Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Greenbelt 2007

Had another excellent Greenblet Weekend. This festival is great, and despite the music line up being the poorest for some time, I still managed to enjoy it greatly. Arriving Friday in blazing sunshine it appeared that the weather had once again looked favourably on a festival i was attending. There was quite a wait in a queue before getting on to the campsite, but this gave me plenty of time to scour the programme for things of interst. Each morning I would then browse through my checklist to discover numerous clashes and decisions had to be made as to which seminar sounded the best. A few brief highlights below, I've kept it a bit short this year cos I'm packing to go to Jordan with highway projects tomorrow.

Met up with mr clark who joined me and ad in the world cup tent. Good to see him and congratulate him on his first steps in gainful employment. Watched Sarah Mason on the mainstage, who has a nice voice, but seemed to get distracted re-tuning her instrument all the time - doesn't she have a tuner! A pleasant enough start. Wander around the extensive village and called in at the organic beer tent to continue conversation with cc and ad. I'd also read that there would be opportunity to dj at this venue on the Friday. I thought there would be loads of people wanting a go, and was too afraid of losing my iPod, so had just brought along 4 tracks. Despite the PA being wrong and too poor for the venue, I still enjoyed my time as a dj and mixed a bit of an indie disco party: Can't explain - the who, hotel yorba - white stripes, alala - css and DANCE - justice. Too early for any dancing action, but a guy behind the bar exclaimed his enthusiasm for DANCE by running up to the 'dj booth' proclaiming it to be 'a tune'. I christened him my number one fan. Finished off the night with Billy Bragg, who for a guy with just a guitar does a great job of headlining with his brand of protest songs, with an ironic cover of the carpenters thrown in to keep us amused.

Went to a couple of literature workshops which were quite good, i was amazed at some of the talent shown, people were writing some great prose in just a few minutes, it made my work look like that of a primary school kid. Some useful excerises nonetheless. Maggi Dawn did an interesting talk around the subject of her book questioning how we hear god in light of the fact that god doesn't often use angels to proclaim his will, in particular looking at the stories of mary and zechariah. Of course there were no straight answers to how to hear god, but pointers of how to disern his voice in the everyday and ordinary, and how there is an element of choice in finding god's will, we make creative choices and these are woven into the will of god. Some nice ideas. There followed a talk by bishop graham on the latest arcade fire album. A fairly dull but well researched look at the writing style and thoughts of win butler. Not only is it a great album, but bishop graham suggests that it is a call for the church to re-awaken and challenge issues of justice and to be counter-cultural, rather than a critique on the church itself. He didn't play any clips though.
Took part in the communion by numbers service by Grace in the afternoon. It was lovely in the sun and i bumped into ben askew a sheffield blogger who i finally got to meet in the flesh and share communion with. The service worked quite well, but i could imagine it working better in the 'dinner party' setting in which it originated. It was interactive, and i enjoyed the liturgy produced for the sharing of the elements. I might have to use those again. In the evening I opted to try speed dating through the lack of any decent music. It was better than i thought it would be, and a chance to meet a lot of people i wouldn't otherwise have done. No chance of meeting everyone and instead just met a small percentage of the eligable people in the tent. There were quite a few people who i wouldn't've minded continuing a conversation with, but by the time I'd decided i'd make some indication of this, the cards used to exchange details had run out as had most of the girls who had partaken in conversation with me. I expect they had dashed due to the poor quality of the other candidates that followed me (!) Anyway despite that, as i was meandering my way out of the tent got chatting with a few others who weren't part of my speed dating trial and we went to the beer tent to continue chatting. Maybe make a few more friends - or at least boost my facebook profile - lol.

The diversity of greenbelt is what, to me, makes it a special festival. People from all walks of the christian faith and those searching and those of no particular faith, all catered for, and not in a segrageted way either. You're just as likely to bump into a happy clappy charismatic as you are a caped goth. And this is exemplified in the communion service where thousands gather. This year we went to the arena venue for the live feed and a supposed 'alternative' style. Bit disappointing that the only alternative about it from the regular service being fed to us on the screen was some lame vjing during collection. However it was great to feel part of a hug assembly all sharing in the eucharistic feast. Helped remind of the diversity of the body of christ. Prayers of intercession were supplemented with a release of balloons which made a nic symbol of our prayers being raised heavenwards. Got a seat to see andy yorke perform, being brother of thom, i think i expected too much and his set of sub snow patrol rock was fairly uninspiring. No guest appearance from his more famous bro either. A few more talks and seminars in the afternoon and a fine performance from one nation in the early evening. Not as good on the mainstage as they are in an intamite venue, but still able to get the crowd dancing along to the funk. Met up with the highway projects people at the festival for beers in the evening.


