Greenbelt 2011 #gb11 reflections – Saturday – Rob Bell, Ben Moor

This year’s Greenbelt festival was the best organised I’ve been to. It seems the team behind it took people’s feedback seriously. Every venue was increased in size meaning that I hardly queued at all this year or if there was a queue for an event it went down as soon as the doors opened. The campsite layout was also really good – for some reason it was a lot easier to find my tent this year!

Rob Bell

With all this in mind it was a great decision to put Rob Bell on the mainstage instead of in the Centaur venue. Rob Bell gave a good talk but it wasn’t really on any particular theme. I was hoping he’d speak about his book, Love Wins but he didn’t. It was a simple message and one that really he could have got across in 30 minutes rather than an hour. When I heard him speak 2 years ago at Greenbelt he really blew me away – it was a message I really needed to hear at the time and will probably go down as one of the most significant sermons I have ever heard. So my expectations were quite high meaning that I was actually very underwhelmed.

I think it will have been good for a lot of people to hear the message but for me it didn’t do that much.

Paula Gooder Faisal Islam

The only thing that went wrong this weekend was the iPhone app for Greenbelt. Many of the talk times and venues weren’t accurate and it didn’t seem to include every event. We went along to hear Paula Gooder speak about the resurrection and sat down in the venue advertised on the app. Unfortunately it was a talk on the economic crash by Faisal Islam which for me wasn’t particularly interesting. I lost all confidence in the app which meant I had to keep referring to friends’ paper programmes. I really hope the Greenbelt organisers get this problem fixed next year – it’s great that they’ve got an app but at £3.99 it should be accurate.

Ben Moor – Coelacanth

My friend Dick Bonham who’s involved in organising the performing arts stuff at Greenbelt recommended this play to me. It was my favourite performance of Greenbelt this year. A one man show it was a beautiful love story about tree climbing, life, the universe and everything. This was in the new Playhouse venue – a big top with good seating. The only downside was that it was near a tent where some loud music was being played which was a bit distracting. This was a wonderful uplifting show – I hear Ben‘s playing at the Carriageworks Theatre later in the year – do see if you can go and catch the show!

Here’s an extract from the script:

Here’s how the story starts. . .

You could say this story starts more than a hundred years ago.
In the 19th century as the maps of the planet were being finalised, the world’s great forests passed on to the English their secrets kindly and discreetly like grandparents pass on sweets. Explorers boomeranged home from being flung far with cuttings and seeds, leaves and nuts, and welcomed them to our strange and magical island. For tree-growing and the appreciation of trees has always been a silent passion of ours. From these experiments, hybrids of Redwood and Oak, of Baobab and Yew, of Cypress and Sycamore were designed, planted and encouraged to grow to wonderful heights and girths. Hundreds of feet high, dozens around. Designed to be used for a sport only to be played long into the future. Designed to be climbed.

Picture then, Eight Great Trees of England ­ planted during the main course of the Victorian feast, only to reach their mighty heights towards the end of the 20th century long after the deaths of their planters.
There are more than eight of course ­ every county has its revered tree, and how proud we all are of them. But there are eight truly important ones, dotted around the island like treats during a Summer.
Now picture a young woman as she ascends one such great tree. She climbs to music and enthrals a stadium audience of hundreds with her graceful leaps and acrobatic pulls. If you had to describe it you might say it is a mixture of figure skating and mountaineering, a vertical ballet, an arboreal gymnastic. It is the expression of our national soul. It is the writing on the sand that tells a passing world we are here.
But you don’t have to describe it, you just have to see it.
Can you see the tree? Can you picture the girl?


  1. Was the Paula Gooder/Faisal Islam mix-up the only mistake you spotted in the app? I’m trying to work out how a few last minute changes slipped through the update mechanism so that it can be better next year. Please email me any other things you noticed. Thanks!


    • Hi Paul,

      There were some other mix ups as well. The Nadia Bolz-Weber talk was advertised at 15.30 instead of 9.30 on the Monday. I think my husband missed another talk as well but I couldn’t tell you exactly what that one was. Unfortunately this meant I stopped checking the app because I didn’t feel I could trust it. The other thing I think it would be nice to add to the app is some of the more ‘fringe’ events that take place at Greenbelt that don’t get into the paper based programme. The beauty of an app is that you can add more information so it would be nice to get a bit more from the app than you do from the paper programme. I still think it’s great that Greenbelt provide an app for the festival and I particularly liked the iPad version so keep up the good work!

      Thanks for commenting.



  2. OK, thanks. I already have those two sessions noted.

    It’s funny that you — and others — say they stopped trusting the app; it looks to have been more accurate than the paper guide in the grand scheme of things. I guess we all expect digital technology to be perfect.

    Unfortunately many of the fringe events aren’t organised by Greenbelt so it’s tricky to get them in, but I’ll think about what we might do in the future.


    • I think there’s a difference between looking at the ‘grand scheme of things’ and an individual’s experience. If an individual experiences a failure of the app then they will lose trust in it. I missed a talk I wanted to go to, my husband missed two and thereafter had to check every event we wanted to go to with someone who had a paper programme and then at the venues themselves. I’m sure there may have been people who missed things because of inaccuracies in the paper programme as well but that wasn’t us! I don’t necessarily expect all digital technology to be perfect but an app that contains the programme that costs £3.99 I would expect to be accurate.

      Other things that I think would improve the app are integration with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare – so you can ‘check in’ to a talk/event. If there are issues of accuracy next year perhaps you could use Twitter to send out information using the #gb12 hashtag?


  3. I just remembered, for some reason Brian McLaren didn’t appear on my app at all but this could have been an issue with my phone as it was on a friend’s iPad app.


  4. It’s beginning to sound like you didn’t discover the app update feature. (News > Updates on iPhone.) Ironically, we moved this feature to make way for a Twitter feed, on which we heavily promoted the Updates feature.


  5. I tried to update my phone (as I had access to my laptop in the Social Media Surgeries) but it seemed to think it was already updated. Yes, friends told me to update it but I think there may be something wrong with my iPhone. Strangely last year I had no problems at all – which was why I rushed to buy the app this year! Don’t worry, I’ll get it again next year!


    • Re-reading your comment, I think you’re mistaking Upgrades (via the App Store) and programme updates (internally in the app, on the News > Updates) page.

      I suspected this might lead to confusion; next year the app will automatically fetch programme updates so there won’t be any need to take an action. (It should have done so this year, but there’s a bug.)

      Incidentally, I’ve just added “Twitter” as an option on the “Share” menu for next year so you’ll be able to easily tweet details of events to others.


  6. Hoping to have an iPhone 5 by next year!

    Currently I have a 3GS, the iOS system is the most current (can’t remember what number, sorry!) and it’s with T-Mobile.


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