Magnus McFarlane Barrow ‘The Shed That Fed a Million Children

I came away from my first event of the festival feeling full of hope and joy, and surely there can be no better way to leave a first event than that.

Magnus McFarlane Barrow the founder and CEO of Mary’s Wheels is the author of ‘The Shed That Fed a Million Children’ the story of ‘the charity that began it’s existence in a small shed in Argyll, Western Scotland

During an interview full of passion and warmth, Magnus talked with to Sarah Crompton about the charity he so clearly loves. In 1992 largely fuelled by a fascination following many reported appearances of the virgin Mary to teenagers In Bosnia, Magnus and his brother took a trip there. This was at a time when the country was at war and at the height of its troubles.

On returning home, immensely moved by what he had seen, he decided he must do something. He launched a small appeal for food and clothing. The appeal proved fruitful so that he gathered all he had collected into a Landrover and drove it to Bosnia. Over the next 10 years, requests for similar help came in and he responded in any way he could.

10 years after leaving Bosnia Magnus visited Malawi. There he met Edward, a 14 year old boy whose mother was dying. Magnus was deeply moved by Edward who told him his only hope for life was to go to school and have enough to eat. From that single conversation Mary’s Meals was born.

The vision of Mary’s Meals is that all children should be able to eat one meal a day in a place of education. Working together with partner organisations and primarily local people in some of the poorest countries in the world, Mary’s Meals is contributing towards this becoming a reality. In Malawi alone, 770 thousand children are fed daily, and for the cost of just £12.20 a child can be fed for an entire year. Magnus’ talk was full of similar startling statistics I struggled to get these down on paper so keen was I to listen to what he said. Not that this was difficult; Magnus was exceptionally easy to listen to because he had so many important things to say.

Magnus talked freely of his Christian faith and the influence it has on the work he does. He also spoke of changes he has seen in his own life due to the goodness he’s witnessed in so many willing to give of themselves to help others. On this landmark week for the charity when they have now fed over 1 million children he also described the pain he continues to feel at not being able to respond more to the immense need he knows is still out there.

Magnus described Mary’s Meals as ‘lots of little acts of love’. I would describe it as an example of how ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.

Every penny made from the sale of ‘The Shed That Fed a Million People’ goes to supporting Mary’s Meals.

Books and Garlic

As thousands of book obsessives descend upon the Hay Festival to indulge their passion for all things bookish, our friends at Vintage Books have today tendered advice on Twitter to those worried about the age old, time versus books to be read, conundrum.

Having fairly recently raised my bat to the pavilion to acknowledge the applause for my half century, and having a singular inability to keep my book buying within civilised norms, this is a subject that has been much on my mind of late. I am sure I am not alone. We must therefore doff the titfer to Vintage for advising that the secret of life is not 42, but garlic. Demand for the same in all relevant outlets in and around Hay is likely to assume Gold Rush proportions in the days ahead. You have been warned. Clove up booklovers.

Now All Roads Lead To Hay

As Hay beckons and a week of nervous perusal of various weather apps comes to a close, decisions of great import have to be taken. After the weather of last year the wellies are, of course, a given. Other sartorial choices remain the subject of in house discussion with She Who Must be Obeyed. The only certainty is that I am sure to pack an awful lot less than her and probably be insufficiently equipped on the sock and other undergarment front.

The other major decision revolves around the choice of reading material for the week ahead. That is something that has detained me a good deal longer than the clothing issue. Whatever choice comes to be made on that front, the only certainty is that way too much will be chosen for the journey west. The six hour trek across country thus beckons on Saturday morning, with Ian McMillan and Radio 3’s The Verb as the lure for an early start from Kent and a correspondingly early arrival.

The rest of the week promises so much, including tickets to see Alan Bennett, Colm Toibin, David Lodge and Jude Law, amongst myriad others. The rest of the time holds out the chance to pause and reflect, to look and linger, to ponder and read, and indulge on the fabulous food and drink that the festival places before you by way of temptation. And like the great Oscar I can resist everything except temptation.

Hay Festival Live and On-line on BBC Arts

BBC Arts Online is broadcasting live streams of some of the events at this year’s festival as they did for the first time last year.  The live on-line broadcasts can be watched on the BBC Arts site. Click the links for further details.  Here’s the schedule:

23 May 2015 24 May 2015 25 May 2015
Cressida Cowell

Andrew O’Hagan

Stephen Fry

Irvine Welsh

Live 17:30: Germaine Greer: Liberation.

Live 19:00: Ian Bostridge

Yuval Noah Harari

Karen Armstrong

Live 19:00: Germaine Greer: Shakespeare’s Women

Tom Holland
26 May 2015 27 May 2015 28 May 2015
LIVE 17:30: Alexander McCall Smith  Alan Bennett & Nicholas Hytner Tinariwen
29 May 2015 30 May 2015 31 May 2015
Ben and David Crystal

Live 14:30: David Mitchell

Antonia Fraser Celia Imrie & Terry Waite

Call The Midwife

QI’s Greatest Hits

Stunning Aerial Shots of The Hay Festival Site

Hay Festival Site

Hay Festival Site

The Wye Sky Eye @thewyeskyeye has been up and running for just a couple of weeks showcasing the stunning scenery of the Wye Valley from a new perspective.  Two images were taken on Tuesday afternoon of the Hay Festival site, in a rare moment of sunshine between the recent showers.

Hay Festival Site

Hay Festival Site

This  second picture shows the propeller blades a-blur of TheWyeSkyEye as it approaches the Festival grounds. Its a DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus drone.  Follow on TheWyeSkyEye on Twitter or on Instagram here for more shots of the Wye valley and maybe some more of the Festival site in the coming days.

Are you a Blogger and a Hay Festival Go-er?

20120604-190150.jpgIf you are a Hay go-er and you’d like to review a session or two this year we’d love to hear from you.

‘Making Hay’ is an unofficial blog about the the Hay on Wye Literary Festival.  The blog started in 2009 as a hobby.  In its first year it attracted a few hundred views. Last year it was over 20,000 and at the last count we had 20,809 Followers on Twitter.  Lyndsey, Jill and Pete were all guest bloggers in 2014.

You don’t have to be a writer or blogger but it you know your way around WordPress that’s an advantage (if not I can post the text for you and add your by-line).

I can guarantee it adds to the experience.  Get in touch if you want to know more at

2015 Hay Festival Early Bird Tickets on Public Sale

The first batch ot serssions for the 2015 Festival from the 21 -31 May are on sale now to the general public.  The sessions are

  • Stephen Fry
  • Germaine Greer
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Antony Beevor
  • Karen Armstrong
  • Dan and Peter Snow
  • Michael Morpurgo
  • Jacqueline Wilson

Click here to book

This year the Festival has added advance car park booking which can be selected at the same time as tickets.