Greenbelt festival

The Greenbelt festival is an annual Christian festival of music, art and faith. Held annually in England since 1974. Greenbelt has grown from a music event, to which 1500 people came, to seeing crowds of nearly 30,000 with a much broader scope of arts, faith, and justice.

The festival regularly attracts the biggest names of Christian music and many mainstream musicians. Those that have played the festival in the past include old rockers, new folksters and soaring pop-stars. This list has encompassed U2, Moby, Cliff Richard, Bruce Cockburn, Martyn Joseph, Steve Taylor, Daniel Amos, Phatfish, Midnight Oil, Over the Rhine, Iona, Amy Grant, Miles Cain, Lamb, Kevin Max, dfg, Lambchop, Goldie, Jamelia, After the Fire, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Asian Dub Foundation, The Polyphonic Spree, Aqualung, Dum Dums, The Proclaimers, Daniel Bedingfield, Eden Burning, Duke Special, Why? and Delirious?. The festival has also featured Christian rock bands aimed at younger Greenbelters.

Greenbelt is also a venue for teaching and discussion around (but not exclusively within) the Christian faith, and has attracted a large number of famous Christian speakers, including Rowan Williams (now Archbishop of Canterbury) who is currently the festival's patron. However, it is not just about inviting Christians to speak. The festival welcomes anyone who the organisers believe 'speaks for justice', usually meaning that they are on the political left, and has recently had Anita Roddick, Peter Tatchell, Bill Drummond and Billy Bragg sharing their thoughts. Greenbelt sees itself as having never been shy of tackling controversial issues and providing a 'safe space for honest debate'.

More recently with its links to the NGO Christian Aid, Greenbelt has become heavily involved in campaigns for trade justice. The festival was one of the main catalysts for the huge Jubilee 2000 movement. Greenbelt is also a showcase for performing arts, visual arts and alternative worship, again, not exclusively Christian.


Greenbelt is a nomadic festival which has so far been held at six different locations in England. While the venue has changed, the core event has remained the same: a celebration of faith, justice and arts with a particular Christian perspective.

The first Greenbelt Festival was held on a pig farm just outside the village of Charsfield near Woodbridge, Suffolk over the August 1974 bank holiday weekend. Local fears concerning the festival in the weeks running up to it proved to be unfounded, but the festival didn't return to the venue.

Between 1975 and 1981 the festival was held in the grounds of Odell Castle in Bedfordshire. The largest audiences for Greenbelt were during its two-year stay at Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire, 1982 and 1983.

1984 saw Greenbelt move to one of its longest-serving homes, Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire. While at Castle Ashby, Greenbelt begun the practise of naming festivals. Artists are encouraged to draw from the theme where possible.

Originally the 1992 festival was expected to be held at a new, permanent home on a farm a few miles away in Church Stowe. Greenbelt had finances in place to purchase the site, but met strong resistance from local residents. The plans collapsed and the festival returned to Castle Ashby one last time.

From 1993 to 1998 Greenbelt's home was the grounds of Deene Park, Northamptonshire. Putting the plan to purchase a permanent site on hold, Greenbelt instead negotiated with Deene Park's owner and invested in infrastructure improvements to this temporary site instead.

Following a downturn in audience figures and rising production costs, Greenbelt faced up to the inevitable in 1998: it was no longer financially viable to continue using the Deene Park site. A bold plan was devised. The 1998 festival was pitched as the "last Greenbelt of its kind", with two festivals planned for 1999: a youth-oriented festival "Freestate" in partnership with Spring Harvest to be held the August Bank Holiday weekend in 1999 and a more family-oriented "Greenbelt" to be held over the last weekend in July in 1999 at Cheltenham Racecourse.

In early 1999 plans for Freestate collapsed and its embryonic programme was hastily rolled into the Greenbelt planned for Cheltenham. The 1999 Greenbelt Festival took place at Cheltenham but saw the lowest audiences since the 1970s. It remains the only Greenbelt to have taken place other than on an August Bank Holiday weekend.

Greenbelt worked through its financial difficulties and has returned to its Christian roots, welcoming all wings of the church equally. Recent festivals at the new Cheltenham racecourse have had ever-increasing audiences. Today Greenbelt sees audiences comparable in numbers to those of its "glory days" in the early 1980s.

