Greenbelt Festival to celebrate 40th anniversary at Cheltenham Racecourse again
CHRISTIANS from across the country will be heading to Cheltenham as a religious festival celebrates its 40th birthday.
Cheltenham Racecourse will be playing host to the Greenbelt Festival as it marks its fourth decade.
The controversial festival, which draws thousands of visitors every year, runs events and activities focusing on the arts, faith and justice.
Titled Life Begins this year, the four-day event runs from August 23.
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Greenbelt has been housed at Cheltenham Racecourse since 1999, and takes place during the August Bank Holiday weekend.
It has lead to tensions with some Christians accusing it of being too liberal.
But the Rev Malc Allen, rector at St Michael's and All Angels Church in Bishop's Cleeve, said he would be urging his flock to go along to the event this year.
He added: "Greenbelt is a absolutely fantastic event.
"Although at one point it might have become a bit too liberal, that is no longer the case.
"It is a wonderful opportunity to hear a wide range of speakers about faith issues.
"Some of the speakers will challenge Christians to explore their faith and that is not a bad thing."
The event will be advertised at the church, and the Rev Allen is expecting people from all ages to be part of the festival.
"We encourage people to go from the church," he said.
"The thing about Greenbelt is that it is available for more than just young people. I've gone for a few years, and there is something for everybody."
Organisers have announced the first acts for the festival this year, with a Grammy-award winning duo from Mali, Amadou and Mariam, headlining one night on Greenbelt mainstage.
Paul Northup, director at the festival, said: "This year marks Greenbelt's 40th birthday, and our 15th festival at Cheltenham Racecourse.
"Time flies when you're enjoying yourself.
"We have built up strong links with Cheltenham and we're extremely grateful to the racecourse staff and the people of Cheltenham for their hospitality."
Early bird tickets are now on sale until April 30 at £109 for an adult weekend ticket.
They are available from www.greenbelt.org.uk/boxoffice/tickets/weekend.