There aren’t many jobs that pay you to spend four days at a music festival but one of the key events in my working year is when we take the Elemental Tent to Wickham Music Festival. That doesn’t mean I got to spend four days watching great bands on stage oh no. The vast part of my fourteen hour days there were spent in or around the Elemental Tent doing what I love; talking to people.
If you’ve ever been to a festival you will be aware that everyone there wants your money. There are traders selling colourful goods from around the world, crafts people trading their wares, food vendors selling street food of many nations and bars and coffee vendors, in a lot of ways it’s like the market in Alladin, a riot of colour and noise and bustling bodies trying to take everything in as they decide who gets to separate them from their cash. It makes for a very exciting time and is a massive part of the festival atmosphere. But in that sea of commerce is an island, the Elemental Tent.
Our purpose with the tent was two-fold. Firstly to offer a safe space where people could relax, enjoy crafts and hospitality for free and just receive a blessing from the church. Secondly, we wanted to have a space where spiritual conversations could take place with people of different faiths and no faith. No one in the tent is there with an agenda. We’re not looking to make converts, we’re not handing out tracts or bibles. We are there to bless people without expectation of anything in return.
So we made lots of tea and coffee, offered lots of cake, made crafts with kids and adults, made adults purr with hand massages and talked. Oh, how we talked. The conversations we had. We talked music and commerce, we talked about footfall, we talked about mental health, we talked about loss and bereavement, we waxed nostalgic over Graham Nash and Judy Collins and Gilbert O’Sullivan, we talked net making and storytelling and painting and art and, of course, music. And in amongst all that we talked with people about God (whoever they saw him as), we talked about forgiveness and Grace, we talked about love and spiritual journeys, we talked about Karma (that was a fun one), we talked about how God sees us and how He loves us and we did our best to bless people in as many ways as we could.
I like to think that whatever it is we are doing, we are blessing people and they are receiving that blessing and feeling lifted or changed by it. Each year since our first year we have returned by invitation of the Festival organisers and each year over 60 volunteers have given up 3 or more hours a day to man the tent and be part of the Elemental experience. Many of those volunteers came away as blessed as the people they met. So, in the words of Dave Allen “Thank you, goodnight, and may your God go with you”.