03 September 2009

Not So Long Now

This year, for the first time since 2004, I didn't blog the Greenbelt festival (of faith, art, music, activism, food and stuff in general) for Surefish. Those of you who've been paying attention may be able to guess one reason, which is that Surefish haven't actually been paying for new content since a while ago now. The other is, of course, young master R., who rather restricted our attendance this year.

Nonetheless, we did manage to get from Bristol to Cheltenham for day trips on Saturday and Monday. At three weeks old R. remains something of an impediment, of course, and the one alternative worship session we managed to get to consisted largely of a breast-feeding, nappy-changing and baby-quietening marathon.

Still, we managed to attend and pay attention to a number of the events as well as generally appreciating the atmosphere.

This year's festival theme was "Standing in the Long Now", about which I was rather enthusiastic -- the long-term futurological thinking of these people being something I feel the world in general could do with very much more of. Sadly, aside some rather nice theming in the aforementioned worship session (which, of course, we hardly got the chance to see), the only evidence of the festival organisers drawing inspiration from this source was the slogan "Now is all we have" on a T-shirt (see illustration above).

A panel discussion on whether Doctor Who and its ilk should be frightening children (for both moral and aesthetic values of "should") benefitted hugely from the erudition of its panel, who included two Doctor Who authors and a vicar who used to draw Judge Dredd.

Kester Brewin's two talks on, respectively, "A Plea for Christian Piracy" and how physics might inform faith, were highly entertaining idea-play: the former reinterpreting 18th-century freebooters as revolutionary proto-anarchists, and the latter ranging through higher-dimensional spaces as an analogy for divine revelation and the many-world hypothesis as a justification for heaven, hell and immortality.

(Mind you, my question at the latter, about the alternative lives of Jesus and how they might knock the crucifixion from its central place in atonement theology, seemed to throw him rather. I might see if I can talk about something along those lines next year -- fortuitously themed "The Art of Looking Sideways" -- if a) I get time and b) they let me.)

Brewin also pointed out that "atom" and "individual" have the same root meaning, which had somehow never occurred to me before.

Aside from sessions with various friends at the Moroccan Pizza Tent, the Tiny Tea Tent, Nuts Wholefood Cafe and the Jesus' Arms pub tent (the last being a godawful letdown after the past two years, due to a change of franchisee -- we must give the organisers some feedback on that), the only other organised event we attended was a promotional gig by Jasper Fforde. Sadly, Fforde's overly high estimation of his own cleverness comes through in person as strongly as in his books, so we went away from that slightly irritated.

As ever, I appreciated the visual art as much as any of the talks, and was particularly impressed by these photos. I'd have liked to have seen more of these paintings as well, but unfortunately there was a guided tour in the way when we managed to make it there. Those we saw were great, though. We also managed to pick up a limited edition print of a rather incomprehensible artwork by Billy Childish.

Our partial attendance meant that we missed, among others, Robert Beckford, Michael Ward, Pete Rollins, Alister McGrath, Iain Sinclair and Gene Robinson, as well as any of the christian-muslim dialogue events (which the organisers depressingly felt the need to justify to their christian attendees in the programme). Any or all of these might also have been splendid, but circumstances weren't really on our side.

We had a fantastic time anyway, brief though it was, and look forward to managing longer next year.

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