It’s seems that this year more than ever people are tweeting from and about the Hay Festival. For me this is a fabulous thing, not least because this year I’m not there. There has been tweeting from Hay for several years but the volume and number of people tweeting seems to have increased significantly.
Social media and the Hay Festival may not be most comfortable of bedfellows. There’s the location to start with. Phone signals are poor and the site is “several mountains away from the nearest fibre-optic cabling” so the wifi has never been particularly reliable. It’s fairly difficult to use social channels if you can’t connect in the first place. Robin Lustig the journalist and radio broadcaster described the Hay Festival this week as a “digital black hole”.
The Festival has a very traditional flavour, maybe even more so since the Telegraph became the headline sponsor. There are those that think tweeting from an event is a little ‘infra dig’. I’ve experienced several looks askance from fellow audience members in the past when I’ve been tweeting from events. Tweeting and texting look pretty much the same and one Hay-goer posted this week if “Simon Schama keeps texting during other writers interviews gonna chuck a well-aimed Malteser at him”.
There is no doubt that social media can create enormous buzz around an event and publishers and authors have been embracing its potential. Some also enjoy the freedom of being “off-line”. So which is it to be?
It’s an important question. The wifi was only free this year through the intervention of a benefactor (for the first time it was being charged out at £5 a day at the start of the Festival).
I’d be interested in your thoughts – should the wifi at Hay be as vital and free as the fresh country air or should the Festival be liberated from digital distractions. Your comments please.