Friday, 31 August 2018


Greenbelt 2018: Acts of the Imagination

Thirty years ago I was one of five teenagers turning up to our first Greenbelt Festival. Sixteen years old, and deeply impressionable, my life changed that weekend. I'm delighted it did.

I've been back to the festival every year since, and after ten years started to help organise it. 2018 is the first time I've not had any volunteer role in twenty years; this year I was a regular punter.

As ever I saw a lot of different things at the festival, but this year one act stood out perhaps more than any other has over the years: Pussy Riot. The Riot Days gig was the best thing I've ever seen at Greenbelt. It was a theatrical version of Masha Alyokhina's book, presented in the form of a punk gig. The gig told of Masha's part in Pussy Riot's infamous Punk Prayer, and her incarceration and challenges to Russia's harsh criminal justice system. It was loud, chaotic, shouty (in Russian with English subtitles), rude and a shock to just about every sense.

It was also liberating and challenging.

For example, is Putin's courting of the Orthodox Church any different to Trump's alignment with Evangelicals? Or for that matter, is it appropriate for me to say that I believe that the Christian faith is incompatible with voting for the party of individual personal wealth?


Two phrases really stuck with me: "Freedom doesn't exist unless you fight for it every day" was the penultimate line of the gig. But on the previous day when asked in an interview what the Greenbelt audience could learn from Pussy Riot, Masha simply said: "You are the motherland of punk". We don't need to learn. We need to act.

Two hours after the gig there was still a long queue for signed copies of Masha's book. Most seemed to be young, impressionable teenagers. I've never been more proud to have played a small part in Greenbelt's story. Long may it continue to upset, disrupt and inspire.

Posted by pab at 21:11 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!