This time they have gone too far.
When I saw the Daily Mail headline I felt sick. Sicker, even, than one would expect from reading that paper. “Green Belt at risk as ministers ‘think the unthinkable’…” it said. This was too much. They’ve eviscerated public services, heaped scorn upon the poor and threaten to destroy the institution that is our best evidence for calling Britain ‘Great’ – the NHS. We’ve all been pretty pacifist and democratic about it so far.
But to attack Britain’s greatest festival – and a week before it’s due to happen – well, that is heartless even by Tory standards. Well, what could I do?
Greenbelt was under threat. I had to take action.
Something of a Chuck Norris figure in Christian Leftist circles in South Oxfordshire, I did what any virile, muscular Christian man would do. I started to write a very strongly-worded tweet. Take that, Establishment.
But then a still small voice whispered in my ear: “It’s green belt, not Greenbelt. You moron.” Ah, the counsels of the Lord. He was, unsurprisingly, right. I read the story again. The government, in its worship of profit as the cornerstone value of human experience, had made noises about not ceasing their mental fight (and it really is mental) until they had built private housing and office space on England’s soon to be brown and unpleasant Land.
As far as news goes, it’s not a whole lot better. But at least the government is not trying to cancel Greenbelt. Not yet, anyway.
Greenbelt happens this weekend, over the August Bank Holiday in Cheltenham, and you really should go. Seriously. There’s music, there’s theatre, art, poetry, comedy and lots and lots of talks on everything from justice for Palestine and sexual equality to theology and politics. It’s a justice festival with added worship, a Christian conference with loads of secular bands, Muslim speakers and atheist panelists. It’s four days of people who care about people, justice, God and making the world a better place, with room for disagreement and space to learn.
Of course, the real draw is that we will be giving away free, limited edition, really useful and in no way just a promotional ploy involving a rehash of previously published web material, free print copies of The Narnian Socialist Review in Glorious Black and White to unsuspecting festival-goers.
It’s not like a flyer just got more and more out of hand, that’s for sure. No, sir.
But SRSLY. You should go to Greenbelt. But, in case you’re unconvinced, here’s a list of reasons why Greenbelt 2012 is going to be lovely:
Why Greenbelt is great / Why you should go
Shane Claiborne, Tom Wright, Tony Campolo, free hugs and Aradhna. Michael Leunig, dissenting voices, toilets without dread and tents serving tea. Franciscans camping, bands you’ve never heard of, Goth Eucharist, John Polkinghorne, Frank Skinner and drinking beer while singing hymns. Peter Tatchell, Richard Coles, Rend Collective Experiment and even The Proclaimers. Robin Ince, camping with nice people, speakers who make you angry, Muslims and Christians, atheists and vicars, gay people, old people, young people and even some cool people. Charities and campaign groups, Palestinian solidarity, peace movements, justice-lovers and people who really seem to care.
Communion in a field with strangers, theologians on a big stage, Ben White, Hope & Social, the people you met last year, the people you’ll meet this year, Seth Lakeman, space to learn and permission to disagree. Meditation space, pork stotties, Goan fish curries and vegan fair trade sweatshop-free organic chips. Candle-powered boats, stupid hats, Punk, Metal, Hardcore and installation art. Acceptance. Love. The nagging suspicion you’re becoming a hippy. The possibility that Christianity need not be arrogant, hateful or stupid. Meditation space, Mennonites, charismatics, patient conservatives, cheerful marxists, humanists and Peterson Toscano’s transgender Bible readings. Learning about God, the world and yourself. Four days of remembering why it’s exciting to be alive.
Greenbelt pics (Sunday Communion and Lisa Gungor in the Performance Cafe) courtesy of