There are certain experiences that are exclusive to Hay. Settling down to watch Tina Brown, the legendary journalist and editor, Harold Evans (who also happens to be Mr Tina Brown) sat down in front of me, their son grabbed the seat next to me with his sister in front. James Naughtie then strolled past and shook Harry’s hand before re-emerging on stage in the role of William Boot.
Watching one of the world’s greatest live interviewers in full flow is pleasure enough but when the interviewee is someone with the experience, intelligence and foresight of Tina Brown then it is an hour to be cherished. Nothing disappointed. The journalist, author of The Diana Chronicles, and former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker was there in the main to talk about ‘The Daily Beast’ her online news and opinion site. As a digital immigrant, as her husband’s nemesis Rupert Murdoch might have put it, she is fluent in the language. Though on the subject of News International she cast doubt over the current pay wall experiment because of the fact that newspapers have for so long allowed their content to be consumed for free. “The horse has bolted”.
Brown is a genuine champion of online. The web she says gives writers the direct feedback that print never offered “there is nothing worse for writers than cranking it out and getting no response”. She is also an Apple fan girl or mores specifically an iPad advocate “it’s really seductive and magical. It’s a Harry Potter device”. Brown also made the case for the iPad changing the way that news is consumed and produced; resurrecting elements of the art “the iPad will be terrific for narrative journalism.”
The iPad is on order and ‘The Daily Beast” will be added to my favourites.
The crowds descended upon the Hay Festival site in what will be the busiest Bank Holiday weekend in the twenty three year history of the festival. Two and a half thousand more people attended on Saturday than on any previous day and the sunshine brought even more people on Sunday.
The Hay Festival site is truly wonderful when bathed in sunshine. After several heavy downpours yesterday the clouds opened this morning and the heavens smiled. The forecast for the rest of the week is one of steady improvement. We’ll keep the weather reports posted on this blog (top right) but fingers are crossed that we will be blessed by sunshine and clemency.
This morning, during the Sky News broadcast of Sunday Live, Christopher Hitchens made what must be quote of the day. It was uttered in response to the assertion made by a member of the audience that the Taliban might have welcolmed the invasion and handed over Bin Laden if they had known a restructure of Afghanistan was on offer.
“The suggestion… has some way to go before it could be considered naiive” opined the great ‘Hitch’.
This had to be one of the most unlikely pairings on offer at Hay this year. It was clear from the outset however that Hall was an aficionado of de Botton’s oeuvre and she challenged him on the nature of the philosophy he espouses. He readily confessed that populist insight and interpretation rather than academic philosophy was the furrow that he chooses to plough, a furrow he followed unswervingly for the next 45 minutes.
There is no doubt that de Botton is a vastly intelligent man who thinks very deeply but he wants us to know that, something he underscored by discussing his intellectual disappointment with Cambridge University. Apart from a series of scripted questions Hall left the stage to de Botton who treated us to a a stream of self conscious sound bites. For example he is clearly aware that you catch people’s attention if you mention pornography which he did twice, first in relation to self help books, which are regarded as a lower form, and then to social media which is apparently a bit like pornography (a similarity which as a blogger and tweeter has so far passed me by). He told us that his parents were very intelligent people who were psychologically disturbed, happiness is a state which washes over us and lasts about ten minutes and that he uses Paxman on Newsnight as a way of getting off to sleep.
Alain de Botton is a master at holding the attention of an audience but this session was broad rather than deep, a little like the Chinese banquet with a profusion of dishes that still leaves you at the end, feeling a just a little bit hungry.
According to staff at the box office today (Saturday 29th May) has been the busiest day ever in the 23 year history of the Hay Festival. It’s not hard to believe as the site set in fields a short walk from the town is heaving.
A couple of heavy downpours have meant that the tents housing cafes, bars and dining venues are packed out. The de rigour festival wellies are also out in force. Happily the forecast for tomorrow is dry and sunny, which begs the question; will the crowds tomorrow be even greater?
It may not have turned out to be the social media election but it may be the year when social media enters the mainstream at the Hay Festival. We were blogging and tweeting last year but there are simply more doing the same in 2010 and we are not alone. ‘Mostly Reading YA‘ will be there, blogging and tweeting, Cambridge at Hay has a blog, and the twittersphere is alive with comments about the events. That’s why we have created a directory of speakers who are on twitter. We need your help though – speakers especially. Message @Making_Hay, and we’ll add you to the list.