Started the morning with some meditative chanting with taize. There's something really moving about the music and tuning in to god. A wonderful way to start the week. Also found this meditative artwork in a room that was playing 'prayer of the heart' a piece written by john tavener with bjork. It was an awesome piece of music, with bjork singing 'jesus son of god have mercy on me' in a number of ancient tongues. Her voice is magnificant and has an aching quality to it that inspires you to pray also for mercy in god's presence. Then a listen to John Bell which is a must at greenbelt. A fantastic orator and often opens my eyes to new ways of reading texts. Today teaching on the truth stories, not the true stories of the opening chapters of genesis, highlighting how the literal interpretation of some of these texts have been used for the acceptance of some atrocious behaviour, particularly in the south african apartheid system. Speaking of the truth contained in these allorgories refreshed the understanding of these tales. Though i wondered how do you teach these stories to kids. You can hardly tell a story and then go through some protracted deconstruction on what the texts say about god. Though teaching them as literal historical fact can lead to a dissolution of faith as they do not hold up to the rigors of intellectual questioning. I mean, what did noah really do with all that poo for a start. When faith fails because that which we were taught as truth unravels as not truth leads to the unsettling of actual truth and revelation of god in christ. Hearing great minds expose the truth of god contained in these tales comforts a cynic like me. The faith in christ i experience is not based on mere fables which do not stand up to scrutiny, but that these tales still contain within them revelations of the character of God that should help continue shape my faith and understanding. The next talk i went to was the best of the entire weekend. I'll probably blog on this later when I've read this book, but Rhidian Brook gave an account of his travels through the pandemic regions of HIV. During a slideshow i was struggling to battle tears as he showed fields full of orphans as a result of HIV and war.
After packing up the tent me and cc headed down to see chas and dave, i waited 20 minutes for run rabbit run or an appearance of steve davis for snooker loopy. I got none, and twenty minutes of cockney knees up piano twonking was more than enough! The evening brought the finest musical performance of the weekend from Duke Special. The set seemed to get better as it went on, his quality vocals supported by a cast of theatrical backing musicains led to a spectacular performance, and a great curtain riser for us leaving as we did before delirious.

Greenbelt photos on flickr

Saturday, August 18, 2007


My parents asked me to go and pick my sister up from heathrow today as she is flying back from the states, she doesn't enjoy flying and is usually ill, so I agreed to help out and pick her up. Flight due in at 1030, so I set off around 0645, and made good time getting to the terminal by about 1000. The flight was early, so I read for about 20minutes and then stood by the entrance from the arrival lounge. People went by, and I kept looking out. An hour went past, maybe she's not too well and had to have a lie down. Ninety minutes elapsed and I've now seen thousands of people wandering through. Do I go to the info desk - chances are she'll come just as I'm away and then not be able to find me. Another ten minutes, she really is late, best go and ask at the info point: That flight came in nearly two hours ago, does she have a british passport. yes. well she should be out. But she sometimes gets ill, has she perhaps been taken somewhere to recouperate, was she on that flight? I can't tell you that, because of data protection, are you sure she's on this flight? That's what I'm told. It's just that it's an overnight flight, there's another tomorrow with the same flight number, it leaves on the 18th and arrives here on the 19th.


Unbelievable, rang parents, are you sure she's on this flight. That's what we've got down, I'll give the place she's staying a ring and call you back.

Yes - she's still in america.

How annoyed am I to waste my last free saturday before going off to Jordan!

After five min calm down, I thought about going to see a friend in oxford, having driven all the way down here. Thankfully s was in and I was able to spend a pleasant afternoon with him and his family. So not all bad!

You'd have thought that being an avid fan of 80 days around the world with Willy Fog an error like this wouldn't happen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New season

The football season is upon us again and tonight I went to see Chesterfield play Sheff Utd at Bramall Lane. It was nice to be able to walk to the match, and see Chesterfield play the sheffield team for who I have the most affinity. Met up with s and we both had a great evening and enjoyed the football. Unfortunately, after an impressive first half, Chesterfield began to struggle against the pace and precision passing of United and lost 3-1. The worst point was losing pacy forward, jamie Ward, who pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury. He was causing United problems and led to our equalising goal, without his presence we looked mediocre up front. New signing Jack lester impressed, and worked tirelessly up front, but to little avail due to lack of support and decent crosses.

Merlin Theatre

Saturday saw monkey swallows the universe launch their new album, the casket letters, at the merlin theatre. I'd volunteered to help as an usher at the event, and along with the other ushers, we decided to dress up in suits to look the part. It was interesting to see the bands setting up, and it made a change to be apart from all the stress that sound checking can bring. The number of times we've set up sound stuff for an awe event and then spent hours trying to source an annoying hiss. Gremlins were found, and I thought that the sound in the theatre was really good. Didn't get to see the support acts as we were either staffing the doors or helping at the cafe. However, when mstu came on everyone was in their seats and we were able to sneek in at the back and enjoy the gig too. Having had the privilege to have heard the new tracks live and also had a pre-release copy of the album, I could really appreciate the songs. Talking to others later, less familiar with the new material, they were equally enthralled with hearing the brand new songs. After the gig everyone was invited to an aftershow party, showing the appreciation mstu have for their local fanbase. I enjoyed meeting new people and finding out how they had discovered mstu, and of course they had impecible musical taste, so no shortage of conversation. A great night, and maybe i'll get around to reviewing the album sometime! For a taster here are a couple of clips of songs from the new album: Gravestones and the Ballad of the Breakneck Bride. The latter of which has guest vocals from Rhys of Smokers Die Younger.

Friend Wheel

So I haven't blogged for a while, time to break the fast. To start a quick geeky post, following up on my earlier post about how much I liked the friend wheel application on facebook. It's now got even better, as you can open the wheel in flash and zoom into all the nodes, move them around and see in more detail how all your friends link up. Check it out.