Locations, Themes and Contributors

Festival Date, Venue & Theme Contributors included:

GB01 23 - 26 August 1974 Parchment, Garth Hewitt, Steve Turner, All Things New, Narnia, Liberation Suite, Stewart Henderson, Lonesome Stone, George Duffin, John Peck, Jack Filby, Eric Delve, The Living Stones, Cornerstone
Prospect Farm, Suffolk
GB02 August 1975 After the Fire, Arnion, All Things New, Liberation Suite, Fish Co, Patrick Sookhdeo, Jean Darnell
Odell Castle, Bedfordshire
GB03 August 1976 Randy Matthews, Bryn Haworth Band, After the Fire with Ishmael, Mighty Flyers, Chuck Girard, Honeytree, Fish Co, Garth Hewitt, Graham Kendrick, Adrian Snell, Paul Burbridge & Murray Watts, John Peck, Graham Cray
Odell Castle
GB04 August 1977 All Saints Star Band, Alwyn Wall band, Masterpiece, Nutshell, Kenny Marks, John Pantry, Graham Cray, John Peck, Bill Mason, Wellies, Thin Ice
Odell Castle
GB05 August 1978 Ishmael United, Bryn Haworth, Jessy Dixon, Garth Hewitt, Adrian Snell, Rodney Corder, Giantkiller, Fish Co, Parchment, John Gladwin, Margaret Winfield, Graham Kendrick, Martin Evans, Malcolm Doney, Patrick Sookhdeo, Jim Punton, Riding Lights Theatre Co
Odell Castle
GB06 August 1979 Meet Jesus Music, After the Fire, Cliff Richard, Bryn Haworth, The Fat Band, Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman, John Gladwin, Roy Castle, Margaret Winfield, Chris Aston, Martin Hallett, The Predators
Odell Castle
GB07 August 1980 Adrian Snell, Famous Names, Larry Norman, Jessy Dixon, Just The Job, Jerusalem, David Porter, Nigel Goodwin, Simon Jenkins, Geoffrey Stevenson
Odell Castle
GB08 August 1981 U2, Barry McGuire, Joe English Band featuring Bonnie Bramlett, Cliff Richard, Rick Parfitt, Phil Everly, Mike Reid, Garth Hewitt and Network 3, Randy Stonehill, Jerusalem, Norman Barratt, Sheila Walsh, Mark Williamson, 100% Proof, Paul Field, Roger Sainsbury, Stephen Timms, Ron Sider, Jim Punton, David Watson, The Predators
Odell Castle
GB09 August 1982 Noel Paul Stookey, Bryn Haworth, Adrian Snell, The Barratt Band, Rez Band, Servant, Andy Pratt, Talking Drums, Paradise, Maxine and the Majestics, Roger Forster, Calvin Seerveld, Jim Wallis, Patrick Sookhdeo
Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire
GB10 August 1983 100% Proof, Cliff Richard, Jessy Dixon, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Sheila Walsh
Knebworth Park
GB11 22 - 27 August 1984 Garth Hewitt, The Larry Norman Band, Philip Bailey, Sheila Walsh
Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire
GB12 August 1985 Jerusalem, Deniece Williams, Philip Bailey, Steve Taylor
Castle Ashby
GB13 August 1986 Bryn Haworth, David Grant, Deniece Williams, Fat Band
Castle Ashby
GB14 August 1987 The Alarm
Castle Ashby
GB15 August 1988 Martyn Joseph, Cliff Richard, Amy Grant, Runrig
Castle Ashby
The Fifteen Year Special
GB16 August 1989 Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Labi Siffre, Chagall Guevara, Fat 'n' Frantic, Eden Burning, Gary Hall and the Stormkeepers, Maggi Dawn, Sublime, Wobegone, Peter Case, Bruce Cockburn, One Bad Pig, Seventh Angel, Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus
Castle Ashby
Art and Soul
GB17 23 - 27 August 1990 Runrig, The Call, Deacon Blue, Russ Taff
Castle Ashby
Rumours of Glory
GB18 22 - 26 August 1991 Galactic Cowboys, Chagall Guevara, Steve Harley, Sounds of Blackness, Amy Grant, River City People, Steeleye Span, Tintagel
