Wifi, Hay and The Twitterati

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.

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10 thoughts on “Wifi, Hay and The Twitterati

  1. I think the people of Hay would like wifi or even a basic 3G signal for the whole year round let alone just at festival time!
    With regards to tweeting at festivals – well I think it helps spread the word and as long as its not interfering with people’s enjoyment then why not!

  2. I agree with Clair, but free wifi is a must surely? Especially with the likes of Barclays as sponsors, surely they could dip in and help us out? I tweeted O2 to moan (again) about the lack of 3G on site, despite a new mast (so locals tell me). Miraculously there was 3G signal the following day…..

  3. I was surprised by the poor quality of communications at the festival, coming from a rural location, I was expecting to be awash with electronic abilty, but found phone use difficult never mind wifi with insufficent band width. Esp as stated sponsors like sky who are always trying to promote wifi etc. But still word of mouth is fun sometimes.

  4. As someone who can’t get to Hay, but has to survive on the Sky Arts and BBC Radio4 coverage I really enjoy the Twitter feeds. And when people I follow on Twitter like Caitlin Moran are appearing I expect them to tweet.

    Well done the benefactor I say, and shame on you Telegraph.

  5. The communications were patchy to say the least – none of the major phone networks seemed to have enough bandwith and the wifi, whilst far better than mobile data, was far from you would want or expect.

    Did it damage the experience? No – it was mildly frustrating at times that I could not do what I have become accustomed to doing day in day out – but I was there to be enlightened and listen.

    I would have tweeted had I had better data connections, but upon reflection I am not sure that would have improved my experience at all. Would I have been as focused, had I been regurgitating on Twitter? Would I have been distracted by the discussions to be had through Twitter. Probably.

    In future I shall no doubt find out. This time I had a fantastic time yet again. I adore the Hay Festival and shall no doubt continue to do so when proper high speed large bandwith wifi does eventually appear!

  6. I guess that I’m in a minority, but I really dislike people constantly tweeting from events (during the event). Sitting next to someone constantly thumping away at their iPad is distracting and worse still, when speakers themselves are tweeting during a debate it is quite clear that they aren’t paying attention to the rest of the panel. I’ve occasionally seen it put to good use when you can tweet questions to the person chairing.

    There is a place for it, but, I’d prefer it if Hay had one of the ushers live blogging/tweeting to one side (for those who can’t make it). I still think better WiFi/mobile coverage would certainly be good as it would help you to catch up between sessions.

  7. In this day and age I think a decent phone signal and wifi are the least one can expect. I agree with others that when you’re not at the Festival it’s fun to read others’ tweets from the various events, and when you’re there it’s nice to be able to tweet about it to your followers. Obviously, you should be considerate towards others when using phones or tablets in these situations.

  8. As someone who has been part of the Telegraph team since we started our sponsorship four years ago, I should point out we have nothing to do with the programming of the festival, so anything to do with the perceived tradition of its character is to do with its organisers not with its sponsors.
    Our aim has been to increase tweeting and electronic coverage as much as is feasibly possible given the technological limitations. We believe that people who aren’t there still want to be part of this major event. That’s why we devote so much effort to comprehensive coverage.
    Follow us on telegraph.co.uk if you share that view.

  9. Netitude of Frome are providing the 2014 Wifi coverage for Hay with four simultaneous satellite channels and sufficient capacity for most needs except live streaming. Enjoy

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