The Greenbelt festival always defies easy definition. When its line-up boasts a radical theologian talking about angels and cyborgs, music from the Polyphonic Spree and a circus dance duo performing a show inside a circular house that rolls around a field, you can see why.
The musical highlight this year was Grace Petrie and the Benefits Culture who roused a damp Monday night crowd with their politically charged folk songs. Grace Petrie is the musical soul of Corbynmania. Heartfelt catchy tunes delivering lyrics of love and protest which sum up her generation of politically engaged youth who despise the political establishment. As she says, most of her songs are about heartbreak, either by Tories, girls or sometimes Tory girls. The Redundancy Hymn, Farewell to Welfare and her ballad about Tony Blair, You Were Always Going To Break My Heart Honey, gives you a feel of her lyrical inspiration.
Another musical gem discovered at Greenbelt's Canopy stage were the New Portals, the brother and sister duo, formerly with The Japettos, who are now striking out with a new electronic folk pop project which looks to have huge potential.
Among the broad array of talks on offer at the festival, set in the rolling grounds of Boughton House near Kettering, Christian theologian, thinker and activist Noel Moules spoke about the concept of animism, the idea that the world is filled with persons, only some of which are human, and discussed the often overlooked common ground shared between pagans and the Bible.
Journalist Cole Moreton led a lively newspaper review session each day in which he invited both panellists and the audience to thrash out the days big issues. A poignant moment took place during a discussion about immigration when a member of the audience spoke up, identifying herself as an economic migrant. She said she had been attracted to Britain by its values after being forced to pay a bribe in order to have her deceased father buried back home in Romania. But despite her pride when she secured residency and her British passport, she said the recent negative response from the media and sections of the public to the latest refugee crisis had made her consider giving it back.
Star Trek, Terminator, Isaac Asimov's I Robot and Channel 4's hit show Humans all featured in Marika Rose's sweeping history of cyborgs, which looked at how our understanding of machines has affected the way we think about work and the difference between robots, cyborgs (part human part machine), androids (machines that look like men) and gynoids (machines that look like women). Explaining that if you have a pacemaker, artificial hip or contraceptive implant you're a cyborg she wondered if we can now extend the definition to people who rely on the internet or their mobile phones.
One of the most popular venues was the Story Yurt run by the Christian Aid Collective. The nightly 'story slams', in front of the cosy log burning stove, proved so popular people had to be turned away.
On the stage the acrobatic circus duo Acrojou looked the part in their steam punk circular house, but for me, their best performance was the stage show Frantic examining the hectic pace of modern life and how easy it is to become swamped with busyness. Using another circular structure, weighted in such a way it seemed to disobey the laws of physics they threw it around the stage with grace and abandon. It was a joy to watch.
Closing the festival was Justin Butcher's remarkable one man play from the perspective of the Devil as he watches the events of the first Easter unfold and the crucifixion of Jesus. Butcher's explosive, swaggering and self-righteous Lucifer is a sight to behold. The physical and emotional intensity that is maintained for the full 90 minutes is impressive and the running commentary from an increasingly exasperated Devil works brilliantly.
Next year's Greenbelt festival, 'Silent Stars', takes place at Boughton House between August 26-29, 2016.Suggest a correction