Front Row asks the question “Do we publish too many books?” In front of a live audience,the panel discuss some of the pressing issues that face the publsihing industry today: has the emergence of digital books diluted the quality and undermined the value of books? Is self publishing a route to new and exciting authors or a path to derivative mediocrity? With Philip Jones editor of The Bookseller, Crystal Mahey-Morgan of Zed Books, Alexandra Pringle, group editor in chief of Bloomsbury and Ali Sparks author of 41 books for children.
On the final day of the 2015 Hay Festival, Alex Salmond the former leader of the SNP and newly elected Westminster MP talks to Helena Kennedy QC the barrister, broadcaster, and Labour member of the House of Lords. Salmond is here to discuss the inside story of the campaign for Scottish independence, in his diary, ‘The Dream Shall Never Die: 100 Days That Changed Scotland Forever’.
Kennedy asks how he became a campaigning Scottish Nationalist. At St Andrews university he had girlfriend who was secretary of the Labour Club and they used to fight about politics. One day she said; “if you feel like that go and join the bloody SNP” and he did the very next day. In those days you couldn’t join on a website. Salmond hitchhiked to Dundee to join the party, only to be given an address in St Andrews where he had just come from.
Salmond managed to get the referendum phrased with ‘Yes’ for leaving the UK and he acknowledges that this was in his favour. He also managed to get Cameron to agree to his agenda on the timing. How did he persuade Cameron asks Kennedy. “Well, he’s not very bright, you see.”
In the Scottish referendum people got drawn into the political process and it made them better people says Salmond, 98% of the population registered to vote. He tells a story of people registering to vote for the first time since they opposed the poll tax. “Hundreds of thousands of people who had never given a stuff about politics or politicians were determined to exercise their democratic franchise. That’s what happened to lots of people in the referendum campaign and that’s what dictated the result of the general election campaign in Scotland.
One of the downsides of leaving Hay is realising all the good stuff you are missing. Last year I had to leave before Toni Morrison, this year before my favourite author David Mitchell. Although I saw him in Oxford last year, it would have been marvellous to be at his talk, particularly because Crispin Hershey, one of my favourite characters in ‘The Bone Clocks’, has a memorable trip to Hay.
So it was a thrill this morning to see this tweet as I was doing the accounts:
@CrispinHershey: Okay you win, Publicity Girl: Hershey is Tweeting his way into Modern World. Happy now?
What followed was total joy, as Hershey’s tweets were by degrees contemptuous, deluded, arrogant and hysterically funny, perfectly capturing his character. Mitchell added to the fun by tweeting that he was sitting opposite Hershey, which resulted in a typically self-aggrandising comment from his fictional creation. And much to my delight, Hershey favourited my tweet that I’d rather see the writer Holly Sykes (the heroine of the‘The Bone Clocks’) which made my morning.
I might not be at Hay anymore, and I have missed out on seeing my favourite author in the flesh, but interacting with his alter-ego on social media has been quite a consolation prize. It certainly beat doing the accounts.
David Mitchell was on The Starlight Stage last night, along with Tiffany Murray, reading from his next book ‘ Slade House’ which itself emerged from an excellent twitter story.
If you’ve been following the Hay Festival on social media but can’t get there, you van still enjoy the experience live on the BBC iPlayer. BBC Arts Online has been broadcasting selected live streams of some of the events at this year’s festival as they did for the first time last year. The on-line broadcasts can be watched on the BBC Arts site where they’ll remain for 30 days. Here’s tonight’s schedule:
At 7pm this evening Dan & Peter Snow discuss the Battle of Waterloo and tell the story of Napoleon’s 100 Days Campaign, from his Elba escape to his Waterloo defeat. Then at 8.30pm Neil Gaiman talks to Claire Armitstead. The prolific creator of books, comics, films and songs talks about his work and pays tribute to his friend Terry Pratchett, who died in March.
@Hullbhoy Over my dead body. “Hull may not exist in 100 years.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/11633092/Will-Hull-still-exist-in-100-years-Planners-warn-east-coast-residents-may-need-to-move.html …
@JonathanMeres Chuffed to have @TheUnthanks as my walk on music today at
#HayFestival but gutted that I missed the opportunity to see them last night #Doh
Our fifth Hay has come to an end and I am struggling with my re-entry to normal life, as I do every year. I wistfully look to Twitter and Facebook, see I’ve missed Alan Bennett and long to be back. I’ll get over it by tomorrow, but tonight I’m feeling bereft.
