Greenbelt Festival 2011 Review by Christina Boonstra

The August bank holiday weekend is a feast for all festival lovers. With events littered across the country, you can gorge yourself on festivals till you pass out from exhaustion. From the majors like Leeds, Reading and Cream Fields, to the niche folk festivals scattered all across the country, the festival goer must choose carefully, before carelessly throwing away such a precious weekend in the festival calender.
So out of all the things happening that weekend, why would anyone decide to go to Greenbelt?
That's the very thing we were thinking as we accustomed ourselves with the festival lay out on Friday afternoon. After pitching tent, and gathering our bearings, we turned our eyes to the program and begin to feel a little dizzy with choice.
Greenbelt claims to cram arts, faith, and justice, into one short weekend at Cheltenham racecourse, resulting in 30 venues packed with debates, discussions, performances, music, food and comedy. 
On Friday, we wandered around like lost children trying to make sense of it all. Made ourselves feel a little better, by taking pictures sitting on a tiny horse statue, and then, got down to the serious business of figuring this festival out. Flight Brigade, a seven piece folk band began the night early on the Underground stage, and by the time it came to Billy Bragg's rather bizarre headlining set on the Main stage, Greenbelt was really growing on us.
Determined to rise to challenge of taking in everything Greenbelt had to offer, we woke, relatively early on Saturday morning in order to seize the day. But instead, we watched on as much early birds took part in a spot of yoga outside the Performance cafĂ©, caught the end of a set by Rend Collective, and realised that trying to take part in a meditation workshop when you're starving, does not work. After leaving the class as inconspicuously as possible, we feasted on possibly the best choice of festival food we’ve ever seen, from home made sausage and mash, to falafel, it made a great day, even better.
One thing that struck us about this festival is the amount of children present. There was a real family feel, but not in an annoying screaming for ice cream kind of way. A very relaxed vibe, where you'll see retired hippies, chatting to young parents as the Franciscan monks walk by (yes we said Franciscan monks).   Mingled in with artists like the Duke Special, having a pint at the festival's very own local, the Jesus Arms.
Greenbelt is unique in many ways, it brings together great performances such as Get Cape Wear Cape Fly and Idlewild, with up and coming music talent and comedy, as well as a host of drama and dance performances housed in unique venues with a home made feel about them. At this festival you're more likely to be queuing up for a show at The Playhouse than for a pint. But, if all the festivals you've been to lately seem to have blurred into one, maybe next summer spend your precious bank holiday weekend on Greenbelt, it will definitely be different.
(4 stars)

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