We have all heard of the Glastonbury Festival with its celebration of music, the gathering of people from far and wide, wellie boots and Dollie Parton. People love to have a break from their everyday life and enjoy a great experience together. One of the great growth points in the Church over the past few years has been the emergence of festivals with a faith focus. Over the past months, some of young people of our diocese have attended the Catholic Renewal at the Travellers Fayre, Appleby, the Brightlights Festival at Aylesford Priory, Invocation at Oscott, the Faith Conference at Woldingham, Youth 2000 at Walsingham, and the Big Church Day Out in Sussex. Here, some of our festival goers reflect on their experiences…
The Appleby Horse Fair is one of the oldest horse fairs in the country, attracting 45,000 Travellers and other visitors. It is a real celebration of Traveller culture, but up until recently, there had been no space designated for prayer and faith which has been so important for the people. Anne Casey has worked tirelessly in recent years to correct that, and working with Fr Alex in Appleby, has built up a tent dedicated to the Travellers Renewal, where prayer, adoration, and the sacraments can be celebrated. This year the bishop graced the fair with his presence. Tilly, 19, from Castlerigg, writes, ‘My experience at Appleby was truly inspiring, seeing all the Travellers with such strong faith and seeing them stand tall and proud made me so happy to be united with them as a Catholic’.
Richard Teasdale, 22, from Workington went to Wiston House in East Sussex, in his words, ‘camping, eating, praising and smiling at The Big Church Day Out festival. There was a lot of joy over the weekend, a real sense of happiness. Music is a fantastic way to bring people together and around 15,000 Christians came together all to celebrate one thing. Jesus. Some of the biggest names in the Christian music genre gathered to entertain and, most importantly, lead us all in worship. All weekend we found ourselves comparing this festival to others. Mainly Radio 1’s big weekend. I’m no expert on festivals but I have been to some. One thing I noticed about this one, compared to the others, is that I came away feeling refreshed, full of joy and full of life. When I came away from T in the Park, by contrast, I was drained, exhausted and wanted to hide from everyone. There’s the difference. I would take joy over exhausted any day of the week. And that’s what I had, a joy and a certain knowledge that the Church is indeed alive!
Towards the end of June, the quite serene grounds of Aylesford Priory, home to the Carmelite Community, played host to another event, the Brightlights Festival. Festival-goers took over the Priory and pitched their tents to reflect upon the theme of “Fully Human, Fully Alive, Fully Living”. We were blessed by the presence of fantastic bands with a Christian flavour who had us on our feet and praising God. Our most inspirational speakers for the weekend were the parents and friends of Blessed Chiara “Luce” Badano. They told the story of their daughter and friend, of her love and generosity for Christ in the midst of her pain and suffering. I would encourage those who have not heard of Blessed Chiara, a 17-year old young person who died in 1990, to read her story. Her story is an encouragement to us to say our yes to Christ. We also witnessed a powerful drama from TenTen Theatre entitled, ‘This is my body’. It was a one-woman play showing the story of a victim of human trafficking. We were enlightened to the fact that many of the products we buy may have been produced by those who have been trafficked.