Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dreaming of Hay

With this year's Hay-on-Wye literary festival in full swing, I am feeling very jealous of all those who are there this year. A few years ago my dad took me to the festival for my birthday. We stayed for 3 days and attended a mix of talks that were eclectic to say the least. Georges Monbiot explained the threat of global warming, instilling in me a lasting fear for the future. We listened to a professor talking about the discovery of the Americas and a discussion about the internet (which I must admit went over my head - the speaker described the internet as if it was a real place or a person). At a mini concert I discovered welsh artist Gruff Rhys, whose music is now on my ipod, the welsh names making me smile whenever they pop up. And finally an interview with the author of a novel entitled 'Salmon fishing in the Yemen'.

Eclectic indeed. Yet it was this bizarre mix that made Hay-on-Wye so unique and memorable.

This morning's Guardian suppliment was a Hay-on-Wye special, and it got me thinking about my visit. Searching through my computer I came across these photos that I took when I was there. My mum lent me her camera, which is now mine and the same one I used to photograph 'Love Pink'.

I had always known I wanted to be a writer, but it was at Hay-on-Wye that I became all the more determined. This red bus is one of the (many) reasons why I want to be a journalist. It was the Guardian bus, where journalists wrote, sheltered from the rain (because of course no festival would be complete without rain. More of which later...) and mingled sipping wine. Behind the white picket fence was, to me, the 'Cool Group'. I imagined them talking about novels, theatre, and fashion, and I desperately wanted to be on the other side of that picket fence.

After having attended several talks I said to my dad, "I will be speaking here one day." Perhaps it is a rather far-fetched dream, but I was inspired. These were people who had done something with their lives and had something to say for themselves. They were confident enough to speak in front of hundreds of people. They were interesting, and inspiring. And they were all things I wanted to be.
The first day we arrived there were outbreaks of sunshine, but for the rest of the time it rained continuously. I remember there were plastic mesh panels laid across the grass in pathways (like the kind you get sometimes at swimming pools to stop you slipping). I think they were there to stop you having to wade through the mud, however every time you stepped on one it sank a few inches and water would shoot up your leg.

Just before another downpour I noticed these colourful flags, flapping atmospherically in the wind as the angry clouds gathered behind.
I loved this armchair made from books, which this man sat on writing onto huge sheets of paper. Behind him was a tunnel constructed for children to play in. The entire tunnel was decorated with stories about giants that had been written by the children. Unfortunately the stories had become sodden by the rain, yet the words remained in defiance of the weather.
This was one of my favourite stories. I found the whole thing surprisingly moving - say 'giant' to a child and you might expect fear to be the unanimous reaction, yet lots of the children had seen such good in their imaginary giants. Ava's giants were even 'falling in love'.
I loved the colourful mugs, book bags, pencils and deck chairs at the Penguin stall.
Scattered around the festival grounds were deck chairs like these, presumably for people to lounge in if it hadn't been so rainy. I have always remembered the messages on these two deck chairs. Perhaps becoming a trilingual fashion journalist, the editor of French Vogue and writing best-selling novels may be impossible, but that doesn't mean to say I'm not going to try my absolute hardest to make it happen.
There was a small garden of David Austen roses at the festival, roses that had obviously been benefiting from the rain to grow lovely and fat like the lemon one above.
The prize of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse award for comic writing (won this year by Ian McEwan) is a Gloucester Old Spot Pig being named after the novel. Here the pig lazes in the hay, receiving several admirers.

This photo sums up the weather the few days that I was at the Hay-on-Wye festival. Yet despite the rain and the mud the atmosphere was extremely jolly. I will always remember my visit to Hay-on-Wye, and maintain that the festival is a British gem we should all be proud of.


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