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Greenbelt 2017: Common Good in the sunshine

The fourth Greenbelt in the festival’s new home was also the first rain-free Greenbelt (and the sunniest) in recent memory, reports George Luke. While the weather did play a big part in making this year’s Greenbelt memorable, a very strong line-up and an excellent programme helped too.

Review: Greenbelt 2017
August Bank Holiday weekend, Boughton House

Rev Vince Anderson Photo: Greenbelt

The theme of this year’s Greenbelt was The Common Good, aiming to get us to think of ourselves as a community, rather than just as individuals. One act (for want of a better word) that really embodied this was the Nine Beats Collective: a diverse group of musicians and thinkers whose new album, Nine Beats to the Bar, is a concept album exploring the Beatitudes.

As well as doing performances to showcase music from the album (including a raucous, joyously upbeat solo set from New York-based Reverend Vince Anderson), members of the collective conducted worship sessions, gave talks and appeared on panel discussions. What they’re attempting to do is revolutionary, creative, fresh and a ton of other adjectives – and being able to bring that to both the music performance and the worship strands of Greenbelt was a huge blessing to all who witnessed it.
There was also a very strong representation of women’s voices – both in the specially-for-women venue the Red Tent, and generally across the festival. Jendella Benson’s Through the Looking Glass looked at

Jack Monroe. Photo: Drew McLellan

the way society’s obsession with appearance can stifle us. The Glade Big Top was full to capacity to hear Jack Monroe talk about life as a single mum on benefits, in a talk titled I Was Hungry and Thirsty, Were You There? Another highlight was seeing the Israeli singer-songwriter Yael Deckelbaum singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah with the Sacred Voices women's choir from Manchester.
Last year, the Sunday morning communion service was conducted by children. This year, with help from Livability, Greenbelt turned its focus towards people with disabilities. Becky Tyler, a young girl with cerebral palsy, gave the address, using a computerised speech generator to talk (“I’m like Stephen Hawking, but my voice is nicer!”). The disability campaigner Tanya Marlow also gave a talk, via Skype from her bed at home in Cornwall.

Sacred Voices choir with Yael Deckelbaum. Photo:
Jonathon Watkins

In the book tent, punters heard Jenny Baker speak about running as therapy for breast cancer, and Cole Moreton tell the story behind his book and Radio 4 series, The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away. They got together to make music in the Old Plough Folk Club and a joyful noise at Beer & Hymns in the Jesus Arms.

And then, just as soon as it began, it was over for another year. Always challenging, always inspiring, always Greenbelt.

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