Not All Writers at Hay Shock!

Before I start I need to re-iterate that this is a completely unofficial blog with no line to toe or axe to grind.  Good that’s done.

Yesterday the headlines shouted and the social media channels tutted that David Goodhart the Director of Demos had been snubbed by the Hay Festival.  Call me old fashioned but this strikes me as a total non-story.  In essence the nub of the news story here is that ‘something hasn’t happened’ shock horror.  It may be a tad more abstruse than that.  Goodhart is a Hay regular, festival organiser Peter Florence possibly doesn’t much like his latest book, but that’s still not a story.  It’s a bit like saying Rihanna or Daft Punk have been snubbed by Glastonbury.   Festivals aren’t extensions of the democratic process (if they were David Goodhart still might not get the gig).  The line up is subjective, informed by the judgement and experience of the organisers, but their choice nevertheless.  If you create a festival it goes with the territory that you get to choose who to invite and the the market will tell you’ve if you got it right.

Imagine my surprise when it turns out that “the Mail’s Peter Hitchens won’t be making Hay” either this year (Guardian headline not mine).   So that’s it then the culture sections of the nationals have guaranteed space fillers for the last week in May every year.  Just find an author that isn’t speaking at Hay, there will always be at least one or two, and fill several column inches with indignant outpourings, job done.

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Hay Festival Tweets of the Day – Tuesday 28 May

@InterestingLit #OnThisDay in 1988, the first ever Hay Festival began at Hay-on-Wye. Events included readings by Carol Ann Duffy and Arnold Wesker

@trillingual Like David Goodhart, I haven’t been invited to speak at the Hay Festival either – a shocking attack on my free speech.

@danzyhowells Most of hay festival kitted out in hunters today. All colours. :)

@sarfrazmanzoor Overheard at @hayfestival yesterday: ‘My gout’s returned- I think it’s because of all that dancing at the party last night.’

@CeejaytheAuthor Am now at the point in my preparations for Hay Festival when I can’t remember for the life of me what my book is about.

@IrrepressyBecky could I get to the Hay festival within 45 minutes that’s the question

@dgp202 I want to win the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse award someday. Or I want to buy a pig. Whatever comes first really.

Max’s Hayfever events today

Here’s Max’s review of his day:

‘Today I went to see ‘Don’t Wipe Your Bum With A Hedgehog’ which was really funny. I also went to see Roger McGough who was good too, he’s a clever clogs. Next I went to see Derek Landy, the author of Skullduggery Pleasant and I tried to get his autograph but the queue was HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!’

Max’s review of yesterday

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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.”