Friday, September 01, 2006
Having a beer with Jim Wallis and Dave Andrews in Pip's late night L5 circle, spending time with the children, introducing ex-street child Sikhumbuzo on main stage during the opening ceremony, being invited to eat tea with those provocative, deep and loving east belfasters, sampling organic beer, crying at the wonderful Martyn Joseph & Stewart Henderson's 'because we can', eating curry with the lovely John Bell or eating burritos with the sweet Steve Lawson and the good Dr are just some of the magical memories of GB '06...
But the pivotal moment arrived as the festival drew to a close. Unnerving without being intimidating he stands over 6ft 5 tall, his presence beguiling and strong, you kind of get the notion you are in the company of someone remarkable, someone who might just cause you to be different after your encounter...
Michael Franti walked on stage and blew us all away to a land of possibility with intoxicating 'songs of redemption'. In a mesmerising set he embodied the spirit of Greenbelt - even remarking that;
"I sing my songs not to change to people's minds but to open them and Greenbelt is a mind-opening event..."
"So many people here from different backgrounds all exploring faith and culture through the arts in harmony and unity – I’ve never been to another festival like it …"
In a recent interview he said, "Right now, people ask me, 'What can one person do to change what's going on with the world?' I don't know what one person can do except to connect with other people. In doing that, each of us play our roles," he says. "My role is as a storyteller and a songwriter. I'm somebody who is trying to keep the spirits of other people up, despite all the chaos and fear around us"
In the summer of 2004, Franti travelled with a group of friends to Iraq, the territories within the Palestinian Authority, and Israel. He took video cameras and a guitar with the intent of exploring the human cost of war. A compelling soundtrack, visual and musical montages, and Franti's intimate voiceovers make the film speak to the MTV, X, Y & Z generations, as well as the baby boomers. With its guerrilla style footage captured in active war zones, the documentary is unlike the many academic and politically driven pieces in the marketplace, instead offering the audience a sense of intimate travel and the opportunity to hear the voices of everyday people living, creating and surviving under the harsh conditions of war and occupation.
One thing I did notice as he played and then talked with anyone who wished to engage him, was that he had nothing on his feet. Evidently since 2000 he has been walking through life barefoot except, occasionally, for going on an airplane or into a restaurant when he wears flip-flops. Franti feels there is a division in the world between the consumer nations who buy shoes and the nations where people make shoes but can't afford them. So he decided to go for three days without shoes, and liked it ever since.
So as another thin place began to give up her fight, I was left with thought; Who could see heaven and not want to stay?
These fantastic pics were taken by the very talented Andy Stonehouse, © F8-infinity 2006