Monday, 8 September 2008

Greenbelt: 1983 Festival

 picture thanks to

Ah, my first Greenbelt! I was just 17 years Old

It was the ten year special- Cliff would be there as would Petra, who I absolutely loved at the Time (that’s the American Gospel rock band, not the Blue Peter dog..). And it was a festival, camping, sunshine, revelling in the glory of all Gods people (well 20 odd thousand) and lots of music!

After seeing a video of the 1982 festival (or was it the 1979 special they did, ah my memory!) our youth group at Castlehold Baptist Church on the Isle of Wight was asked if we would like to go. Of course we said yes! I think this was early in 1983, and our well-attended and vibrant youth group were set to go to one of the biggest Christian celebrations in the country.

Plans were made and everyone made checklists as to what they would take. Ultimately I remember about 10 of us went with two group leaders. We were going to Knebworth, home of all those fantastic festivals in the 70’s, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Pink Floyd, wow! My first memory was sitting in sweltering heat in the minibus in a slow traffic jam on the Friday Morning waiting to gain entry to the site. We’d all put our plastic wristbands on early due to the excitement!

Once we got into the site, I just remember my jaw dropping at the sea of tents and people. It was certainly a new and almost overwhelming experience. We found a spot, traditionally as would become, miles from the festival village site, and then tried to put our tents up. It was my first time doing this, and found that in very hot weather, with very hard ground contrived to make it a long process. We even poured water onto the ground to soften it where we wanted to put tent pegs.

I remember sharing with two other lads, Stuart was definitely one, there was also Heidi, Vanessa, Sue and Jo I think and others who unforgivably I cant remember!

Eventually we ventured the long walk into the festival village, where we were immediately assaulted with the sights sounds and smells of the arena. Music was already happening, we probably bought some food of some description and started looking around. We found the place to buy a programme and studied that for a while. Me being record mad found all the record tents and made notes of possible purchases for later. I don’t remember much more of the festival, no not because I had a secret stash of alcopops, but I think because the immediate impression of GB was so strong. I remember being wowed by Petra, 100% proof and also seeing Cliff and Sheila Walsh, who’s cover of Graham Kendrick’s ‘God put a Fighter In Me’ was the highlight.

I remember lots of silly time in the tent, and not being able to sleep that first night. I cannot forget the toilets, obviously.

We went home on the Monday evening, and it was only at the next years festival at Castle Ashby that I realised there was a Monday night programme!
We were definitely going back next year, and encourage the rest of the youth group to attend as well! It was the start of a long and involved story.

 I don't remember going to any talks, though we did go in the Rolling magazine tent with Pip Wilson compering. It was just a time of unrestrained Joy at being in such a great atmosphere and a time of belief and faith, riding the wave of optimism and regeneration that the Christina community was experiencing. We also discovered that Christianity could be challenging and edgy, and perhaps a little bit scary....
I have realise in recent years that my memory has merged a lot of the early GB’s I attended into one, certainly the ones at Castle Ashby, which I still see as a bit of a Golden age, but then I also see 2003 til now as a Golden age too.

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