A faithful restlessness
Paul Northup, Creative Director of Greenbelt festival, talks to Reform. 2023 sees Greenbelt’s 50th festival. The United Reformed Church has been an associate partner of Greenbelt since 2016
Greenbelt is celebrating its 50th anniversary, like the URC. What did Greenbelt look like in 1974?
Small, but perfectly formed. It was on a farm. Rumour has it there were almost as many police present as there were people at the festival, because the residents were very anxious about this gathering.
It might have looked more ramshackle, built on a shoestring, perhaps out of objects found on the farm. Now, it may look more pro, but I think the spirit at work in the place would have felt remarkably similar.
How would you describe that spirit?
A faithful restlessness. People wanting their faith to mean more in real life, wanting a space where they could be more them, and express their love of creativity in a way that in church, they didn’t feel able to. I think there was a yearning for a space where people could find hope, meaning, creativity.
By the mid-1980s it became quite a huge Christian pop festival.
I first went first in 1984 and, yes, it was like arriving at a big Christian music festival, full of young people as far as the eye could see. I’d never been to anything on that scale before. It felt like the place that relatively adventurous youth leaders took their youth groups en masse…
This is an extract from an article published in the March 2023 edition of Reform