it's a soggy start to Saturday at Greenbelt

Greenbelt Festival 2011 review

By Helen OSullivan | Published: Mon 5th Sep 2011

around the site (Saturday)

Friday 26th to Monday 29th August 2011
Prestbury, Cheltenham, England MAP
£120; concessions £75; child 5-17 years £65; family ticket £310
Last updated: Fri 12th Aug 2011

It's a bit of a soggy start to the day and a struggle to get up for the first event that I want to see (it starts at 9.30 am). Taking place in the Centaur, Ockham's Razor are performing two aerial shows. They were scheduled to perform their new show, 'The Mill' but there's a change of plan due to one of the performers suffering a slight injury so we're treated to two consecutive shorter pieces. The first is 'Arc' where the three performers create balletic moves to music and watery sounds around a rack suspended from hanging wires, some of the wires are released during the performance so that the whole rack swings and rotates. They appear to be shipwrecked and the story examines their relationships to each other – games, a budding romance, jealousy and harmony at the end. The second piece is called 'Memento Mori' and involves two performers suspended in a picture frame – the guy is wearing a pale bodysuit and is presumably representing death, the girl wears a red dress and together they perform beautiful acrobatic poses and dances around the frame to evocative music.

around the site (Friday)
The Big Top is definitely bigger this year and I don't see any queues for it over the weekend. Billy Bragg, and Leon Walker are being interviewed there about the campaign Jail Guitar Doors which Bragg founded, that supplies guitars to people working in rehab in prisons. Walker, an ex-offender, from Dartmoor who featured in the documentary about the campaign called 'Breaking Rocks', tells us about his experiences and sings a few gritty songs about devils, jingling keys and the streets of Yorkshire.

A couple of hours later and Bragg is selecting tracks to play and being interviewed by Simon Mayo in the Centaur about home, to fit in with the theme of the festival. He talks about his mother's death and how he came to realise that bricks and mortar aren't really home, (he plays 'Lippy Kids' by Elbow); and discusses homelessness – illustrated by Springsteen singing Woody Guthrie's 'I Ain't Got No Home'. I leave before the end as I've got a ticket for Greenbelt TV (GTV).

around the site (Saturday)
GTV began on a small scale last year and audiences were dragged in from the festival. This year some tickets have been allocated in advance and GTV has a new, improved studio which seats an audience of 40. It's running half an hour late but worth waiting for the "chilled out" version of Dizraeli and the Small Gods, the same version that I saw in the Poetry Tent at Latitude. They're playing as a four-piece - Dizraeli's hip-hop poetry set to guitars, flute, viola and harmonies. It's a six minute podcast so time only for two awe-inspiring songs, although they sneak an extra one in at the end.

One of the great things about Greenbelt is the wide variety of events of offer but the downside to that is that the audience is distracted away from mainstage, so there's a focus this year to make each evening at mainstage more of an event with guest compères between the acts, starting at 4 pm and running through till 11 pm. Tonight's line-up is aimed at the youth, with Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly headlining. The second band on, Extra Curricular, are an eight piece with brass section and three lead vocalists. They are a joyously noisy hip-hop soul funk outfit and manage to get lots of the crowd dancing early in the evening. They are followed by Dizraeli and the Small Gods - this time the full band version, a seven piece with turntables, keys, viola, guitar drums, flute, and vocals, as well as female beatboxing world champion, Bellatrix, on double bass and beatboxing duties. The frontman, Dizraeli, is full of energy and passion and the small crowd quickly grows to a large appreciative audience. He's a brilliant wordsmith though some of the hip-hop vocals are too fast to catch. Highlights of their set are a rousing 'Engurland', the touching 'The Little Things' with a verse dedicated to his nan, ex-girlfriend and brother, and a passionate 'Good God'.

around the site (Saturday)
In the Performance Cafe, the next act was meant to be a solo set by Lisa Gungor, but has been listed in the programme as the band Gungor, so she's invited her husband from the band along to play guitar and banjo. Lisa plays keys and xylophone and has a very pretty voice. They play some of her solo material as well as some band songs. They're followed by the Northern Irish singer-songwriter Iain Archer, who sings some fine acoustic songs, assisted by his wife Miriam on backing vocals. He sings one of the songs un-mic-ed at the front of the stage, using a 12-string guitar and finishes with 'Summer Jets'.

'Last Orders', the late night Centaur show, starts with Luke Leighfield and his band, including a brass section to create a huge, all-enveloping sound. Hosted by Helen Morant and Andy Walton, there are interviews with author Adrian Plass and writer/actor Ben Moor, who's brought his one-man show 'Coelacanth' from Edinburgh to perform at Greenbelt, jazz poetry from Soweto Kinch who was on mainstage earlier, and comedy from Jo Enright and Miss Information's Booth. We also have music and comedy combined in the form of Folk On, who, with enthusiastic audience participation, sing us the tale of Davey Donovan and his daughter Daphne who was in love with a Morris dancer.
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Helen OSullivan

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