Greenbelt 2013, it had a lot to live up to. Despite the weather, (which Snowy doesn’t think worthy of note anyway), 2012 was one of the best for years. And not simply because of the line up. After 2011’s final evening, I really began to realise that there was more to Greenbelt than fantastic music, enlightening talks and liberating atmosphere.
Don’t mistake me, I have always felt comfortable and free at Greenbelt, but it had, in the past, been somewhere which felt mine only by virtue of the links which my parents and older siblings have to the people to whom Greenbelt belongs. Greenbelt welcomes anybody , but I have only really started to feel like it was mine to be let into in recent years, independent of my family. Having chatted with a random girl in G-store (whose name I never did get), I was kidnapped by the Zoes and Flick, who then dragged me, not entirely against my will (I’m a sucker for a pretty face) to the beer tent, and introduced me to Charlie and Emily. These girls, alongside the Vibers, who now feel very much like family (I first vibed in 2010),made GB2012 feel unlike any Greenbelt which had gone before. It felt more and more like home (appropriately [for those that don’t know,the theme was ‘Dreams of home’]). Suddenly, rather than wandering around aimlessly when there was a slow sport in the program, I was keeping Charlie company on the graveyard shift at barn gate, or getting coffee with Grace, or bumping into people who I knew from elsewhere and happened to be Greenbelters. I felt like I had gone from stranger to insider, though it had been home in a way for over a decade. Greenbelt 2013 had a lot to live up too.
With my hectic job as a vibing team leader in build week, the run up to the festival felt very different. I was working 14 hour days, and found it hard to get enthused to start with. But as people began to arrive on the Thursday, I saw more and more people I knew, and as flags went up, so too the faces of the festival came to life. I waved over ladders, and had greetings shouted at me while my head was buried in Job Sheets. As of the Sunday morning of the festival, there were still at least four people I needed to see properly. And yet, something was wrong. A face so totally Greenbelt that it had been used for site steward recruiting was missing. Thankfully, it wasn’t Snowy (though give it 15 years and she might take up his mantle). Charlie Mitchell, who stole Giles’ tags, and acquired new skirts on an annual basis from Doo Dah, who I had stood out with in the rain, was absent, gathering theatre tech contacts and experience at World Stage Design. This just felt wrong.
David Ison, dean of St. Pauls, commented in a talk that one of the defining points of Christianity, which lies at the heart of it’s understanding of the world, is the way people relate to each other. In his Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis explored the conflict between being in heaven and want to draw other to join that place and nature. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Greenbelt is probably the closest you can come to an effective ecumenical church, but an absence somehow lessens it.It was bad enough not having Blondie in 2012 (as we had become friends over the year to some extent), but Charlie seems somehow have more Greenbelt-ish. She feels like part of the fabric.
And of course, Moni was at Towersy, which she loves, not Greenbelt, which I do believe (and hope) she would love too, more even, because of it’s uniqueness. I want to be able to draw her into this place, this home, which has meant so much to me for so long. For nearly 2/3 of my life, and 1/3 of its life, greenbelt and I have been linked, and I would never choose to sacrifice that, but I so want to draw others in, and show them that, once here, they will choose to remain. I love them, and I love this, so how could I choose. This, if nothing else,has shown me that I must be a universalist. Greenbelt is a Thin Place, where something from beyond the veil is glimpsed, something better. An absence from here breaks my heart, but still I love it. How could a heaven without everyone do anything except tear my in two so much more?