Town Pastors are in the pink at Latitude Festival
Pink sheep and pink Festival Pastors are two of the best-known elements of the popular Latitude music and arts festival which took place at Henham Park in Suffolk last weekend (July 18 to 21). Keith Morris reports.
While the 40,000 festival-goers were entertained by George Ezra, Imelda May and the Stereophonics, teams of Christian Festival Pastors such as Richard from Lowestoft and Anne from Ipswich were going around the huge campsite giving a helping hand and a cheerful word to campers.
Dressed in their own distinctive pink high vis jackets and armed with a tent peg mallet, Love Hearts, chocolate bars, saline wipes and flasks of water, the popular Festival Pastors patrol the vast campsite in pairs helping people put up tents, find lost friends and provide a friendly face.
In the hour I spent with them, Richard and Anne certainly made their mark. They cheered up bored security staff, helped families who had just arrived put up their tents, advised them where to pitch their tents and gave out chocolates and Love Hearts to children.
Meanwhile, other Pastors were able to help after an incident when a young festival-goer was very ill after possibly being given a spiked drink. They were able to comfort her distressed friend.
Festival Pastors are there to help people and look out for those who may find themselves in a vulnerable situation. Patrols go on from 8am all day and up to 3 or 4am in the morning.
All are Christian volunteers from the Town Pastors charity which provides teams to regularly patrol the weekend night-time streets of towns across Suffolk and Norfolk, such as Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Ipswich, Leiston, Dereham and Haverhill.
Volunteers working with the Festival Pastors, who have been serving the festival since 2011, also staff an inviting café offering the best-value drinks and the friendliest staff on site.
An art installation and working artist could also be found there alongside live Christian music from professional musicians Bean Baker and Jon Kendall.
As well as the 73-strong on-site team, the pastors’ work is supported by a 24-hour prayer operation across the whole country to pray for the festival and in particular for the work of the Town Pastors.
Co-ordinating the team, and the massive effort required to produce such a service, is general manager Major Barry Willson, from Norwich. Barry said: “My role takes off in January when we are in contact with Festival Republic regarding the possibility of forming at team to work at Latitude in the summer.
“They invite us to work alongside them and in return they provide resources like the marquee, water, electricity and wristbands for the team.
“The operation costs us to the tune of around £8,000 a year. This comes from the café income, donations and some Police funds,” said Barry, who is also finance director of Town Pastors. It is a relatively expensive operation for us for a short period of time but we think it is worth every penny.
“We are part of the welfare team on site and our role is to keep people at the festival as safe as we can alongside the security and other staff here. The pastors will do anything they can to help people, put up tents, give out chocolates and safety messages.
“Incidents dealt with in the past include domestic violence and a bereavement when a young mother died and her young children were cared for on site. We also have conversations starting in the café with young Christians and others who are trying to work out their life paths,” for example.
Barry, who also has a number of other major voluntary roles including co-ordinating the Norwich Soup Run and the Salvation Army Tins and Toys Appeal, is stepping back after the event and it will be his last year on site after eight years, two of which he worked as café manager, and the last three he served as general manager. He will still be involved behind the scenes.
Pictured above are Festival Pastors Richard and Anne in action.
Click here or see below for a full picture gallery of Latitude Festival Pastors at work.