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.
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!!!!!!!!!!!’
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)
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.”