Record crowds at Greenbelt festival first posted 26 August 2003

 CHELMSFORD - first posted 26 August 2003 - 317 words

Greenbelt drew to a close last night after a weekend of quality music, insightful talks and people walking around dressed as nuts.

More than 13,000 people soaked up the sunshine at Cheltenham Racecourse as they revelled in the 30th festival, themed Diving for Pearls.

Last night the Polyphonic Spree and Billy Bragg closed the festival, now in its third consecutive year of year-on-year growth. Numbers this year have been the largest the festival has ever seen at Cheltenham.

"We have had a brilliant time," festival chair Jude Levermore said.

"I don't think we have had a richer, deeper programme for years - the diversity of the line-up means we have had something for everybody."

This weekend festival organisers announced that the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is to become patron of the festival and that they have also received birthday greetings from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

"Greenbelt has been a catalyst for prayer and praise," he said.

"Participants prayed for an end to the oppression of apartheid and many supported the boycotts and sanctions we called for.

"We are deeply grateful - the international support for the anti-apartheid movement was a significant factor in winning our freedom."

Yesterday the focus of the festival was on trade justice and the message that Trade Rules are Nuts. Thousands of people watched a carnival procession parade through the site to protest about trade rules. Later organisers staged an unfair football match, with one team playing downhill towards a goal ten times bigger than the other and with a blindfolded goalkeeper.

"It's been yet another fantastic year for Christian Aid," the charity's Katrine Green said.

"We have had lots of people sign up to the trade justice campaign and we have had huge support for the work of the organisation.

"There was a phenomenal response to the carnival - perhaps my own highlight was the 13ft high puppet we had of a man in a suit, representing Western exploitation."

Meanwhile Sunday's communion offering raised some £54,600 - potentially £70,000 once Gift Aid is included - which will be split between Christian Aid and Greenbelt's community grants fund for arts projects.

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