Paul Northup first went to Greenbelt as a teenager, and since then, (barring one year) he has continued to visit, play at, and most recently work for the festival, for the last 28 years. He is now the festival director, responsible for taking the 39 year-old gathering into its next stage.
Greenbelt festival director Paul Northup - he's still pretty handy with a guitar
Paul said: “I first went to Greenbelt in 1984 with my youth group and it totally blew my mind. I had grown up in a small Baptist church and, if I’m honest, I had never before connected my faith with the arts, justice, and the things I saw there.
“I’ve been to Greenbelt every year since then, except for one year when I went to Poland. It was the year the wall came down, and a number of us went out there to work on a project. But to tell the truth I’d rather have been at Greenbelt.
“I have performed at Greenbelt too. From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, I was part of a band called Eden Burning, and for us, Greenbelt was always a really important landmark part of any year. Greenbelt was really kind and great to us. It allowed us to work our way up through the stages to the point where we became a festival favourite.
“Our final ever gig was at Greenbelt. We played the main stage in 1996, which was the last time we played together.
“I started working for Greenbelt in 2004, and I stayed until 2008. I came back on to the team last January as programme manager, and then in October I became festival director with a remit to look to the future of the festival. Next year is our fortieth anniversary and the theme will be ‘life begins’.
“While we will be doing some nostalgic stuff, it’s my privilege to be thinking about what’s next. We’ll be making some exciting announcements at the beginning of next year, and what I can say is that we’ll be looking at how Greenbelt can become a 365 day thing.
“Although as the director I never really get to stand and immerse myself in what’s going on, I will get to see some of it. Actually I think it’s really important to do so. It’s vital to look on, experience, and engage, because that’s how you know what it’s really like.
“I am really, really, REALLY looking forward to seeing Nitin Sawhney; I’ve wanted to get him to Greenbelt for so long.
“I did an interview with him quite recently and he’s everything I wanted him to be. He’s articulate, open, inclusive, keen to engage – and he’s assembled a brilliant band; they’ve been getting fantastic reviews.
“I’m looking forward to seeing so many of the other acts too – Bruce Cockburn for a start, and groups like Asian Dub Foundation and Aradhna. We’ve got a raft of great speakers too – it’s the first time Tom Wright has been to deliver a set piece talk, for instance.
“We’re always looking to ring the changes, and that’s my role really; to look ahead and think about what’s next, and to make sure we’re taking our audience with us. It’s an exciting time.”
July 24th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross