There is much in the media about Hay, two major news organisations The Guardian and Sky pitch up in the encampment and there is no shortage of coverage of the literary, political, musical and intellectual goings on. Like all festivals however there is much more to the experience.
A 10 minute walk from the site is the market town with its odd cafes and second hand book shops. On site there is Pembertons, the tented book shop, home to the serial book signings and a sure fire celebrity spot shop. in fact the artists mix with the crowd. Monty Don and Roy Hattersley have strolled past. The Guardian’s John Harris was on the grass letting his young son play with his blackberry a short while ago. You can sometimes spot them with the white roses that tradition dictates they all receive at the end of their sessions. In the sunshine there is always a queue for the sheep’s milk ice cream. There are always hordes milling around the site filling time between sessions, reading, talking or like me legs crossed, blogging on the grass.
Earlier this week I took in Hitchens P. I disagree with his politics, his faith and I thought most else, but in many ways this session was a revelation. Peter Hitchens can actually be very funny, something he obliquely acknowledged with the post ironic words “famously, I have no sense of humour”.
Though Hitchens more or less accepted that this polemic had been written for and in direct opposition to his brother’s ‘God is Not Great’, he was surprisingly persuasive about the value of Christian morality in positively shaping the laws of a nation. He postulated on the many challenges facing religion, the fact that most intelligent people follow the path of atheism at some point (twelve was his age of choice) and that for young parents Christianity was simply an obstacle to choosing the right school.
Hitchens was adamant that there had been no conversion and it seemed that his individual brand of Christianity was an intellectual and moral choice rather than something founded in faith or devotion. When it was put to him by a member of the audience that his recent religious adoption was more about selling books, Peter engaged in some vigorous debate before ending with pure a Hitchens riposte, “that’s an ad hominem smear of the lowest order and you demean yourself by making it”.