Festivals that maintain a certain ethos or have a special history remain in the hearts of those who attend them in a profound way. Many of Green Gathering's organisers and attendees have kept the festival alive against unlikely odds.
It all started so well, in 1994 as a natural progression from the Green Fields site at Glastonbury it became a festival in it's own right "for people who care about the environment, sustainability, health, community and our children's futures. It is a celebration of the natural world and our place within it." - as the organisers themselves describe.
It grew and became the Big Green Gathering and at it's peak was attended by around 20,000 visitors as an important place for families to get their first or renewed taste of a greener life and more infamously where activists met to discuss ideas and raise funds. This last point is where the festival is truly unique, as it, or perhaps some of it's attendees, were seen as subversive to various plans of the government which responded by installing an undercover cop in a Green Gathering bar that was raising funds for Climate Camp. This is of course a very short hand story, I urge you to read the history of this event in more details, but in 2009 the festival was threatened with an injunction just 2 days before the festival gates opened which meant the organisers hands were turned and they were forced to cancel the event at an estimated cost of £2 million. Financial disaster but unbelievably not complete ruin.
In recent years the organisers have continued, now far smaller and as the Green Gathering, battling to get out of debt, each year getting a little bigger and a little less in debt. The need for events such as this and the strong belief that people have in green issues has been enough to keep the festival alive and hopefully with each year more integral in Britain's culture again.
The site itself is beautiful, a vast rolling landscape with a huge, spooky derelict building as a backdrop. The slightly ramshackle layout of the site is due to topography but it adds character and space to the site. Almost everyone is in a bus, caravan, lorry, or camper van, which you could argue isn't so green until you remember that many of these folks actually live in their vehicles (and rarely move them). For anyone with an interest in live in vehicles then just being invited into someone's home is part of the festival as you bare witness to some wonderful ingenuity, craftsmanship and way to adapt modern technology into a vehicle living space, often with the use of solar or wind.
The site is friendly and there is a sense of old friends meeting together without it feeling unwelcoming to newcomers. There are more children running around muddy faced than any other festival I've seen and the kids area is as big and interactive as any major festival.
Although a feature of the event, the main focus has never been on music, as is the norm for most festivals these days and the environmental issues still rage on with talks, seminars and debates. Many of them are insightful and only a few of them I'd consider completely 'out there' in there style of thinking, although I'll say for the record now that I'm not buying and of the evidence I've seen so far regarding chem trails but I learned several new things regarding fracking and Palestine.
This kind of event could have been 'preachy' but most people here seemed well balanced enough to understand the line between fun and learning. This is after all a coming together of humans wanting to be with other humans too.
So on to the music, let's be honest no one can whinge like a hippy but GG tries to put it's money (or lack of) where its mouth is and suggest and implement solutions. Each stage and stall is powered by renewables, if the energy runs out then it's time to go acoustic. The weather wasn't as sunny as hoped so the various power suppliers (people with several tonnes of solar panels) where occasionally at odds with stage managers who were having to trim bass levels to save energy.
The variety of acts was stupendous and performers give there services as massively reduced costs in support of the event. Highlights were 3 Daft Monkeys, Fasta Benj and festival favourite Rory McLeod but I got to see so few acts due to the wealth of opportunities to meet interesting characters (a hilarious fairy who rarely broke character springs to mind), make things (I really love working with willow and hazel I discovered) hear talks,etc, etc but that was fine, in fact going with the flow and having no sense of direction seemed better and more appropriate.
It's been reported that this year the festival managed to drag itself out of debt, a huge testament to the willpower of these wonderful people. So the future is looking good for the Green Gathering and hopefully for the environmental movement too. The organisers steely determination already had them looking to next year with keenness and I salute them in their efforts. Go and support this event, it needs you and Britain, our government and big businesses needs events like this to keep them from ruling us without hearing our opinions.
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