Sitting just on the Welsh side of the border with England, Hay 0n Wye is a small town of just 1500 population. Come the https://www.hayfestival.com/programme-quick-view.aspx?SectionFilterID=495&pview=0 Hay on Wye Literary Festival every summer since 1988, up to 250,000 people visit over a 10-day period. This year we were two of that horde.
The festival occupies a field site about a mile out of town. It is the largest tented area ever seen with raised walkways to avoid the muddy field. There are 10 auditoria hosting parallel sessions, 2 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon and 2 more in the evening. You can start your morning early with a Yoga session but most of us arrived for events at 10 o’clock.
There are activity areas for children; writing, drawing and craftwork, grassy hanging-out areas and several ice cream counters. A large food tent offered everything from burgers, pizzas, paella, squid and chips, Greek halloumi to Thai curries which seemed to be the most popular. However, it was all equally dull but provided filling.
For good food, you must go into the town where there are pubs, cafes and second-hand bookshops in equal number. If you want a grocer or a chemist, I do not know what you do.
We arrived at lunchtime in a desperate rainstorm as only Wales can have. Parking was well organised and we got a downward sloping slot in case it got too muddy to drive up a slope. With raingear, umbrella and boots I made off into the tents for a talk Peacemaking and Justice, What’s the Law got to do with it? given by Sarah Nouever.
Brenda made her way to hear David Olusoga talk about how Black British people tend to be ignored or written out of history.
Among the well-known personalities, there were Margaret Atwood, Simon Sharma, Michael Morpurgo, Salman Rushdie, Ruby Wax, Wendy Cope, Maggie O’Farrell and Brian O’Dara. Katlyn Adler hosted a very good discussion with Paul Garuana Galitzia whose mother was murdered by a government planted car bomb in Malta. There was an amusing discussion on Kleptoscope Nigeria between Chibundu Onuzo and Oliver Bullough.
I attended talks on How Democracy Ends and Thinking the Unthinkable by David Runciman and Nic Gowing respectively. There was a BBC tent running different shows throughout the days. I attended one which discussed Asians in English literature. I don’t suppose anyone heard my contribution.
A remarkable story of publishing related how the copper plate engravings of plants made by Joseph Banks after his voyage of discovery with Cook lay in the Natural History Museum for 200 years before being printed. Copies can be obtained in the large bookshop tent where authors were busy signing their works.
For children, there were illustrated talks on Dinosaurs, Dragons and Massive Monsters and then a few events for Welsh speakers. There were a scattering of musical events among all the literary stuff to break the mould.
We had a fascinating but exhausting 3 days. I was refreshed by an occasional hour in one of the beer tents. The price of beer prevented any unruly behaviour. There is still time to go, conference goes on until Sunday, June 3rd.