@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.
My first Hay after years of wanting to go, now made possible by a friend and her daughter, and a rather beautiful yurt on the banks of the Wye.
I’m used to Glastonbury, a festival the size of Sunderland, so I was slightly surprised when we reached a small field about a mile out of town. I was expecting to see large pointy ‘circus’ tents, but instead found a vista of huge white marquees with interconnected tunnels, and open grassy quads in between. This was clearly a tried-and-tested system; apparently Hay often has terribly wet weather, so the covered areas are a necessity; this is a festival of people queuing for events, and no-one wants to do that in the peeing rain.
We arrived on the Thursday, the first day, and it was very quiet and very cold. The venue tents had not had time to warm up with hot bodies, and the sun had not been out long. Then whoosh! On Friday the sun came out, the stars were out and the stimulation levels had reached epic proportions; it had livened up considerably and by the Saturday, the place was buzzing.
They allow wine bottles and champagne flutes into Hay, something I have not seen at a festival in a long time, and there were people sat around sipping and reading. Reading, writing, thinking, discussing. Imagine what could happen with all that reading and thinking. It might lead to more thinking and more writing and more books, and more reading … what joy!
The sheer quality of the speakers was breath-taking, and it had been very hard to chose who to see. It was also quite intense and exhausting – on the Saturday I saw seven different speakers, with barely a break in between. Maybe too much, but I wanted to cram in as much as possible.
And all that talk of Connections. The theme cropped up at the very first lecture, and thread its way through my festival. Mick Collins urged us to connect with nature, the planet and our inner Self; the Bands tried to connect through music with the audience and judges during their Battle. Diaspora are by definition connected – and disconnected – from their homeland or original group; Henrietta Bowden-Jones connects science with art in her online exhibition of The Art of Science.
Shami Chakrabarti urged us to remain connected to each other through empathy; put yourself in the position of that refugee, and connect with their plight. AC Grayling encouraged us to read even more books, as therein lie connections to the past and other people’s experiences. Germaine Greer talked of connections between all women, across the generations, and David Brooks asked us to connect with our inner peace and calm, not money and power, and find our ‘eulogy self’, the self we will be remembered for when it’s all over for us.
Ian MacMillan connected us to each other by having us write a poem together, and we connected concealed lines together to make five-line nonsense poems, only to find many of them made perfect sense. And of course, the comedians connected us to our inner beings, each other and the absurd, by making us laugh at ourselves.
Hats off, then, to the organisers, who manage to get the cream of British and International thinking into a tiny field in a quaint old town in the middle of Wales every year. It’s taken me a long time to get there, but I’m certain it won’t be my last festival; I am connected to Hay now.
Victoria Hislop made her mark as a novelist with her story of a leper colony, ‘The Island’, in 2005 and is now promoting her fourth novel ‘The Sunrise’ at the Hay Festival. She disarmed the audience immediately when she expressed her surprise at the turnout in the Telegraph Tent as the Archers were at the BBC stage next door. In addition to her novels, Victoria is an experienced travel journalist, short story writer and has been involved in the development of the Greek television adaptation of ‘The Island’. She has also taken up a role as an ambassador for Lepra.
‘The Sunrise’ takes place in northern Cyprus in 1974 during the Turkish coup which divided Cyprus into 2 zones, the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot areas. The Sunrise in the title is a luxurious, almost vulgar, hotel situated in a seaside resort frequented by the jet-setters of the pre-separation era. The plot is a love story between two families, one Greek and the other Turkish, who are caught up in the conflict and end up taking shelter in the Sunrise hotel.
Victoria Hislop is a feminist (with a small ‘f’ she says) and loves to write about the impact of men’s decisions to go to war on the women caught up in the conflict. She has an in-depth knowledge of Greece and her people and her love of the country is obvious to the observer as she describes her travels there.
Victoria discussed the importance of music as she writes and states that she has one of the largest collections of Greek music of anyone in Britain. The woman herself has a gentle demeanour however expresses a wonderful sense of humour, intelligence and wit which made the session a pleasure to attend.
Alan Bennett was joined on the Hay stage by Nicholas Hytner, known for his work in the National Theatre, to preview and discuss their new film ‘The Lady in the Van’. The story is based on Alan’s memoirs of his relationship with Mrs. Shepherd, a homeless lady who lived in a van, moved onto his drive for three months and ended up staying there for 15 years. The memoirs became a successful play starring Maggie Smith and once again, she takes the lead in the film production.
The audience was treated to several clips of the film and judging by the roars of laughter, I think that anyone who goes to the cinema to see this film will not be disappointed. The film script was written once Maggie Smith agreed to take part in the film and she appears to embrace the role so wholeheartedly that you forget she is an actress playing a role. The film is narrated from two viewpoints of Alan Bennett, as the man who offers compassion to the woman and as the writer who observes and records the story.
The presentation was filled with humorous moments as both Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner described the reactions of the neighbours in the street of Camden where they filmed, how layers of filth were created, a weekend when two homeless men took up residency in the ‘prop’ van so that it had to be sanitized and refilled with sterile filth, and the determination of Mrs. Shepherd to form her own political party.
However, the main message of the evening was about humanity. Mr. Bennett observed this poor homeless woman being tormented on the street and that interfered with his creativity as a writer and so, he issued that invitation to move onto his drive. When he speaks about her, Alan Bennett uses words of respect and he was able to see beyond the dirty clothes and offensive smells. I discussed this presentation with a woman in the queue at the bookshop and she echoed my description of the sense of humanity that marked the presentation.
At the end of the hour Alan Bennett was presented with the Hay Festival Medal for Drama and the audience rose to their feet. He responded with a humorous story and left me wishing that the man who is Alan Bennett was a friend of mine.
Levison Wood was an Officer in the Parachute Regiment. He is the first person to walk the entire length of the river Nile, taking a year beginning in December 2013. He has written a book detailing the expedition called ‘Walking the Nile’.
He had a companion called Boston, an African former rebel soldier, and the expedition was filmed for a documentary series on Channel 4.
He begins by scotching myths of elegance on the banks of the Nile portrayed by Agatha Christie and others. He underlines this with an image of a Nile cruise boat rusting on a sand bank. The recent history of Nile cruising is all but over with the political and military instability in the region.
This was a gruelling venture through searing heat, inhospitable land and war zones.
In clips from the TV series we see Levison wrestling with tribesmen, rescuing a baby monkey from a bush fire and avoiding land mines in South Sudan. Having seen him pummelled by the feet of his nomadic companions on one leg of the trip, I’d recommend that you never ask a Bedouin for a massage.