Bob Stanley and Mark Ellen

Bob Stanley and Mark Ellen talk about…Pop Music.

You know you’re in for a treat when there’s a record deck on stage and vinyl propped up against the table.

Bob is a journalist and one third of Saint Etienne.  He has written an 800 page book Yeah Yeah Yeah:The Story of Modern Pop. Mark is a journalist and TV presenter (Live Aid, Old Grey Whistle Test) and was the bass player in Tony Blair’s first band. He’s just published a book Rock Stars Stole my Life! A Big Bad Love Affair with Music.

We were treated to I’m in Love by Fats Domino, which got two ladies in the front row bopping, Hey Bulldog by The Beatles, All Day and All of the Night by the Kinks, Amateur Hour by Sparks and a Captain Beefheart track which I didn’t catch. You can’t beat the sound of the needle hitting vinyl.

Some great stories were told about Lady Gaga (she definitely is a woman), Van Morrison (two types of people, those who like Van Morrison and those who have met him), Mick Jagger (has laughter lines, but nothing can be that funny) and Paul McCartney visiting a pub in Harrold.

Great entertainment, and a really upbeat way to end our Hay.

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Patrick Barkham

Badgerlands. The twilight world of Britain’s most enigmatic animal.

Patrick Barkham spoke eloquently and even-handedly about the Badger. His grandmother, Jane Ratcliffe, was obsessed with badgers. She was a fervent campaigner for protection and also ran a rescue centre.

Whilst fairgrounds displayed “a monster badger which terrorised the district with its destruction of sheep & cattle” and badger baiting was (and still is) around, it took a banker writing Wind in the Willows for attitudes to begin to change and for the Brock, a Middle English slang name for badger, to get a fairer press.

In the course of research for the book, Patrick ate badger. A road kill chef created a stir fry with hoisin sauce from Asda – “Dense, chewy and unpleasantly strong.”  It repeated on Patrick all the way home from Bournemouth.

The polarisation over the cull was an issue for the country and society. Whilst it’s clear that the costs to cull Badgers were far higher than vaccination, and the target to cull 70% of Badgers wasn’t met, there isn’t a simple answer. There is a vaccination for cattle, but it is only 60% effective and vaccinated cattle can’t be exported to the EU.

 

The last weekend…

The last few days of the festival are always a little bit sad, with their ‘end of the party’ atmosphere. We’ve packed a fair bit in before we return to normality including three novelists who couldn’t be more different.  Ian McEwan,  returns to Hay to do his research with the audience, treating us to extracts from his new novel The Children Act, tackling the serious subjects of religion and family life.  Asked how much of him appears in his novels he replies ‘my fingerprints are all over all of my characters’.  The delightful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talked about her new novel, Americana, which explores the sense of self, truth and identity of a Nigerian living in America. The interview was deliciously flirty one, Ted Hodkinson is obviously an avid fan.

Helen Fielding revealed quite a bit of the Bridget Jones within, dropping her microphone pack twice and admitting she got Ibsen and Chekov confused, much to her embarrassment.  Her new novel, Mad about the Boy (spoiler alert) has killed off the lovely Darcy and finds Bridget five years down the line trying to rebuild her life.  The same themes come up, as Fielding reminds us that our characters do not really change over the years, despite the fact we have new roles as wives, mothers and so on – our childish and playful natures never really leave us.

For me, it was a week enriched by tales from the two world wars, my favourite novelists and poets, the discovery of new authors, getting to love red mud, the art of dressing in layers and meeting lots of lovely people in the queues and at the events – 2015 has been booked!

Musings of a Hay Festival volunteer steward

Hay Literary Festival 2014

Osvaldo Ardiles was introduced as being famous not only for football, but for being in a chart topping record. “I’m not singing”, he responded.

Two women brought tickets for Cherie Booth’s talk on her mothers career, and asked a steward if they could sit in the front row. “Are you big fans?” “No, we are going to stand up and walk out in protest as soon as she starts her talk”. And they did. I’ll bet she lost sleep over that.

Parking in muddy fields has been a challenge. I inadvertently splashed a child with mud in the @carparkathay. His dad wasn’t happy with me.

Queues started for Benedict Cumberbatch three hours before the event start time.

Queues for Bear Grylls were so large, they had to be directed onto the muddy grass. You would expect that someone keen to see the great explorer would not get too upset about some mud on their shoes.

Patrick Barkham on Badgers: “it isn’t a black & white issue”

Highlights for me:
Tapas black rice at Ibérica;
Sunday lunch @ The Groucho Hay;
The Bulls Head;
Lava bread & cockles at The Swan;
Meeting up with old friends;
Talking to so many nice people.

What have I learnt:
Bubble bum gas. It’s what comes out when you are tickled;
Handed a microphone, it helps if you talk into it;
How Suggs got his name;
Pippa Middleton’s bum has a tweetbot;
Geoff Hurst was on £60 a week in 1966;
People don’t read the information they are sent with their tickets or in the programme.

See you all again on Friday 22 May 2015!

Richard Eyre on Shakespeare

Richard Eyre

The theatre and film director Richard Eyre discusses Shakespeare’s History plays, and their role in our understanding of Britain’s identity.

“I’m going to free associate” he begins “rather than give an organised lecture”.  He’s a big fan of Henry IV Parts I and II but King Lear is his favourite because it’s the story of fatherhood.  Goethe said “every father is in some sense a King Lear”.  The relationships between fathers and their offspring are invariably central to Shakespeare’s history plays.  Eyre talks about his own Dorset upbringing where there was little artistic stimulation.  The nearest cinema was 12 miles away and his own parents did not encourage him to read.

Eyre’s free association moves on to the making of The Hollow Crown, the films he directed featuring Henry IV Parts I and II and executive produced for the BBC by Sam Mendes.  The audience at Hay was treated to a substantial excerpt.  “I wanted to run at that length because it demonstrates a lot of things that are important in translating from the theatre to film” said Eyre.  Part of the challenge is to honour the rythym and structure of the Shakespearian language with the more naturalistic requirements of film. Something that Eyre says requires great actors.  “We had a cast that it’s inconceivable that you could have in the theatre…every actor that I asked to be in it said yes”.

 

Steve Coogan and Stephen Frears talk to Alan Yentob

Coogan Yentob

Martin Sixsmith’s book Philomena has become an award-winning film by screenwriter and actor Steve Coogan and the director Stephen Frears. Alan Yentob begins by challenging the two of them as to the authenticity of the story as it appears on the screen.

Frears is happy to admit that parts of the story are invented and believes this makes the telling better. Coogan on the other hand fiercely defends the accuracy of the central tenets of the film. Coogan he was making Philomena and Alpha Papa the return of Alan Partridge at much the same time and it was a challenge. “Alan Partridge is a middle Englander, typical Daily Mail reader but he’s not a Ukip voter”.  Looking back at the early incarnations of the character Coogan finds him one-dimensional but believes that over 20 years he and Alan have become more and more alike “by the time I die we’ll be the same”.

Yentob moves on to talking about Rob Brydon and The Trip – the series were the two actors play versions of themselves exposing their genuine character flaws “we had an unwritten rule that we were allowed to push each others buttons”, but there were things that Coogan did not want included and would say “I’m not doing that in the middle of a  take”.  Coogan likes The Trip but not as much as others do.

Frears is responsible for an incredible catalogue of films; ‘The Grifters’, ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’, ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, ‘High Fidelity’ and going further back ‘If’ on which he was Assistant Director.  He tells Yentob that the breadth of films is because they had good writers and he took what he was offered “no-one encouraged me to be an auteur”.