Thanks to the Unthanks…

Or perhaps un unthankyou (to torture a double negative.)

One of my highlights of Greenbelt festival was listening to The Unthanks– a totally surprising feast of gorgeous harmonies and instrumental arrangements.

And clog dancing.

I had heard the sisters Rachael and Becky sing before- and to be honest, despite being a lover of folk music- particularly of the northern British kind- I found it a bit too woolly-jumper-finger-in-the-ear. I could appreciate the history and the connection to something lost, but not quite be drawn in to the music.

I got round to ordering their recent album ‘last’-

This album combines lots of lovely things- wonderful songs, simple but sweet vocals, string quartet, guitar, piano- and the combination is beautiful.

Greenbelt 11 reflections…

Home we are, shower fresh and full of stories. I had such a great time that I am reluctant to let it go and so refused to shave this morning for work. I am going beardy for a while as a wee celebration of all things festival.

Our worship thing went well- and as we were first up, we suddenly had time to relax- a rare luxury! This meant actually going to talks and sitting down listening to music. Fancy that.

Highlights-

Perhaps most of all, time with family and friends- I laughed so much at times that I ached. Several of the kids of my long time friends were there too- Sam, Caleb, Sarah, Nathan, Gail and Andrew- it was such a privilege to spend time with such great young people (not to mention my own kids!)  It was great also to meet up again with a growing network of creative folk from around the UK, many of whom are involved with ‘Tautoko’.

The meet up in Gloucester Cathedral was great- we managed to get down in time this year.

As for music- The Unthanks and Martin Joseph on mainstage were both really great. Billy Bragg was at his polemical best.

Gungor redefined worship music with intelligence and musicality.

In terms of speakers, I began slightly skeptical of the celebrity headliners- but Brian McLaren inspired me, and made me cry. He also sat down and spent half an hour speaking to one of our young people, Sarah. If you were to download just one talk from GB this year- go for this one. I also enjoyed hearing a couple of my longer term heros speak- Christian social worker/activist Bob Holman and Psychologist Oliver James.

This year I even saw some comedy- not usually something I bother with- Jo Enright was hilarious, and Mark Thomas (swearing like a Gatling gun) managed a two hour romp about his walk around the Palestinian wall.

Michaela has always rather tolerated Greenbelt through gritted teeth- it has always been much more my thing. She goes because it is important to me, and has other practical benefits. However, this year seems to have been a real change for her- she too had a great time. Michaela is happy when she has made connections, and this year she had some quality time with lots of friends too- including Yvonne Lyon (copies of whose new album sold out almost immediately on the strength of another lovely tender performance, despite a bad cold.)

Finally, one other performer deserves a mention- Sam Hill. Sam used to go to the same church as us near Preston, and despite all the music I have seen performed, I reckon that one of his gigs was the best I ever saw live. He is a hugely talented songwriter and performer. Our mate Andy played backing guitar for him at his last GB performance 9 years ago, since when he has hardly performed. Now he is back!

There was probably so much more that I have not immediately remembered, but that is festivals for you…

I took very few photos this year- I was relying on Andy ‘5 cameras’ Prosser. Here are a few however, mostly from Michaela’s camera.