Greenbelt 2012…

I am half man, half compost- as will be most attendees of this year’s Greenbelt festival.

This is partly the highly digestive social-spiritual mulch that Greenbelt always is, but also down to more corporeal matters;

I live in a place famous for rain sweeping in from the sea and using us as blotting paper, but the rain that fell on the festival on Saturday was something else. Half the site was flooded and thirty thousand feet mixed anything not tarmac to gloop. The less stoical left, but the rest of us had more room to skirt the deepest mire and enjoy still some fantastic music, conversation, art and poetry.

Highlights for me;

Social- meeting up with friends from Lancashire, from Wales, from London, from Leeds etc. Sharing many a cup of tea and catching up with lives lived at a distance.

Spiritual- I managed to miss all the well known speakers like Tony Campolo, Tom Wright. I enjoyed Dave Tomlinson talking about a being a Bad Christian. Jonny Baker was really good on ‘A different world is possible’ too. I also loved being in the old Cathedral for the pre festival feast hosted by Feig (thanks guys!)

Musical- Bruce Cockburn– my guru for decades – was like a comfortable woolly jumper on a dark night. I knew every song, and most words too. Phantom Limb (Country, R and B, Eagles-like harmonies) blew me away. Then there was the folk fest on the last day- dancing in the mud to the Imagined Village (simply brilliant) and the wacky theatricality of Bellowhead. Martin Joseph reduced me to tears with one song.

Art- LOVED Si Smith’s new work on the book of Job.

Aoradh’s contribution to the festival was characterised by technology issues! Our sculpture/soundscape installation became, well, just sculptures as the ultrasonic speakers failed to deliver what they promised. They still looked great though. As the weekend unfolded the ground beneath them turned to deep oozing brown sucking mud, but they remained defiant and proud.

Our talk/discussion entitled ‘Don’t do it like us, making real community in small towns and ordinary places’ was very well attended, and we were bombarded with questions. The power failed for half of it so we had to shout!

Another great festival, that somehow, despite the long distances and the conditions, has nurtured and encouraged me.

Now, need to get down to DIY!

Greenbelt 2012 early line up announcements…

Greenbelt festival is ages away. I have a whole load of things between me and it.

However, it looks like I will be doing something this year with ultrasonic speakers- some technology that projects sound on a carrier wave, making it into a narrow focussed beam that you can limit to a spot some distance away, or even bounce off objects. We are going to use it to project poetry and sounds recorded on small Hebridean islands during our up and coming Wilderness retreat trips.

So (you heard it here folks!) the first announcement of the line up for Greenbelt festival- Chris Goan!

I understand entirely if this does not raise the heartbeat, but I was looking at the GB website today, and noticed something that certainly got my attention;

My all time favourite musician/songwriter/poet is there this year- Bruce Cockburn. This man’s words and music have been my companion and inspiration for 20 years and more. So famous in his native Canada that they put his face on a stamp. This is from the first ever album of his I bought back in 1989;

Also confirmed are the wonderful Bellowhead- a collection of musician who play folk/jazz/punk like you have never heard before. We have a few of their albums but have never heard them sing live. Check this out;

Jordon is a hard road to travel I believe…

Here is a piece of folk music played on all sorts of different instruments- including some virtuoso frying pan bashing…

I love the fact that eclectic eccentric music like this can find airtime- thanks to the Jules Holland programme on the good old BBC.

Folk music gets some bad press with some. But good music is good no matter what genre it anchors itself within. And for me- folk songs are our connection with where we came from- the music of working people of preceding generations.

This song has a strange beginning- it was thought to be written by a man called Dan Emmett, who performed it in 1850’s New York, where despite the controversy around slavery, white performers who blacked their faces as negro minstrels were very popular.

But like many folk songs, it was adapted and changed to speak to the times. It was sung by soldiers fighting and dying in the American Civil war, and by others since asking questions about the nature of life and suffering, and hoping for a better future- this side of Jordan, and the next.

I like this version of the words- not quite the same as those sung by Bellowhead on the clip below.

I looked in the East, I looked in the West,
For Fortune a chance to me accordin’,
But Fortune is a blind god flyin’ in the clouds,
Forgettin’ me on this side of Jordan.
Pull off your old coat, and roll up your sleeves,
Jordon is a hard road to travel I believes.

Thunder in the clouds, and lightening in the trees,
Shelter to my head no leaf affordin’,
Battered by the hailstones, beaten by the breeze;
Th’s my lot on this side o’ Jordan.
Pull off your old coat, etc.

Silver spoons to some mouths, golden spoons to others,
Providence unequally awardin’,
Dash it! – tho’ they tells us all of us be brothers;
Don’t see it clearly, this side of Jordan.
Pull off your old coat, etc.

Like a ragged owlet, with its wings expanded,
Nailed against a garden door or hoardin’,
That am I, by good folk, as a rascal branded;
Never hurted none o’ this side Jordan.
Pull off your old coat, etc.

Aloft a pretty cherub, patchin’ up o’ blunders,
My troubles and distresses is recordin’,
Will there come a whirlabout? better times I wonders,
E’en to me, on t’other side o’ Jordan?
Pull off your old coat, etc.

Enjoy!