Did The Telegraph Change the Hay Festival?

It was a controversial swap; the Torygraph replacing the Grauniad.  The January post on this blog asking “Will the Telegraph change the Hay Festival” was tweeted more and attracted more comments than any other post this blog has published.  Now the curtain has closed on the 2011 festival we can take a view ‘ex post’.  My view is; it did a bit.  The session with Stuart Rose and Digby Jones would have been quite different with a Guardian journalist in the chair.  Yet there was much in the classic Hay mould – Jon Ronson, liberal to the core for one.

Enough of my views, what do you think; plus ça change or plus c’est la même chose?

13 thoughts on “Did The Telegraph Change the Hay Festival?

  1. I spent 10 days there, off and on. The benefits o having in-laws from Hay!

    I think there was a difference. Some of the moderation from Telegraph journalist’s was weak. Little steer and dull.

    There was a strong liberalist voice as usual but the coverage in the paper wasn’t as sure footed as the Guardian became.

    I really liked the Hayley Paper idea, especially the inclusion of young people.

    Twitter was fun this year. I did find the pushing of the #hayfestival hash tag by the festival team as opposed to the #hay hashtag by the Telegraph Books section – a little schism?

    I’ve also enjoyed the mock moaning regarding the loss the Guardian. Surely they could set up a stand outside next year – they’d make a fortune!!!

    A good blog too – cheers!


  2. There were some memorable and thought-provoking events this year. For me highlights were Michael Wood and Mark Cocker for very different reasons. Did I notice a difference in emphasis? Not really. Let the books (and their authors) speak for themselves!

  3. I would agree with Gav that the Twitter idea was brilliant. My iPad guided me to some unexpected corners … and there were some productive dialogues.

  4. I was looking out for changes, and they may be subtle. I missed the slight edginess and even a bit of liberal smugness. I was there for the week from Saturday to Saturday and was aware that there seemed to be less politically based events. We mainly went for the philosophy and poetry events but I was looking out for talks on equality and green issues, of which there were some admittedly but fewer and less challenging than previous years. Polly Toynbee and Eric Hobsbawm were there, so all is not lost.
    There were times when it seemed to me that speakers were constrained in what they said so as not to offend the Telegraph sponsors.
    I worry how things will change further over the next couple of years.
    Is it true that the Telegraph sponsorship deal was £250,000 which compared with an off from the Guardian of £100,000? How can they compete when the Torygraph has so much larger distribution?
    We stayed at Wye Meadow campsite and were grateful that a local newsagent sold the Guardian on site over the weekends.

  5. There was a different fashion look this year. More fresh-faced and well scrubbed young Tories than before and the odd gent in burgundy cords with turn ups. The sponsor’s readership showed up.

    As for the agenda, never forget that John Bolton was invited here during the Guardian years. We must wait and see.

    Only when Peter does an A-Z with Louise Bagshawe will I think the game is up.

  6. I enjoyed Hay this year. Highlight must be Terry Jones (Monty Python legend) reading The Nice Bomb at Unbound and the discussion “Is small still beautiful?” wp.me/pZs5D-bY

    But I worry that Hay is now in danger of becoming YET ANOTHER media platform that has “political” boundaries and areas of discussion where you must not go. This was certainly evident in some of the reportage from the Telegraph.

    For a creative writer that’s like telling an explorer that s/he cant go into the jungle.

  7. The differences I noticed:
    1. I didn’t buy a newspaper at all;
    2. I didn’t add to our stockpile of cotton bags;
    3. There seemed to be russian/nazi inspired artwork on the telegraph bags;
    4. There were visitors who thought that they were at Ascot/Wimbledon/Lords/Henley;
    5. The Hayley Telegraph was a welcome addition, but I’d like to know what it’s carbon footprint was.

  8. It’s only my 3rd year so I can’t really tell. I thought some of the interviewers were dull. Half asleep even. I think there could be more opportunity to interact with authors etc. They zoom in and out so quickly. I don’t read the Telegraph. Let’s not be too ‘aren’t we good’.

  9. It could be I’m a little shortsighted, but I really didn’t notice very much difference at all except that it felt less like a love-in than usual. There were a lot more people about I think.

    I really missed Claire Armitstead and Ian Katz, but Sarah Crompton from the Telegraph was a discovery. I like the different styles of Hay regular interviewers – Nik Gowing’s always very aggressive, Rosie Boycott tentative and probing, Peter F always gives the impression that he’s just chatting with his mates – but he got Yvette Cooper and Geldof just as profoundly as the session with Monty Don last year. Wasn’t that Geldof ending extraordinary? Sarfraz Manzoor’s my favourite. Brilliant mind and so generous.

    The Telegraph coverage was pretty poor, but their pre-Hay promotion was extraordinary. The Guardian always sneered at Hay. They did that one great edition where they edited G2 live onstage for a day, but that was a few years ago.

    Telegraph bags – AWFUL.

    Telegraph deckchairs – AWFUL.

    Telegraph hi-tech zone – AMAZING. And run by nice people.

    It was VERY good to see George Monbiot back at Hay. That was a heavy session.

    I liked the Hayly, but it was a bit glossy, and the OH at Hay things read like they’d been made up!

  10. As a bit of a Hay veteran, I think it did feel slightly different in lots of subtle ways. I think that there’s a possible future challenge for childen’s publishers (and I am one), because I suspect that the Telegraph readership is older than The Guardian readership and less likely to have young families and, therefore, less likely to be interested in children’s events. But what I don’t think we know – well I don’t, anyway – is what the difference in the level of sponsorship support was. In the end, the festival needs to do what it thinks will be most likely to ensure that it continues and grows and I imagine that a big wallop of sponsorship money is necessary for that.

  11. The first year certainly had the more aesthetic changes most posters picked on. Unfortunately the change in the atmosphere in the second year of Telegraph sponsorship was far more marked. That paper’s demographic has completely altered the festival atmosphere. There is far more dissenting from the audiences over the liberal attitudes expressed by the performers. Overall it is a far less friendly festival in general than before. Shame

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