Words by Andy Winter, Chief Executive of YMCA Coventry and Warwickshire
This Bank Holiday weekend, YMCA returns to the faith, arts and music festival, Greenbelt.
Hosted in Kettering, in Northamptonshire, Greenbelt provides an opportunity for people of all ages and faiths to engage with a rich programme of music, visual and performing arts, spirituality, comedy, talks and discussion.
YMCA’s involvement in Greenbelt goes back a number of years and through various differing chapters. Initially, and for those of you who may have a very long memory, images will be evoked of ‘Pip and the Crazy Crew’ from Romford YMCA – now YMCA Thames Gateway – who delivered a high energy interactive event each evening for young people.
In later years, YMCA got involved again, launching our 24-hour café, courtesy of myself and my colleague, Phil Heath. This café soon became a drop-in venue and home for young people (sometimes literally) that offered affordable snacks and drinks intermingled with seminars for youth workers.
When Greenbelt festival moved to Cheltenham in the early 2000s, Ken Montgomery, now YMCA England’s Head of International Affairs, worked with his team to further develop our input to include beach volleyball and five-a-side football games, key performances and the – somewhat strange but ultimately successful – innovation of showers. Unfortunately, the 24-hour café stopped running about five years ago and while the provision of showers continued, YMCA’s official role in Greenbelt soon reached the end of another chapter and what could have been the end of our involvement in full.
However, we are pleased to say that this is no longer the case as we return to Greenbelt this year bigger and better than ever.
Now engaged as an Associate Partner, we will start an all-new programme for young people at Greenbelt, which includes outreach support, showers (of course) and “the Den” – a new Greenbelt venue for young people. This is an exciting new chapter as it sees 10 YMCAs come together from across England and Scotland, each bringing their own specialist skills, services and volunteers to work with the many thousands of young people who will attend the festival from across the UK.
Highlights for YMCA at Greenbelt 2016 include:
- Every Which Way: An hour in the Den each day where we’ll be playing games, getting to know inspiring young people, holding interactive talks and discussions and introducing you to some of the activities and programming across the site
- Honest to God: A daily time to reflect, be refreshed and connect with God
- Giant Inflatables
- Ultimate Frisbee and Zorb Football games
- The opportunity to drop in and hang out with our qualified youth workers and just be.
If you’re making your way to Greenbelt this year – you can buy tickets in advance online – do come along to the Den and see what YMCA has to offer. We’re delighted to be back, helping to bring people of all ages together to meet and engage, learn, play and pray.