The main thing for me was, I guess, my talk, something I had wanted to do for a long time. Inevitably I ended up speaking at the same time as (but in a different venue to) Greenbelt's biggest named speaker - Rob Bell. It was Bell's only speaking date in the UK for all of 2009, and though he was doing three talks, this was the only one that wasn't in a limited-number-of-seats venue, thereby guaranteeing everyone the opportunity to hear him. This was inevitable I suppose. I was the anti-Bell - an almost entirely unknown speaker discussing a difficult topic. Obviously it made sense to have me fill one of the least popular slots. Thankfully, I got a bit of perspective after a while. If, back in February, the Greenbelt team had offered me the chance to talk at Greenbelt, but told me this was the slot I would have had, I would have taken it with both hands and a big smile. And, as it turned out, my venue was reasonably full, so everything worked out well in the end.
The talk itself went well. There was a desperate, last minute, scramble to find something to put my notes on, and some background noise that made it hard initially to pick up the audience's reactions, but I felt I communicated reasonably well. The questions and comments at the end were interesting and positive, and one old lady made a comment about how the session resolved an issue she'd been struggling with for a long, long time. I almost shed a tear at that point, but thankfully avoided turning into a blubbering wreck.
Anyway, now I've blown all of my egomaniac chips all in one go, I should probably talk about the rest of the festival. I didn't actually get to a lot else this year. Having two, very active, kids made it quite hard work. I can tell you, though, that Bubble Inc. is cool, though not, apparently, as much fun as playing in the toy tents on your own.
I did get to a few grown-up things, mainly talks by two friends - Simon Hall and Stu Jesson. Simon's talk was called "The Thoughtful 'Charismatic'" and was an examination of the Charismatic movement 15 or so years after the Toronto Blessing. He made a number of interesting points, which I'd like to go over again. Stu's talk was "Simone Weil and the Search for Undivided Attention", and was, in honesty, too complex for me to sum up without the risk of getting it totally wrong.
The only other talk I went to was Symon Hill's "What Would Jesus Spin?" about Christians and the media. Given that Hill is the associate director of the Ekklesia thinktank, I was surprised that this was sparsely attended. I was tempted to ask him whether this was a reflection on his ability to communicate with a mass audience or simply an indication of how lightly most Christians take this subject. Hill's main point seemed to be that it is possible to get good media coverage, but it often doesn't happen, and it's usually the result of very creative hard work.
Sadly, I didn't get to much film stuff, having already seen Son of Man plenty of times. I'd have liked to introduce it actually, but assumed that someone else was already filling that role.
The good thing about going to Greenbelt with a large group is that you do tend to pick up what's going on in the festival. Often people speaking there pass comments as well, all of which gives you a good sense of what's happening even if you miss the events themselves. So, in no particular order: Rob Bell was very good and very full (or at least his sessions were); Ockham's Razor was apparently amazing; Musical highlights were Foy Vance, Duke Special and The Welcome Wagon. I also enjoyed hearing Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me" and Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha" drift across the fields to my tent whilst I babysat the kids and finally finished James Crossley's "Jesus in an Age of Terror". More on that another time.
Sadly, just when I was getting into the swing of things, it all had to end, and so we packed up our tent, whilst some friends pegged down the kids, and drove back home somehow trying to communicate to Nina (3) just how long it would be until Greenbelt next year. Sad to say, I'm already pondering my talk proposal...
(Photos of Mel, Nina and Digory (left) and me (right) are thanks to Anna Purver)