Sunday welcomes the crowds to Greenbelt

Greenbelt Festival 2011 review

published: Mon 5th Sep 2011

around the site (Sunday)

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

The sun is attempting to break through as the crowds start gathering for the traditional Sunday morning communion service. The musical section is led by Reverend Vince Anderson who, I think it would be fair to say, isn't everybody's cup of tea and some of us are even wondering if it's an ironic mickey-take: shouty, phlegmy vocals over happy-clappy tunes on a plinky-plonky piano made the music sound very dated and there isn't much communal singing until right at the end of the service. The communion part works well as usual and the multi-coloured ribbons from the crowd to the stage are a nice touch.

around the site (Sunday)
Following the nearly 2-hour long service, Martyn Joseph is hosting The Rising in the Centaur. It's a popular draw as Duke Special is listed amongst the guests (he's got four gigs today so I'm a very happy camper). Historically, a songwriting workshop, Joseph and each of the guests play a couple of songs and answer a few questions on their songwriting processes. In addition to Duke Special, today's guests are Cathy Burton, Gordon Gano, formerly of Violent Femmes who's brought his fiddle, and a new talent, Luke Jackson, a 17 year old with a Bieber haircut and a staggeringly powerful mature voice.

After lunch (cheesy mash is my top choice this weekend, and there are plenty of food stalls - everything from churros to crêpes, and pies to paella), it's back to the Centaur for a show by the dance company Candoco. They perform a special preview of their new work, 'Set and Reset' - flowing, expressive moves set to Laurie Anderson's 'Long Time No See'. The music is quite repetitive and with the fluid dancers, it feels quite hypnotic. The second piece is 'Imperfect Storm' from their previous season which they've now stopped touring so it's a unique show for Greenbelt. It's very loosely based on Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' with bits of narrative, a hotchpotch of costumes and comedy thrown in to the movements from the dancers on stage.

around the site (2 Young 4 Punk)
I pop back in to the Centaur later to watch the beginning of 'Singalonga Wizard of Oz'. The classic film, with its central thread of "there's no place like home" ties in well with Greenbelt's 'Dreams of Home' theme, and there's plenty of singing along, hissing at the wicked witch and cheering little Toto the dog, bless. Across in the small theatre opposite is a talk billed as '2young4punk'. It's a panel comprising two hosts - Nick Welsh and Nic Hughes, with guests Willie Williams, stage designer for U2 amongst others, and Don Letts, legendary DJ, film director, and musician of Big Audio Dynamite fame. They are discussing the ethos of the punk movement and the do-it-yourself attitudes which were life changing for so many people. I leave before the end for my next appointment with Greenbelt TV. Duke Special plays two songs in the intimate surroundings of the TV studio. The first is one of the songs inspired by photos at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art 'You Press the Button and We'll Do the Rest', co-written with Neil Hannon (evident from the amount of words squeezed into each line) about the advent of the Kodak camera allowing the general population (and not just professionals!) to take photos. The second is a song from Duke's stint in Brecht's 'Mother Courage' play - he wrote the music for the Tony Kushner translation and plays us 'The Song of Fraternisation' about a prostitute travelling with the army.

Folk On
The spoof folk band, Folk On is playing a short set in the G:Music tent to promote their EP. The tent is packed and the crowd sing along to the mournful tale of the morris dancer, which we heard last night, and 'Ernie the Slug'. The band creates a fantastic communal atmosphere and brings smiles all around.

Duke Special is playing on mainstage this evening as main support to Idlewild. He's joined by Ben Castle on sax/clarinet/daft dancing and Chip Bailey on percussion and shruti drone box. Gordon Gano joins them on fiddle for 'Why Does Anybody Love' (there's a chorus of "yes" from the females in the audience to Duke singing "say yes if you’ll be mine" - not me, of course, ahem!). The band finishes with an absolutely superb cover of the Joy Division song 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' with beautiful singing from the crowd.

Hope and Social
I forego Idlewild as I want to see the headliner in the Performance Cafe. Beth Rowley, of the angelic face and voice, is just finishing her set when I get there and the venue is rammed with people inside and crowded around the open sides. Next up, hailing from Leeds and wearing their distinctive blue blazers, Hope & Social unfortunately start late so I don't get to see the whole set. I've previously attended one of their special music events, which involved pub-crawls, singing on the steps of Leeds town hall, eating curries and watching their gig. Tonight, the frontman explains that they are a bit below par as he has a bad throat and they've all eaten dodgy chicken en route and been making use of the portaloos but you wouldn't know it from the energetic vibe of the set. They play an excellent extended mash-up of their song 'Red Red Rose' with Prefab Sprout's 'When Love Breaks Down' spliced with the drummer, Gary Stewart impersonating Paul Simon on 'You Can Call Me Al'. Another highlight is the beautiful song 'Looking For Answers' played unplugged with the audience's help on the chorus.

Duke Special
I hotfoot it across to Last Orders as Duke's putting in an appearance there too. Luke Leighfield and his band open with a song I recognise from Glee, Katy Perry's 'Teenage Dream'. It's OTT and extravagant for this late night show but brilliant and, although I know I should, I'm finding it difficult to resist Leighfield's poppy charms. Music is also provided by Folk On, The Austin Francis Connection, described as "acoustic hip-hop" with beatboxing and light-hearted lyrics, and Beth Rowley, who has recently been writing with Ron Sexsmith (one of the acts for tomorrow night's mainstage). We have an interesting talk on chocolate-tasting from Divine's chocolatier, David Greenwood-Haigh, and every member of the audience (a couple of thousand of us) are given a mini Divine chocolate bar to sample. There's musical comedy from Helen Arney and her ukulele. Duke Special sings us a few songs and ropes Leighfield in to share his piano on the last track to do some "noodling" on 'Everybody Wants a Little Something' (that's it for the weekend, honest - no more Duke reviews). The show finishes with another song from Leighfield and his band.
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Helen OSullivan

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


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