Interested in hearing Shane Claiborne speak this summer?

If you are interested in Shane Claiborne and want to hear him speak, but you live in the UK and can’t scrape the airfare together to hop over to Philly – then fear not. The new monasticism fairy has waved her magic wand and if you are so inclined cinderella, then you may go to the ball…

The Upside down Kingdom tour is happening this summer, with newly wed Shane bringing his counter cultural message to the British massive.

With music from the Rend collective, the tour will be kicking off in Ballymena, Co Antrim on the 19th of August, before heading to Coleford, Gloucestershire on the 24th, Southhampton on the 25th, Birmingham on the 26th, and landing in Greenbelt on the 27th. After that its Burslem in Stoke on t 28th, London on the 30th, Bromley on the 31st, Halifax on the 1st of September, Perth on the 2nd, and finishing up at Woodlands church in Bristol on the 3rd.

Full details can be found on the tour website, so head along there if you want to know more.



I didnt go to Glastonbury this year, which is the same as last year, and every year of my life before that.

I am kind of attracted to it, and also kind of repulsed, and in any case its pretty expensive whic his enough to put me off.

But I was really interested in Maddy Harland’s take on the festival, she is the editor of Permaculture Magazine, and a shrewd observer of life – as she would have to be as a permaculturist.

Her visit to Glasto is well outlined here, and is well worth a read for anyone who like me has mixed feelings about it all.

Personally I am very much looking forward to WOMAD, which is looking better and better… World Routes on BBC Radio 3 has been playing some tracks from artists who will be appearing there this year, and my appetite is well and truly whetted.

WOMAD 2010

I’m particularly excited this year to be going to WOMAD at Charlton Park, in Wiltshire. There’s a really exciting and suitably exotic lineup of musicians and groups from all over the world, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Tony Allen perform, he’s definitely a musical hero of mine. Salif Keita is brilliant too, in fact there are lots of artists I’m really looking forward to hearing live – hopefully they wont all be playing at the same time…

There’s just tonnes of great music on offer, from Afro Beat to Gypsy Jazz, from the Ukelele orchestra, to Imogen Heap – even Rolf Harris is showing up with his band, as are a number of well known groups like the Afro Celts, Chumbawumba and Ska Cubano.

I’m certain that the greatest delights will be found by accident, which is one of the reasons I’m really looking forward to being there, accidentally discovered music is always a treat.

If you’re free between the 23rd and 25th of July, this is a music festival that would be really worth your while getting to – no overblown popstars withthe usual commercial pap – rather a celebration of some of the best music in the world.

Check out the full lineup (so far) here.

Greenbelt 2009

We were at Greenbelt for the weekend, it was a fascinating experience, especially when comparing it with my memories from about 16 years ago. It is now much bigger than it was then, and a lot slicker, not that these are necessarily bad things.

The good points:

Fantastic music and just vast amounts of talks and seminars to choose from, my favourites were:

Alastair McIntosh… such a good speaker, love hearing what he has to say.

His talk on ‘The violence of our times’ was a good one, and it reminded me of the real need for us to address our theology of attonement, the redemptive violence thing is very problematic.

The Apples… better live than on record which are already a very high standard, they really are a great band.

Ikon… I went to see their ‘pyro theology’ which was great, I really liked it.

Pete Rollins… I also went to hear Pete speak, he was very good indeed.

Meeting up with friends was just a huge part of the weekend for me, and meeting people who I dont know so well too, including the good mr Mark Berry, who was camped a mere few meters from us. Should have made more of an effort to have a good chat really, my bad. Andrew Jones was good to meet, again not much of a chance for a chat, but good to say hi. Bex Tomlinson is a top person, brilliant to see her again, the friends we went with were of course on brilliant form – you know who you are.

Lots of missed opportunities mainly due to family commitments, many things I would have liked to have seen or done which werent possible.

That brings me on to the downsides of the festival:

Childrens work: I perhaps have rather high expectations of kids work at events of this kind, but I thought the kids work was a bit too ad hoc, not as well organised as I would have liked, and lacked some substance. More annoyingly, my children didnt really like it. I’m sure this is institutional rather than down to the kids workers themselves, all the guys I met were great.

But the problems do go hand in hand with my other main greenbelt gripe:

Queues. Flippin everywhere, for everything, all the time, miles long. Ahhhhh! Did my head in in a serious way, the only thing for which there was no queue was the mainstage which is open on two sides, thank heavens for that.

