* * *
My friend Andy does magic.
We sit at my kitchen table, with a deck of cards and two steaming mugs of tea, and he shows me magic tricks. And after every one I ask the same thing.
How do you do it?
So he shows me. All the sleights of hand, the clever shuffles, the misdirection. So next time he shows me the trick I can see how it's done and it isn't really magic after that.
When I was 16 I went to Greenbelt.
All the way in the car my friends told me stories of how amazing it would be, all the people I would meet, the incredible things I would see.
And they were right. I walked through the festival as though I was in some sort of magnificent dream. It felt a bit like a magic trick. As if by magic on a Friday morning the racecourse had been transformed into a colourful, joyful, bunting-festooned place.
I loved everything about it. The music, the crazy stalls, the huge sense of community that reached its peak at the Sunday Eucharist. I even loved sleeping on the cold hard ground of the Helicopter Field. I knew this place was special.
Five years later, I am at Cheltenham Racecourse again. Because eventually I had to ask:
How do they do it?
You see, I had hesitated before, because I was scared that if I knew it might spoil it.
But I needn't have worried really. I should have known better. I should have realised that it is a bit like Andy's card tricks, at my kitchen table.
Because even though I know how they are done, it doesn't make them any less special. I know that they are not magic, but rather something even more breathtaking; someone with an incredible talen doing what they love.
And that is exactly what Greenbelt is. It's not magic, the bunting doesn't just spring into being of its own accord. Instead it is a collection of dedicated human beings, each with unique abilities and talents, working together to create something amazing.
So as my time as a volunteer draws to a close (at least until Tuesday!) I shall settle in to enjoy the festival. And this year will be different. Because this year I know how everything is done. But that doesn't make it any less beautiful.