Castle Ashby
Wrestling with Angels
GB19 27 - 31 August 1992 Nine O'Clock Service, Runrig, Bob Geldof and the Happy Clubsters, Martyn Joseph
Castle Ashby
Journeys of the heart
GB20 26 - 30 August 1993 T-Bone, The Prayer Chain, Magnum, James Taylor Quartet, Incognito, Herbie Armstrong, D-Influence, Iain Archer, Victoria Williams, Tom Sine, James Jones, Tom Wright, Gerard Hughes, Pete Ward, Stewart Henderson, Nigel Forde, Tom Robinson, Samantha Fox
Deene Park, Northamptonshire
Field of Dreams
GB21 25 - 29 August 1994 Powerhouse Choir, The Proclaimers, Steve Taylor, Midnight Oil
Deene Park
Roots, Rhythm and Redemption
GB22 24 - 28 August 1995 Moby, Corduroy, Credit to the Nation, Disraeli Gears, Doo the Moog, Pray For Rain, Newsboys, Quick and the Dead, Frank Chikane, Gustavo Parajon, Dave Tomlinson, Lavinia Byrne, Jo Ind, Joy Carroll
Deene Park
Can these dry bones dance?
GB23 22 - 26 August 1996 Dakoda Motor Co., Steven Curtis Chapman, Ricky Ross, Moby
Deene Park
Windows on wild heaven
GB24 21 - 25 August 1997 Vigilantes of Love, Lamb, Iona, Sneaker Pimps
Deene Park
Divine Comedy
GB25 27 - 31 August 1998 All Star United, Carleen Anderson, Delirious?, Fat and Frantic
Deene Park
The last of its kind
GB26 29 July - 1 August 1999 Bruce Cockburn, Vigilantes of Love, Blind Boys of Alabama, Asian Dub Foundation, Martyn Joseph
Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire
Deeper and Wider
GB27 25 - 28 August 2000 Phatfish, Dum Dums, Joan Armatrading, Mal Pope, Tom Robinson with Martyn Joseph
Cheltenham Racecourse
GB28 24 - 27 August 2001 Vigilantes of Love, Dum Dums, Eddi Reader, Courtney Pine, Brian Houston, Martyn Joseph, Sarah Masen, Kato, Jessy Dixon, Kendall Payne, Emmaus, Ben Castle, BottleRockit, Airstar, Steve Lawson, Bell Jar
Cheltenham Racecourse
Eternal Echoes
GB29 23 - 26 August 2002 Over the Rhine, Jazz Jamaica, Delirious?, Faith Folk & Anarchy, [Steve Apirana], Lies Damned Lies, Ben Okafor, Steve Lawson
Cheltenham Racecourse
Kiss of Life
GB30 22 - 25 August 2003 The Polyphonic Spree, Kate Rusby, Umoja, The Tribe, Billy Bragg, Duke Special, Aqualung, Eden Burning, Boo Hewerdine, Kato, Brian Houston
Cheltenham Racecourse
Diving for Pearls
GB31 27 - 30 August 2004 Lambchop, Delirious?, Denys Baptiste, Jamelia
Cheltenham Racecourse
Freedom Bound
GB32 26 - 29 August 2005 Iain Archer, Estelle, The Proclaimers, Jazz Jamaica, Corrine Bailey Rae , Ricky Ross , Juliet Turner , Daby Touré, Beth Rowley, Gilles Peterson , Emiliana Torrini , Kendall Payne, Carleen Anderson
Cheltenham Racecourse
Tree of Life
GB33 25 - 28 August 2006 Maria McKee, Daniel Bedingfield, My Morning Jacket, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Dave Andrews, Martyn Joseph
Cheltenham Racecourse
Redemption Songs
GB34 24 - 27 August 2007 Billy Bragg, Kanda Bongo Man, Coldcut, Over the Rhine, John Tavener, Delirious?, Rebecca Worthley, Duke Special, Denison Witmer, Chas & Dave, Aqualung
Cheltenham Racecourse
Heaven in Ordinary
GB35 22 - 25 August 2008 Michael Franti and Spearhead, Seth Lakeman, Beth Rowley, Jose Gonzales, Fightstar, Jamie Catto, The Ian McMillan Orchestra, Iain Archer, Linchpin, Martyn Joseph, Starfield, Anathallo, MxPx, Juliet Turner , Matthew Herbert Big Band , Shlomo , Daby Touré, Brian Houston, Steve Lawson
Cheltenham Racecourse
Rising Sun
GB36 28 - 31 August 2009 TBA
Cheltenham Racecourse

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