Bishop Nick spent Sunday evening at Leeds Festival - finding a path through the thousands of tents, beer cans and mud, catching a bit of the Arctic Monkeys and seeing the work of the Festival Angels - a team of church volunteers who offer a point of safety and support during the four-day event.
Based at the prayer tent, they offer a place of sanctuary where anyone can come to chat, relax, pray and have a hot drink. They also patrol the site, offering help or a listening ear.
Nick Baines says, “The Angels are an impressive bunch of dedicated volunteers and their work is obviously valued by many at the festival. The music and the atmosphere are fantastic, but people can still feel vulnerable for whatever reason and it’s great that they provide a safety net and place of welcome and support for anyone who needs it”.
The demand for the work of the Festival Angels has grown in the four years they’ve been attending the festival. Co-ordinator, the Revd Andy Nicholson (whose Thorner parish covers the festival site), says, “When we began we had 20 volunteers and the prayer tent was just open during the day. But given the need, the tent is now open 24/7 and we have 100 volunteers. We also manage the lost property tent and patrol the site offering helping hands and listening ears – with the simple aim of showing the love of God to festival goers.
“Over the years we've had many - and often quite profound - conversations with people (particularly when they’ve been recently bereaved). We also help pitch tents and last year when tents got soaked, we gave away sleeping bags and tents and manned an emergency drop-in tent for people to crash in.”
The Festival Angels form a wider network of volunteers providing well-being to music lovers at festivals all over the UK. In Leeds they come from Churches Together, a multi denominational organisation, and Leeds Street Angels, whose teams regularly provide care to those in need on a night out in the city centre.