Max’s review of yesterday


Yesterday Max went to see author and illustrator Jim Smith, then he attended the pop vocal coaching session. Here is his review:

‘On Monday I went to see Carrie and David Grant. They were doing pop vocal coaching, which  was good but aimed for younger people.
I also went to see Jim Smith author of I am (not) a Loser which was excellent because he told us how to draw Barry Loser here is some of my work 😎’ (see picture above)

Hay Festival Tweets of the Day – Monday

@MartinChilton  @simonmontefiore tells @hayfestival that #Stalin mum gave ‘Hello-style interviews to Russian press which horribly embarrassed the dictator’
@MissHClose  Best audience question so far @hayfestival, asked of Pixar’s Bobette Buster: “So what do you actually do?” #hay13
@Beaconsgirl  Overheard at #hayfestival ‘half the people here look like they got dressed in the dark’ – but surely crumpled linen is the literati look!
@JesseKAdler That’s it for me, I’m Hayed out. Mind blow, slightly tanned, booked in for next year :) Bye #hayfestival #hay13
@CastleJohnF I love @hayfestival. You can ask a stranger what they’re reading and they don’t look at you like you’re an alien!
@kathycumming  Overheard at #hayfestival Part 5) “these are the most inorganic organic sausages I’ve ever eaten”

@HerbieHerb  At #hayfestival among the guardianistas she sometimes wanted (insecurely) #Pernod & black instead of #Pims just once. #micropoetry

Jack Straw talks to Peter Florence

Jack Straw, who spent 13 years at the heart of the New Labour government, as both Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary, has published his memoirs; Last Man Standing.

Straw recalls memories of his parents mis-matched marriage, the arguments and poverty that led him to ask them to send him to boarding school (after reading about such possibilities in novels about middle-class families).  Politics was the only thing his parents agreed on, and his socialist beliefs were inspired by his father, a conscientious objector during WWI. Reading from an early age fed his aspirations.

At Leeds University he became president of the NUS, qualified and worked as a lawyer. He then worked for Barbara Castle and Peter Shaw in the Labour government of the 70’s before becoming an MP himself.  Asked the key to being a successful minister, he advises “be clear about what you want to do. The Civil Service is not the enemy, they are the means by which you can deliver. Work hard and apply yourself, and with a bit of luck provide inspiration.

There was much discussion about his conflicts with John Smith over his wish to amend clause 4, and we heard how Smith ranted at him for about an hour.  He agreed principle to the amendments but thought it was not the right time to make them.  Straw has made controversial comments about John Smith and his reliance on alcohol in his book, something he stands by.

Florence pressed Straw on the war on Iraq and defending his position Straw challenged Hans Blix’s version of events.

When asked about his proudest achievements in politics Straw answers that getting an inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence murder was one, his work on race relations and also the improvements to how people on society treat one another.

Edna O’Brien talks to Lee Brackstone

I must confess to (shock horror) not being too aware of the works of Edna O’Brien before yesterday’s session. I went along because I knew she was a hugely popular writer, and I love to hear her speak.

It’s was a bit of a revelation, listening to her talk about her harsh childhood, her disastrous marriage, and subsequent exile to London. She admits to being “more serious about the truth as I reach my eighties”.  She read us a passage from her memoirs, Country Girl, an evocative account of her earliest memories as a young girl in the house where she grew up.  When reading, Edna O’Brien always wants to “enter into the mind and soul of the writer – and I want my readers to experience the same”.

Following her literary exile to London, after Ireland banned her books, she told us how it was seen as a direct betrayal of her people back home, and how difficult it was to be writing away from the sources that inform her stories. Such is her urge to write, she concludes, “if I could not write, I think I would go mad.”
Turning from the sadder episodes in her life, she spoke of the infamous parties she held at her house in London, a world away from her early years.
When asked for advice from an aspiring writer in the audience, she said: “keep reading great things, memorise what you read, be hard on yourself.  In other words, it requires the dedication of a Samurai, set yourself high standards.”

John Banville talks to Rosie Goldsmith

Booker prize winner John Banville talks to Rosie Goldsmith about his new novel Ancient Light. He tells us a little bit about his early life in Dublin, and how he still loves the light and climate. When asked about his actual writing process, Banville confesses that he “writes as if in a dream”.

We were treated to a reading from Ancient Light, a passage about grief and memory. It is about “why the past is so precious and so vivid”, Banville is clearly fascinated how we feed off of our pasts; “I always try to get to the essence of things” he says. Benjamin Black, he admits, is probably his own ‘dark half’ and his Banville novels are “all versions of me”.

On the time it takes to write his novels; “Benjamin Black takes 3-4 months, Banville, probably 3-4 years.”‘ He hopes, and believes however, that each novel is equally skilfully crafted, and honest.

He confesses a need to write the Banville novels with a fountain pen, which is then transferred onto a screen, whereas Black’s novels are typed straight onto a screen. It’s all to do with the speed of the thinking process for each type of novel, he says.

You can’t help but warm to a man who confesses how he loves female humour, and how they can ‘undo’ men with their tender humour, as he puts it. The Quirke mystery novels by Black are being adapted for a BBC One series, and as he said this his phone rang – “it’s Hollywood!” he joked.  It’s clear he has an immense love of language and its ambiguities.

Hay Festival Tweets of the Day – Sunday

@nurturinglife  Amusing that so many journalists actually paid for tickets after the free allocation was snapped up #Bernstein

@beth_bate  Dad’s review of @marcusbrig: “Better than I thought he’d be.” That translates as: “Very good indeed and I liked his braces.”