I personally think the festival is a bit on the large side, I prefer the smaller and more intimate feeling of a less enormous event. I estimate about 20,000 people were there over the weekend, which is quite a lot whichever way you look at it.

The overall feeling of the event is an interesting one, it certainly has a very liberal feel, and there is no overt God bothering kind of point to it, which is both good and bad. I like the fact that people from all kinds of backgrounds can contribute on an equal platform, from the Gay Bishop Gene Robinson, to the Quaker Universalist Alastair McIntosh, there wasnt much by way of conservative representation there I thought, not that I’m bothered by that as such, but I think all groups have their strengths, and one thing the conservatives bring is a focus on the God of the Bible without the existentialist lens of some more ‘out there’ theologians. Possibly the class politics of the festival have something to do with all this, there was a definite upper middle class vibe in my opinion.

However, this is not a complaint, more of an observation. I have rarely been somewhere where there were talks I actually wanted to hear, that is a real novelty. I enjoyed it immensely, despite the wretched queueing.


This weekend I wont be doing any gardening, I’ll be at Cheltenham racecourse with Kel and the kids, savouring the sights and sounds of the Greenbelt festival.

I went to Greenbelt once before, many many moons ago, when I were ‘but a lad’. I enjoyed it, I saw Jah Wobble and most exciting to me at the time, Midnight Oil! Although I was always a bit sad they never played Beds are Burning or Bullroarer, still love those tracks.

Anyway, its been many a year since I went to the festival, and I’m looking forward to it this year, hope to catch a few good acts, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are playing, they’re mint. Also The Apples who I have loved since hearing them on Craig Charles’ funk and soul show, as well as a billion of other groups, including better known types like Royksopp, Athlete and Cornershop, who will all put on a good show I’m sure.

There are speakers galore, including the hilarious and insightful Rob Bell, and the brilliant Alastair McIntosh, as well as my one time comic co-conspirator Jeff Anderson who’s doing a panel on the future of comics with some other creators.

It’s also a gpood chance for me to get a look at what’s new and happening in the world of alternative worship, which will be handy as I’ve a number of sessions lined up to do in the Autumn.

I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends, making some new ones, and getting to meet a few people who I’ve only spoken to via cyberspace, if you’re going to be there, please say hello, I’m the one who looks a bit confused.

We’re travelling friday morning, back monday night or tuesday morning, might just manage to get a blog post in before then, if I dont, see y’all soon.

nbn festival – a glimmer

I’ve been pondering the concept of this ‘no big names’ festival, which I mentioned before here and here.

Today I was struck with a bit of inspiration by the hairy bass genius that is Steve Lawson. Actually I knew Steve when I was a kid, he was hairy then too. But hirsuteness aside, he wrote today about his plan to tour a series of ‘house concerts’, in other words he turns up and plays a gig in somebody’s house. They have invited friends or advertised it, they’ve worked out a way to pay the musicians, etc.

I thought, ‘dang, if that aint a touch of genius’. It’s much more sustainable and do-able than a larger scale gig. It offers a completely different kind of musical experience, one for which Steve perhaps is well equipped, better than the likes of U2 for instance! But having good music played in an intimate setting is brilliant.

Then I met a guy who has a cinema in his house, he’s done a spare bedroom out with a big screen and surround sound etc, and I recognised the same kind of potential that the home gigs model has.

What if we did a festival where the gigs, talks, exhibitions, whatever were in people’s homes, gardens, public spaces, etc? Yes you would need people to be willing to host the different events, and there would be a fair amount of logistical management involved, but it could be done surely! It offers a smaller scale, more relational experience, with no room for big names, or big costs, or big egos. A couple of larger scale events which could be held in public parks or similar could be open to the general public… so much potential for goodness! Can I get a witness?!

As well as the above mentioned good things, this is a totally scalable and replicable project, you could spread it across a large area, or keep it contained in a small one. And you could even host one in your own town. Easy peasy. I’ll let you know how I get on.

No big names II

Mark Berry, whose blog is a constant source of information, inpiration and encouragement blogs about his own frustration with Christian events which cost a fortune, and serve to ‘keep the customer satisfied’, as Simon and Garfunkel would have said.

I really think there is milage in this guys, lets be honest the prices of conferences such as Spring Harvest and the many Christian festivals that litter the summer are verging on scandalous.  We can do better.

Much better.