Concern had been noted on social media about a perceived lack of environmental awareness at the popular Christian arts festival, which takes place each year over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Ruth offered to help refocus the event on green issues. She worked alongside the organisers to make ecology central. ‘We didn’t just want to do one or two seminars on it,’ said Ruth, ‘but send a strong feeling through the festival.’
She devised various categories including – ‘greening Greenbelt’, which looked at energy use and recycling; ‘creating nature’, which encouraged ecology in the arts; and ‘experiencing nature’, which encouraged people to engage with the natural world around the new festival site at Boughton House. As a result, the 2014 event offered such features as foraging walks, den building in the woods and worship activities connecting people to ‘God as Creator and God in creation’.
The theme was ‘Travelling Light’. A download of ‘essential information’ spoke of how the site’s waste would be handled and encouraged festivalgoers to use public transport. ‘Right across the programme the idea was that it would be very green,’ Ruth explained. ‘We worked hard to ensure that happened. And it was great to see it actually come into fruition on the site. It really did work.’
As well as working behind the scenes, Ruth contributed to a number of sessions on the seminar programme. She spoke on ‘food and faith’, chaired a debate on palm oil, and addressed youth leaders on the environment. A Rocha UK also had a formal presence at the event, sharing an exhibition stand with other environmental groups.
‘I’m especially pleased that we’re using our move back to a greenfield site to re-examine our relationship with our environment, bringing ecological concerns to the fore this weekend,’ said Greenbelt’s creative director Paul Northup.
Greenbelt’s environmental roots go back to the beginnings of the festival in the 70s, when one of the ‘father figures’ of the event Garth Hewitt encouraged participants to follow the biblical commission of ‘tending the garden’. (Photo of Ruth Valerio and Paul Northup: Jonathon Watkins @PhotoGlow www.photoglow.co.uk)