Greenbelt, the annual Christian arts festival, has been declared a success – despite flash flooding on the site which threatened to close down venues, and required some campers to be evacuated from their tents.
Nitin Sawhney, one of the many mainstage acts in Greenbelt's impressive lineup
The festival, which is set to celebrate its 40th birthday in 2013, suffered a slight drop in attendance from 2011’s 20,000 revellers.
But festival organisers said that they felt the fact that ticket sales were only slightly down, despite dire weather warnings, and the oppressive economic climate, meant that the festival continues to hold its own.
Certainly the mud didn’t stop the campers and day visitors from enjoying big name musical acts like Nitin Sawhney, Bellowhead, Bruce Cockburn, and Asian Dub Foundation - as well as a host of other acts representing divergent parts of the Church, and social activist communities.
And festival goers turned out in force for speakers like Tom Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, and Peter Tatchell, the Gay rights campaigner, comedian Frank Skinner and Activist Shane Claiborne alongside many others.
Worship services ranged from music by the Rend Collective, to monastic meditations, and Jazz worship – along with the Gothic Eucharist and other experimental services which have become a core part of the festival’s identity.
Put back to back the Greenbelt 2012 programme contained enough hours of content to keep going 24-hours a day for more than a month.
But despite its undoubted triumphs, freakish weather threatened to devastate the site, turning parts of it into a swamp and forcing organisers to put emergency plans into place.
The dire conditions were brought about by immensely heavy rain showers on Saturday that precipitated a flash-flood.
Festival goers had large swathes of mud and water to contend with
A number of campers, sited in the area of the site reserved for Disabled people, had to be housed in emergency accommodation after their tents were left inches deep in muddy water.
Although organisers denied that it was ever an option to close the festival early, other festivals did exactly that - with the Creamfields festival in Cheshire being forced to close early due to flooding.
Greenbelt Chair of Trustees Andy Turner said that spirits remained high among Greenbelt festival goers, volunteers and staff alike.
He said: “Given the climate for festivals, and given the climate - the wet weather, I think we've proved that we've got an audience that come back to Greenbelt every year and enjoy Greenbelt and realise what we're about.
“The weather hasn’t flattened people's spirits at all.”
“Artists, activists, poets, prophets… all kinds of things to get your teeth into at Greenbelt.” Andy Turner
Greenbelt Director Paul Northup said that attendance had dipped by around 2.5% - and that takings at the Communion service offering had been down by around £8000.
Despite these factors though, Northup said he felt the festival had done well, noting the irony that the festival had been hit by freak weather in a year when the environment was one the key themes.
He said: “We see that almost as holding our own, there's a lot of factors leading throughout the summer, throughout the year and in the immediate run up that could have made us think that we could have taken a bigger hit than that. I think we're encouraged.”
And he added: “Because our theme this year has been saving paradise, its been ironic I guess you could say that we've experience the full brunt of the climate change, there's no doubt that our weather patterns are changing.”
August 29th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross