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.

Fry, Greer and Ishiguro Top Hay Early Birds

Early BirdsThe Hay Festival has announced the first names for the 2015 Festival from the 21 -31 May. Stalwart Stephen Fry, along with Germaine Greer and Kazuo Ishiguro are joined by Antony Beevor, Karen Armstrong and Dan and Peter Snow.   Also on the early bird list are giants of Children’s literature Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson.

Booking for these events is open exclusively to Friends of the Festival for three days after which sales open to the general public. This year the Festival has added advance car park booking which can be selected at the same time as tickets.

Fry who was named last year as festival President hosts the first in a Magna Carta series of twenty events. He will be joined by international guests to discuss equalities just two weeks after the general election and eight hundred years after a gang of barons met in a tent by a river to elicit the signature of King John.

Germaine Greer will discuss Juliet, Beatrice, Ophelia, Cleopatra, Ann Hathaway and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets with festival director Peter Florence and Kazuo Ishiguro will discuss his extraordinary new novel and his first in a decade. ‘The Buried Giant’ begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years on a journey that will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.


Author Jim Saunders on Hay – Past, Present and Future

Jim Saunders, author of  Hay – Landscape, Literature and the Town of Books will share his knowledge of Hay-on-Wye’s history, and then leads a discussion on the past, present and future of the town on Friday 5th September at  6pm at Booth’s Book Shop, 44 Lion Street, Hay on Wye.  Jim Saunders is a writer and photographer based in Knighton, Powys and a former Offa’s Dyke Path Officer. Jim’s nature photographs also illustrate numerous books and magazines.

His book is a portrait of Hay, its setting and its people in words and photographs. Images are interspersed with an exploration of the town’s history and its stories and characters – amongst them Francis Kilvert, Alfred Watkins, Hay poisoner Herbert Armstrong, the Baskerville/Conan Doyle connection, Owain Glyndŵr, Richard Booth, and of course the Hay Festival.

For more information about the talk or to RSVP contact sarahdvies@serenbooks.com

Google Hangout with Dan Tyte

Dan Tyte was a panelist at the last Hay Festival . He was born and raised in Cardiff, Wales. He studied English Literature at the University of Liverpool before becoming a PR man. I’ll be talking to live next week on Google Hangouts about his debut novel ‘Half Plus Seven’ which was published by Parthian Books in April 2014. It has been described by the Editor of NME as “a lethal cocktail of Bukowski and Mad Men, finished with a twist of dry Welsh wit.”

You can sign up to watch the broadcast on Wednesday 27th August at 7pm.  Just click here to register and you’ll get a reminder

Judy Blume

A confession first (as I think Judy* would want, given that all her heroines are confessing everything, all the time): I spent most of this talk just staring at Judy in adoration and so didn’t take as many notes as I usually do.

I was sat in the front row, practically on Judy’s lap** and it seemed only right that I should at least look like I was paying her all the attention she deserves.  But here are my starry eyed memories of what she said:

First: excellent Judy trivia, in case you ever happen to be doing a Judy Blume pub quiz: her mum and Philip Roth’s mum went to high school together.

Second: the good stuff, the books.  She believes there’s far too much hysteria and fear about what children read: books are actually a really safe way to learn about life.  Children know what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable, and if they get to something they don’t understand, they simply read over it.  (I am a case in point about this: does anyone remember that Deenie had a ‘special place?’ I didn’t.  But another young reader decided that her special place would be under her rib cage…)  Or they’ll ask questions.  Or they’ll just put the book down.  Whatever, they can cope with it.

Third: the bad stuff – censorship.  She said that the 70’s were a great time to be writing: they were much freer, there were lots of young readers and publishers were more willing to take a chance.  It wasn’t until Reagan was elected that censorship hit.  At first, Judy thought, well this is America, we don’t ban books, we’re all about freedom of speech.  She was alarmed and even scared to find out how wrong she was: she said it was a very isolating time, since her publishers got scared too.  Interestingly, her most banned book is not Forever, but Deenie because – apparently, in the eyes of people who freak out about this sort of stuff – masturbation is WAY WORSE than sex.

Forever, by the way, was written for her daughter who had been reading too many books where girls had sex and ALL SORTS OF TERRIBLE THINGS HAPPENED TO THEM, and she, not unreasonably asked, ‘couldn’t there be a book with two nice kids where they do it and nobody has to die?’  Forever is about taking responsibility for your own actions, she said, but not about being punished.

Later on, I got to chat to her quite a bit in the signing queue (as I was shamelessly asking her to sign four books because, if I haven’t made this clear yet, I’m sort of a fan) and asked about the Tiger Eyes film.  Did you know there was a Tiger Eyes film?  No?  That’s because it didn’t have a UK release.  But if you go to the Tiger Eyes facebook page and like it, she is hopeful that it might come out over here on DVD.  PLEASE DO IT, DO IT FOR JUDY (and me, because I really want to see it).

Basically, thanks Judy for this talk and for saving every teenage girl I know and just for being SO AWESOME.

*note that we are already on first name terms.

** it is possible that I was first in the queue for this event, in the manner of a teenage girl camping out for Harry Styles (or indeed a Hay Festival goer wanting to see Benedict Cumberbatch).

Siri Hustvedt: Living, Thinking, Looking

‘I’m not interested in confession for confession’s sake’ said Siri Hustvedt, about her most recent book of essays. It starts with living, she said, as you can’t do much thinking or looking if you aren’t actually living.

Her series of essays, modelled on Montaigne, are an attempt to chase after various ideas and explore different concepts: ‘the essay is a way to explore what you think,’ she said. Hustvedt thinks about everything under the sun with depth and insight that most of us can only dream of. Some of what she thinks about is illness, as a sufferer of chronic migraine and other symptoms, and about the ways in which personalities adapt to and accommodate those challenges. She also has strongly-held views on art and artists – discussed in the ‘looking’ section of the book. And she argues strongly for more interaction between different disciplines: she comes from a background in literature but believes that speaks to philosophy, psychology, neurology…..there’s too much specialisation and not enough conversation, in her view.

She doesn’t like to say ‘I am this, or that’ because she has a sense that we are constantly moving; but neverthess, she is endlessly interesting and certainly worth a read. Rosie Goldsmith, the chair, called this book ‘a personal guide to being human’ and you could do a lot worse than having Siri Hustvedt as your personal guide.