The weekend before last I went to Hay Festival: a literary festival held in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. Despite it being established 27 years ago and involving some extremely well-known personas, such as Stephen Fry and Neil Gaimon, the site is remarkably small (although very well laid out). It is also a lot more civilised than ‘traditional’ music festivals and has relatively easy access, including for wheelchairs. (I know this from personal experience due to my broken leg, which has confined me to crutches, and a wheelchair for long days out.)
I went with my boyfriend and we had bought tickets for various talks throughout the two days we were there, all of which were extremely interesting!
Our first session was with Edith Hall (a professor of classics and writer), speaking about ancient Greek civilisation. It was especially engaging for me because I already knew background to what she was saying from my trip to Greece (which I wrote about here), as well as my GCSE history course from over two years ago.
Our second session was a discussion with Germaine Greer. Prior to the event, I had extremely limited knowledge about her; the talk involved aspects of her more personal life (such as her personal project to regrow part of a rainforest in Australia), as well as her suggestions and views on feminism and politics – all of which she presented in a new but fascinating light for me.
Our third and final session of the day was a discussion between Stephen Fry, Sandy Toksvig (comedian and politician) and Mark Goldring (Oxfam CEO) about Magna Carta. It involved a series of topics, including discussions on equality and politics (which was very relevant considering the general election in Britain taking place only a few weeks prior). The session was also broadcast onto the BBC player, if you are interested (you can click here).
On the Sunday we only attended two sessions (as unfortunately Charlotte Rampling was ill), with the first being a conversation by poet Simon Armitage. He was promoting his new book, Walking Away; a piece of non-fiction writing describing his walks of the coastal fringes of Britain’s South West, busking his way from start to finish. (This book being the “sequel” to Walking Home, which I got signed afterwards.) He was extremely interesting and had some fascinating stories to tell.
Our final session for the weekend was with comedian Jo Caulfield. She gave a stand-up comedy set, loosely linking to books that have shaped her life. Although it wasn’t directly about literature it was still extremely enjoyable, and a fun way to finish our book-ish weekend.
We went to a strange mix of sessions, and there is a huge variety to choose between: from children’s fiction to film to art & design. It’s also a great opportunity to visit the bookshop filled town of Hay-on-Wye itself.
This is such a brilliant festival for all fellow bookworms. And what is even better is that this Festival has spread out internationally; it now also occurs in Mexico, Ireland, Spain, Columbia, Bangladesh and Peru. I’m definitely looking forward to going again next year!