Each time we come to Hay, I have a worry it won’t quite meet expectations. Each time I leave thinking I needn’t have worried. This year was no exception. As usual, we camped at the fabulous Wye Meadow campsite, opposite the festival site. Run by four siblings, it has excellent facilities, and a warm welcome. We’re gutted that the Brown family who’ve looked after us so well are giving it up next year, but are hoping someone well else will take it on. After last year’s mudfest, I’m glad their last year has been sunny.
I went to some great talks and loved blogging about them. Sitting in the press room was a fascinating experience as I watched the real journalists rushing in and out to events. Boy they work hard – onsite for hours running from one talk to another, chasing interviews and then filing copy. I found it a challenge taking notes, writing up, self editing and grappling with wifi to get my articles out and I was only posting once or twice a day. They were writing several, often having to mug up on writers they knew nothing about. Extremely impressive.
I always come with my three kids, who are total bookworms. They love Hay because everyone reads and authors are huge celebrities. Beth had to go early because she’s doing GCSEs but she enjoyed Sarah J Maas, Simon Singh, and discovering a spooky antique shop in Hay-on-Wye. Claire had wondered whether it would be so good this year, and then discovered a whole load of new authors she can’t wait to read. Jonathan found a new favourite writer – Frank Cottrell-Boyce – enjoyed writing his first blog about the talk and was thrilled when Cottrell-Boyce retweeted it. It was fun camping with our friends Zoe and Mati, hearing about each other’s events, chatting over hot chocolate, watching the sunset, and the stars rise above us on a cold clear night.
For once (and despite David Mitchell predicting it in ‘The Bone Clocks’) it didn’t rain. It was a little chilly on occasion, but a revelation to be able to sit in the courtyards enjoying the sunshine. Simon Armitage walked passed me at the entrance. Simon Armitage! (Only a poet could make me swoon). I met Simon Singh, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Non Pratt, Louise O’Neill who were all lovely. I didn’t manage to interview Jessie Burton, but really enjoyed my conversation with Chris Woods, whose insights into war reporting were fascinating.
I’ve been following Making Hay for a while now, so I’ve really appreciated having the chance to blog this year, and enjoyed the reviews of my fellow bloggers. I highly recommend it as a way of catching up on the experience. And if you’re heading to Hay yourself, it looks like the weather’s holding, and there are still plenty of goodies to come. Hope you have a blast.
See you next year.
By Virginia and Jonathan
I didn’t get to any more events, but Jonathan had one last gig – Frank Cottrell Boyce. Given that the children’s programme is one of the main reasons we come (and has meant the kids have seen some fabulous author over the years) I thought it was time to hear from a 12 year old.
So over to you Jonathan:
He started off by asking what happened on our first day of primary school. He asked a few people – one hurt their head, one fell in a water fountain – but his experience was by far the worst. The weekend before he started he’d been introduced to Dr Who and the Daleks. Boyce was wearing a bow tie(which was unusual) and he didn’t want to go in as people were laughing at him. His teacher was an Irish nun with a long wimple and a dress that went down to her feet. It was a dark blue and she was stretching out her arm to reach him and his first thought was ‘Oh my God, there’s a small blue Irish Dalek coming after me!”
He then read from his latest (and in my opinion greatest) book ‘The Astounding Broccoli Boy’. It was very funny. He read one chapter in which two boys, who have turned green, manage to get out of the hospital thanks to a window cleaner’s cot. And in a stunning turn of events the main character, Rory Rooney, drives a bin lorry through the centre of London.
After that he went to some questions. After several, he was asked if he was going to write a sequel to one of his books ‘Cosmic’ . He said he would like to, and as an afterthought read the first few paragraphs from ‘Cosmic’. ‘Cosmic’ is about a twelve year old boy called Liam Digby who is very tall, so tall that some people even think he’s a grown up. After telling a few fibs he ends up being shown in assembly as the new head of media studies. And all sorts of trouble occurs.
Frank Cottrell Boyce, is in my opinion, one of the funniest authors ever, and this was the best talk I’ve seen this year at the Hay Festival.