Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Greenbelt 2012 – a dream involving mud, queue-jumpers and toddlers

on August 28, 2012

I did, eventually, pack. And we went to Greenbelt. And then we came home again. It’s hard to know what to say about it – it feels a bit like trying to explain a strange dream to someone and it slips away as you try to talk about it. So I’ll tell you what it wasn’t.

It wasn’t a riot of talks and bands and endless culture. I saw ten minutes of a harpist, thirty minutes of The Proclaimers and had to run out of a seminar half way through with both my screaming children and without my pram. I’m not sure why I thought a seminar on atheism at a liberal Christian festival wouldn’t be packed to the rafters, or how I thought my children would be quiet for an hour, or why I tried to take my pram in, but it has given me an idea for a series at Sanctus1, my church. And watching my two children dancing together to The Proclaimers was one of the best moments of the weekend.

It wasn’t easy. Everything took momentous planning. It took until 11.30 am to leave the tent on Saturday morning because I couldn’t face the logistical planning required to avoid having to walk all the way back to the tent in case I needed anything. And there were challenges around naps and food and transporting two toddlers around a massive site and getting them to bed. Rachel and Chris were amazingly helpful, but they were still my children to look after. Which I did.

It wasn’t Greenbelt, not as I know it. I’ve almost always been as a steward and the years I haven’t been as a steward, I have just wanted to be a steward. I wasn’t really sure how to be a festival-goer, and even if I had been able to, the two small children with me would have scuppered that. I spent quite a lot of the time having conflicts going on inside my head about why I was even there, whether I wanted to try to come in the future without my children and enjoy the festival, whether I wanted to try to learn to enjoy the festival with them. I eventually came up with a cunning plan which involved my sister coming with my next year to look after my children and put them to bed and look after them from 6 pm til 3 am each night while I steward, and then until I get up the next day and, surprisingly, she agreed to it. Awesome.

However, on Sunday the sun came out. And there were some beautiful moments. There was the Proclaimers gig, which I loved my children loving, and I loved seeing the crowds. There was the first time I saw the sign, just before reaching the massively-flooded campsite, saying ‘Learn to Dive’.

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There were the most blatant queue-jumpers who pushed in front of me in the queue for Frank Skinner in that very polite, drifting middle-class way, who when I explained that they weren’t at the end of the queue, said there wasn’t an ‘end of the queue sign’ and, when I said “the end of the queue is over there,” said “oh, well, I don’t really know what we can do about that”. Really? REALLY? You really can’t think of one thing you could do about the fact that you’ve just pushed into a queue for one of the headline performers at the festival?

And there was the beautiful, beautiful moment of freedom – my children went to sleep, Rachel and Chris agreed to babysit, I finally managed to leave the tent at 11 pm. My friend who I was hoping to meet for a drink had almost certainly gone to bed, so I met up with some other friends for a quick not-drink before they went to something and then… Well… I did some stewarding…

Fat Roland sums up how I feel about Greenbelt. For me it’s not the freedom from homophobia, but it is the broadness and wideness of the festival – Anglicans, Goths, Peter Tatchell, L’Arche, justice campaigners, buskers, and lots and lots of ideas. There’s space to think, space to consider new ideas, space to explore who you are.

This post doesn’t tell you anything I really think about my weekend, except that it was like a dream. One with toddlers in it.

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