It’s taken Your Correspondent longer than anticipated to get into blogging mode at the Guardian Hay Festival in Wales – where The Book Lounge‘s Mervyn Sloman and I are sojourning until Sunday – but after overcoming various travel, connectivity and health matters, I bring you greetings from just the other side of the Brecon Beacons.
I’ve arrived at the same time as the good weather. Mervyn, who’s been here several days longer, has had to contend with rainshowers and freezing temperatures, but it’s all sun and literary games at Hay now. I must remember to look up the Brythonic incantations for keeping the damp off until Sunday, when the festival ends.
A visitation from an extremely nasty British virus has kept me from several of the events I’d been hoping to attend so far, but I have managed to stick my head into a few. To wit:
- Short film feature: animation The best of which was El empleo by Argentina’s Opusbou; and the most amusing of which was Pigeon Impossible. A good way to start off the fest.
- Ross Noble the comedian in the festival’s most ostentatious venue, the Barclays Wealth Pavilion, which Noble coined several new terms for, including the Wigwam of Dreams and the Awning of Mysteries. One of his best gags was his 3-second Richard Dawkins impersonation: he ran as fast as he could across the stage and shouted “Jesus is bollocks!” at the top of his voice, then followed that up with “Jesus’s bollocks!”, which was followed by the inevitable “Allah’s armpits!”. (We all took cover after that one.)
- Scientist and libel reform campaigner Simon Sing, who had just beat the British Chiropractic Association in a pretty absurd libel case, and who convincingly calls Britain’s libel laws a threat to free speech in their current form.
- The Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club in the Wigwam of Dreams. Nuff said.
- And, most recently, historian Norman Stone, whose talk about his book The Atlantic and Its Enemies: A personal history of the Cold War, I livetweeted in part. (Sample tweet here.)
We also had a terrific chat with Hay organisers Peter Florence and Lyndy Cooke.
But the best moment of the fest so far has been our serendipitous meeting with Imraan Coovadia and Niq Mhlongo, who were yanked out of South Africa to attend Hay at the last moment – and who, we’re told, will be joined by Zakes Mda later this week. We all had supper with the so-friendly-it’s-intimidating books editor of the Guardian, Claire Armitstead and her colleague Julia Eccleshare. SA Lit: getting ahead.
I’ll try do continue with the livetweeting and will post further updates to this blog – doubtless rather desultorily – as I find the time. Meanwhile, greetings from Hay!