Greenbelt hosts Britain's biggest communion service

By staff writers
August 28, 2011

Britain's biggest communion service took place at the Greenbelt Festival on Cheltenham Racecourse this morning, with many thousands involved.

The colourful mixture of celebration, worship and reflection is one of the highlights of the annual event, which this year has been focused around the theme 'Dreams of Home'.

The Christian-based arts and discussion festival has been running over the Bank Holiday weekend (Friday 26 to Monday 29 August 2011), attracting over 21,000 attendees across hundreds of events.

Sunday 28 August continues with more music from Scottish outfit Idlewild, troubadour Duke Special, Beth Rowley, Gordon Gano and BBC 6 Music DJ Don Letts.

The festival comes to a climax on Monday with 'Britain’s Got Talent' finalists Flava, radical comedian and social activist Mark Thomas, and on the mainstage singer Mavis Staples, The Unthanks, Ron Sexsmith and Kate Rusby.

Since the early fifties Staples has been a leading voice of the civil rights movement. With appearances alongside the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and US presidents Kennedy, Carter and Clinton, she has also made recordings with Pink Floyd, Santana, Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin.

Also on Monday, Ekklesia associate director Symon Hill will talk about his recent high-profile 'Pilgrimage of Repentance' for homophobia, which was supported by Greenbelt, among others.

At the beginning of the weekend, award-winning comedian Milton Jones kicked off the Big Top comedy lineup, along with musician Billy Bragg, acoustic duo Show of Hands, and aerial theatre company Ockham’s Razor.

Saturday’s music lineup featured Get Cape, Wear Cage Fly, Gentlemen’s Dub Club and Soweto Kinch on the mainstage.

The ongoing talks programme included an appearance by Channel 4 television economics reporter Faisal Islam, and outspoken American evangelical author Rob Bell.

Panels on the 'Big Society', war and other social issues were well attended and lively, say the organisers.

Elsewhere in the Greenbelt programme author and playwright Stella Duffy, comedian Jo Enright, Christian Aid’s director Loretta Minghella, clinical psychologist Oliver James, HIV campaigner Margaret Sentamu, human rights worker, physician and former nun Sheila Cassidy, and Apple’s Erik Lammerding were among those taking part.

Meanwhile, the Village Playhouse has hosted a children's theatre, the Village Screen has been providing a dedicated venue for family films, the Village Green has been packed with games, workshops and circus skills, and Messy Space the new Make & Take Venue provided creative space aplenty.

Greenbelt’s 37-year history is firmly rooted within a Christian tradition which is politically and culturally engaged. The festival is a family-friendly celebration, inclusive and accepting of all, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background or belief.

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