Well I’ve been back from Greenbelt for a couple of days, in fact for 30 hours longer than orginally planned!
First I must emphasise that there was nothing wrong with Greenbelt. It is a wonderful event. It brings Christians of all flavours, as well as agnostics and athiests, together, to grappel with some of the big issues of faith, culture, society and world affairs, through the media of music, speech, comedy, and good old fashioned conversation. And it does so very successfully.
I’ve been told however, that to really experience Greenbelt you have to camp. So, for my first ever visit, I felt I had to camp. OK, it was slightly glamping, as I hired the tent and such like, but as the previous post shows – it was hardly all mod cons! I had never camped before and knew that I was pushing myself beyond my ‘comfort’ zone on this one, but felt I’d let myself down if I didn’t try.
But, perhaps I knew myself better than I was willing to admit in my efforts to conform to the stereotype of ‘festival goer’. Perhaps I should have been more honest, more humble even.
You see the first night, despite plenty of pre-planning and kit, I was frozen. I barely slept a wink even though I had a second sleeping bag to cover the first, a blanket, ear plugs, eye shade… even my socks on! It meant I was able to photograph the dawn over Cleve Hill, but it had little else to recommend it as a nights sleep! I was only thankful that the air mattress provided by Tangerine Fields was a great comfort to my notoriously dodgy back.
The second night, I doubled the layers – more clothes, one sleeping bag in side the other, a woolly hat – and yes, I was a little warmer, more comfortable. It was just that even ear plugs don’t help when teenagers race around a campsite (that isn’t their patch) at 2am+ screaming, shouting and falling onto my tent!
Apparently, that’s what teenagers do at festivals, but I’m afraid I thought it simply selfish – and I wasn’t alone. Most of my fellow TF campers were older than me, and/or visiting the UK and taking in Greenbelt as part of their holiday – and their reactions weren’t always as calm as mine.
In many ways the position of the Tangerine Fields site (see site map) was ideal. We were very near the field of activity, had toilets and running drinking water very close to hand. This convenience was added to by the fact that I could enjoy acts like “Duke Special” in the ‘Big Top’ and ‘Performance Cafe’ from the comfort of the air mattress in the tent!
It was just that it seems that it also provided an easy shortcut through to the main ‘Big Top’ entrance and these facilities, for young volunteers and I presume teenagers who’d been put in “early curfew” perhaps a little against their will?! During Festival hours this was understandable, and bearable. After midnight, it was a huge nuisance.
I know I need a lot of sleep, so all this sleep deprivation started to take it’s toll on what I could take in of the talks and the music I wanted to hear at the Festival. But it also exacerbated another problem, that I hadn’t expected.
This might sound a little soppy, but I missed my man! I went to Greenbelt alone, knowing that I would meet a few people there I already knew a bit, and hoped I would meet more people (mostly ministers) that I only knew via Twitter. This proved the case, but somehow it wasn’t enough. Most of the people I saw, were either part of a group, there as a couple, or had a large group of pre-existing friends to connect with. In particular they were able to chat through their experiences or the ideas they’d heard, together afterwards.
Without someone close there, this wasn’t possible for me, despite my poor attempts at Twitter conversation after talks. Added to which, there’s the simple fact that my husband has been my ‘soul-mate’ for the last 20+ years and it just wasn’t the same without him to share it with! (The main reasons he didn’t come were doggy logistics, and expense, since I had the privilege of being there on a First Time Christian Leader ticket that was greatly reduced in price.)
Rob Bell (and as I work through my responses to the talks I went to, his name will crop up again) spoke on Saturday morning about “knowing oneself”, about not moaning about what you’re not, owning who you are, and living the life that God has equipped you for accordingly.
It was this idea, which was hardly knew, but perhaps something I needed to hear this weekend afresh, that eventually drove me to get my husband to come and collect me on Sunday afternoon, long before I had intended. The theme of the whole weekend was ‘Dreams of Home’ and I’m afraid the theological depth of this became rather lost for me, as all I could do was to dream of home – warmth, and peace to sleep! I know I have missed out on a lot as a result, but at least I am not a total physical wreck, and am now emotionally quite happy with the decision I made.
So, sorry Greenbelt I failed to make the most of all you offered this year, but you successfully emphasised stuff I should have known better about myself. I will be back another year – but I’m afraid, I won’t be camping!
As the week progresses, I shall write a little more about what I saw and heard and thought in the 2 days I was at Greenbelt, now I’m in the warmth and comfort of my own home! At least I know, as Rob Bell put it, that “failure is not the end”!