@Kit_Chapman @acgrayling on God at #hayfestival today: “Most of us want to believe, think we believe. Those who actually believe are dangerous”.
@sarahchurchwell Wonderful talk from Hans Blix @hayfestival. On our responsibility in Iraq: “If you break the pot, you own it.”
@henrymackley Are there any beardie hipsters left in east London this weekend, or are they all at @hayfestival ?
@kathycumming Jon Snow rocking double olive corduroy @hayfestival
@MartinChilton Football talk in #Hayfestival Telegraph Tent with @henrywinter – visitor says he once saw #ArseneWenger in Sardinia wearing budgie smugglers
@BoldOmi Woman in front of me in the queue for Colm Toibin has 2 bow and arrow sets. Hope she’s not an aggrieved reviewee. #hayfestival
@discojunk  I once met Ian McEwan at the #hayfestival I was pregnant and he signed ‘child in time’ to unborn baby, love that book

The Etherington Brothers and Eric Schmidt

A quick review from ten year old Max on his weekend at the festival :

‘On Saturday I went to see the Etherington Brothers, they were really funny and were really good. Also on Saturday I went to see Eric Schmidt and he told me all about a little micro chip which you swallow (I want one!) On Sunday I went to see ‘What is Contemporary Art?’ and I learnt a lot and got their autograph and their book.’

Check back here later for more reviews of yesterday’s events and possibly another word or two from Max! 


Audrey Niffenegger talks to Sarah Crompton

Audrey Niffenegger, probably best known for her novel The Time Traveller’s Wife, tells us all about her other life as a graphic novelist, artist and professor of art – which has recently resulted in her recent work, The Raven Girl, being transformed into a ballet by Wayne McGregor. 

She had always carried the character of Raven Girl around in her head, and the novel/ballet she tells us is a ‘transformation fairy tale’, where the girl believes she is part raven and wishes to become one. Fairy tales, as we know, are where belief is suspended, no characters are ever surprised about anything that happens, a bit like a dream according to Niffenegger. 
She also described the intricate and time consuming process of creating a graphic novel, and tells us how her illustrations are there to add an extra dimension to the story, rather than to reflect the actual narrative on the page. It’s hard to imagine how this could be turned into a ballet, but she told us how she was amazed at what McGregor has managed to achieve. The music was composed by Gabriel Yared, who won an Oscar for the score of The English Patient. 
We were then treated to an insight into her new book, which had been put on the back burner for a few years while The Raven Girl being created; The Chinchilla Girl in Exile. The story of a girl who has a condition which means her body is covered in hair, and instead of being an outsider, is revered by her village. It explores the relationships she has with two childhood friends, Sylvie (who believes she is half fairy) and Max who is an ordinary boy who will grow up to be an artist. 
Niffenegger’s novels always have a very creative and unusual dimension, Sarah Crompton observed, we look forward to the ballet and the new novel! 

Packing it all in….

It’s always the same at Hay, the first day on tour. Somehow I always manage to have far too many events to see, with barely a moment to fit in a comfort break, grab a sandwich or even have time to write up reviews of my events which is what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s all part of the excitement of being here at Hay for another year of seeing authors, commentators, comedians and musicians to name but a few. There is something here for everyone! 
Melvyn Bragg talked about his new book Grace and Mary, drawing parallels with his own family life; old friends Hugh Dennis and Marcus Brigstock chatted about who had the most ‘normal’ school before Hugh told us about his new book, Britty Britty Bang Bang. In it he muses on a post Olympic and post Jubilee Britain: ‘this is brilliant’ ‘this is fantastic’ ‘who is that?’and ‘did we do that?’ it was then a quick dash to see twitter queen and women’s champion Caitlin Moran, who talks at the speed of a runaway train, so I could not do her justice here by trying to review her slot. Suffice to say, her book How to be a Woman is now on my reading list. 
Phill Jupitus was off the wall in his new show, masquerading as a German Submarine captain who died in 1945, projected into the future to talk to us about his life. After an audible murmur from the audience (should we really be laughing about this, is it ok?) questions were plentiful, the answers suitable random and funny. A show in two parts, the second consisted of a hologram (!) in the form of Phillip Jupitus who dies in 2052 and is projected back to us to reflect on his life – this was a unique and very funny show, a world away from his Live at the Apollo set, relying heavily on improvisation. 
We then hurried over to see KT Tunstall perform songs from her new album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a voice with such haunting clarity and perfect tone, her new songs are quite beautiful. The biggest cheer of the night went to the upbeat number, Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. Her new album is now on my shopping list, I think she gained many new fans tonight.

Hay Festival Tweets of the Day – Saturday

@ThomRobinson Man to his wife in Morrisons: “Well you won’t find tarragon here.” #hayfestival
@nicola_blunders Didn’t go to Caitlin Moran. Had a Jack Daniels instead.

@Hannah_Furness Lovely line from @indiaknight with @mariellaf1 at #HayFestival today: “I approve of appetite for all things.”

@gazpachodragon I’m so very in love with #hayfestival. It’s like another world. A cleverer, quainter, more hopeful world.

@naomidoerge Casual sighting of Hugh Dennis, restrained myself from begging him to ‘SAY SOMETHING FUNNY’

@simonmayo Arriving at @hayfestival everyone asked to check in their Guardian for a complimentary Telegraph.
Some respect must go to Jesse Norman for actually re-tweeting the following:
@kathycumming And finally, after Day 1 at #hayfestival I can conclude that Jesse Norman MP is a complete prat
And quote of the day must surely go to Will Self describing Boris Johnson

He’s an enigma wrapped in a whoopee cushion

Any favourites that you saw which we’ve missed?