009
Prestbury, Cheltenham, England MAP
£83; Concs £55; 13-17 years £46; 4-12 yr olds £42; family ticket £215
Last updated: Mon 15th Jun 2009

Greenbelt is a Christian arts festival, held at Cheltenham racecourse in Gloucestershire, nestled in the Cotswold Hills. The first Greenbelt took place in 1974 at Prospect Farm in Suffolk. The festival has had several rural homes since then but has been settled at Cheltenham for the past 10 years and currently attracts around 20,000 punters. This location has the big advantage of 'proper' toilets, concrete pathways and buildings so that there are plenty of indoor venues, unaffected if it rains. The festival embraces art in a multitude of forms – a variety of genres of music, theatre, comedy, literature, seminars, art installations and performance art.

One of the main factors that make Greenbelt special are its Christian ethos – there is a massive outdoor service on Sunday morning, lots of seminars dealing with aspects of Christianity, and there are also speakers from other faiths. More importantly Greenbelt brews ideas for change and engages in campaigns for justice such as fair trade, ending poverty, human rights issues, and inspires festival-goers to do the same. The focus of campaigning this year and for the next two years is 'Just Peace', raising awareness of the problems in Israel and Palestine; this campaign will be woven into the service on Sunday morning. All monies donated at the Sunday service go to Trust Greenbelt, which awards funds to various projects throughout the year. The results of some of the previous projects can be seen and experienced at the festival.

around the festival site (Saturday)
The festival has a theme every year and this year's was "Standing in the Long Now" which is all about considering the future beyond ourselves and so ties in with looking after the environment, campaigning for peace etc.

The festival is laid out over two main areas – the 'festival village' which incorporates the racecourse buildings, the mainstage and various stalls and venues in between, including the ever popular Tiny Tea Tent and a new venue called the festival bowl which seats about 300, and the 'centre course' in the middle of the racecourse which is the location for more stalls, the new Big Top venue, with a capacity of up to 1000, the Performance Café and Jesus Arms (beer tent!). The stalls sell everything from clothes, and fairylove items to bubbles, as well as lots of delicious organic and fairtrade food.

Greenbelt is a community as well as a festival and people are kept in touch with the festival all year round with tweets, blogs, emails, newsletters, and some weekend and special events.

Childrens Choir
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Helen OSullivan

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