I love the Hay festival. I love all literary festivals, but there is a special place in my heart for Hay. As a child, my parents would bring me to this beautiful little town with its dizzying array of bookshops, and would set me loose. For a nerdy little kid for whom the real world paled in comparison to the myriad worlds found in books, Hay On Wye was a land of dreams.
So, yesterday, my husband and I packed the kids off to the grandparents and hit the road, Hay-bound on what has become an annual pilgrimage. The journey itself, through the heart of the Brecon Beacons, is an utter joy. But the real pleasure is to be found within the tented world of the Hay literary festival. Just think of it – thousands of people all drawn together by their love of books and of knowledge. To walk about the Hay festival is to feel hope in this world that has ostensibly moved beyond facts. You come to a place like this amongst people like these, and it reminds you that there are still those who care about learning, who still find joy and value in books.
My husband and I separated briefly, following coffee and a bacon roll (seriously, books and bacon! What more could a girl ask for?), him for a talk on the women of the resistance during WW2, me for a frankly brilliant talk on neuroimmunology from Dr Alasdair Coles. I went in knowing very little about the topic and came out utterly bewitched by it.
Cue frenzied book buying…
We followed this with a talk from Paddy Ashdown on books and politics. Fascinating man, and one for whom the grief over our current state of political affairs is palpable. He talked about moreunited.uk, a movement to seek out and support progressive MPs, irrespective of their party, and emphasised the need to put party politics aside in search of less divisive, more supportive politics. Sign me up!
Then we had ice cream. Because, hello…
Finally, we attended a talk by Commander John Sutherland of the Met and journalist Peter Jukes – two fascinating men, with powerful stories to tell. If you want to look inside the world of policing and begin to understand the pressures of surviving inside the job, I’d highly recommend his newly released book, Blue: A Memoir. And for fans (like me) of the Daniel Morgan podcast, the book Untold by Peter Jukes and Alastair Morgan is a must read.
And that, sadly, is me done with the Hay festival for this year. I’m not going to dwell too long on that, as I may cry. Fortunately, I have my many book purchases to keep me company and next up, we have Harrogate. Hurrah!