Stephen Fry: Monday

Desmond Tutu is supposed to be the headline ‘act’ at this year’s Hay Festival but I’m not convinced that Stephen Fry is not the bigger draw.  Tickets were sold out weeks in advance and there was a real sense of anticipation on the site as the hour of his homage to America approached.

Fry did not disappoint.  He fulfilled the role of chat show guest to Festival founder Peter Florence’s genial host.  The session was richer in anecdote than in structure but no worse for that.   With the voice of Billy Wilder, Fry reported that Agatha Christie had been a poor writer of dialogue but in the mind of the great Director “plots like a fucking angel”.  We were told of the Kenyan view that ‘Obama’ could have been their first “white” president and heard tales of Alistair Cooke’s charm, generosity and brushes with Hitler and Bertrand Russell.

Stephen Fry is rapidly turning into a national treasure and it is events like this that will help to seal the deal.

Robin Ince: Sunday

His stand up show ‘Robin Ince’s One Man Book Club’ is perfect Hay fodder.  He ploughs through an eclectic collection of books scattered across the stage reading excerpts and describing why he loves, hates, or is amused, fascinated or intrigued by them.  There are women’s books ‘What Does God do When Women Pray’ (it turns out not quite as much)  to “proper man’s books….grrr” like ‘The Secrets of Picking Up Sexy Girls’.

Free flowing, fast moving and clearly partly improvised Ince wrenched real belly laughter from the audience.  This is truly original stuff and whilst it fits the Festival perfectly you wouldn’t need to have literary leaning to appreciate Robin’s take of the sometimes bizarre nature of books.