Alistair MacGowan: Sunday

It’s remarkable that such a distinctive looking figure should have made a career in impersonating others but MacGowan slipped effortlessly in and out of characters throughout the interview, giving the audience what they had doubtless come to see.  All this despite the fact that his ‘Big Impression’ series finished three or four years ago; even he could not remember.  There was also the slight hint that he is not entirely content with his art; the comment made by fellow comedian Steve Coogan that impressions are a “cheap trick” clearly still rankles.

Whilst MacGowan was happy to please with multiple personalities, he was anxious to talk about his other work; acting, including work with the RSC and his forthcoming book that tracks his attempt to give up his obsession with football.

The session was chaired by Fiona Lindsay, a great adventurer but not a natural interviewer.  As Aaronovitch had demonstrated earlier in the day you need stage craft.  Lindsay looked nervous and her questions were pedestrian.  She has some of the bigger gigs at Hay, this one was a near sell out on the main stage.  Let’s hope she sharpens up.

Before the Deluge

Mid morning on Monday and it looks like after two glorious days that the heavens are about to open over Hay. If you are festival bound bring your macs and your wellies or at the very least ditch the high heels.  After last years relentless downpours it looks like the site and the car parks are well prepared and despite a cold day forecast for tomorrow more sunshine is on the way for the latter part of the week.

David Aaronovitch: Sunday

The journalist Jon Snow talked to fellow hack David Aaronovitch about his new book ‘The role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History’  …or rather he didn’t because Jon was a Snow-show (the  first time I’ve seen this happen in the best part of ten years visiting the festival).

Snow’s non-appearance, or more accurately very late arrival five minutes from the end, was partly what made the session so captivating.  Aaronovitch is both a great interviewer and a fine interviewee, and he combined the roles effortlessly and with great humour.  The show’s producer also demonstrated his comic flair cutting to Snow’s empty chair a couple of times when Aaronovitch set up a question for himself. 

Amongst all of this was the book.  Aaronovitch clearly outlined the role of the conspiracy theory in endorsing political agendas and how the impact of such a theory can become amplified by political regimes.  He talked in some depth about ‘the Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, how seriously it was taken by the mainstream media in the early 20th century and how it continues to be used as a weapon of propaganda.  The death of Diana, allegations of fake moon landings and the twin towers were all covered, although as Snow pointed out when he made a brief and witty entrance, no interrogation of the WMD debate that sent us to war in Iraq.  Perhaps Aaronovitch is already planning the sequel.