The Hay Festival

7 Jun

I’ve just come back from my annual pilgrimage to the Hay Festival, and what a wonderful time we all had! My friends and I rent the same old farmhouse not far from Hay every year. Each morning I thought how lucky I was to be waking up to this gorgeous view:

I went to hear loads of speakers, from Nigella to Naipaul. In fact, here’s the rundown of the events I went to:

  • Gaynor Arnold and Polly Samson talking about their latest collections of short stories
  • David Baddiel talking about his latest novel
  • Jo Brand being absolutely lovely
  • Marcus Brigstocke, my imaginary boyfriend, sporting some rather unfortunate facial hair, talking about the book based on his God Collar stand-up act
  • Lizzie Collingham talking about the role of food in World War II
  • Dan Cruickshank discussing the British country house
  • Andrew Davies giving the inside scoop about writing his screenplay for South Riding
  • Gilbert and George being their fabulous selves. And singing! They sang!
  • A.A. Gill being his usually prickly self
  • Daisy Goodwin talking about My Last Duchess

    Diana Quick (left) interviewing Daisy Goodwin

  • Nigella Lawson looking even more gorgeous than she does on television

Nigella Lawson

V.S. Naipaul

  • Mavis Nicholson talking about What Did You Do in the War, Mummy?, her collection of women’s remembrances of World War II
  • Virginia Nicholson, one of my perennial favourites, talking about her latest book, Millions Like Us, also about women’s stories from World War II
  • Allison Pearson discussing I Think I Love You, her book about a teenage Welsh girl obsessed with David Cassidy in the ’70s
  • Justine Picardie in what might have been my favourite talk of the week, discussing her amazing biography of Coco Chanel
  • Vanessa Redgrave talking about her life and getting the longest standing ovation of the week


Vanessa Redgrave

  • David Sedaris, someone I never tire of listening to

David Sedaris

  • Tim Smit making me feel inspired to change the world
  • Edward St. Aubyn being … Edward St. Aubyn
  • Sandi Toksvig and Sue Perkins doing their comedy lecture thing
  • Michael Wood talking about the book based on his ‘Story of England’ television series from last year
  • Lucy Worsley in a fascinating talk about the book based on her If Walls Could Talk (history of the home) television series
  • Michael Wright being endearingly nervous but not terribly funny, talking about his C’est la Folie books

Between the busy, bustling, buzzing festival site and the sometimes sleepy peaceful town, I spent a glorious week of drinking cappuccino, reading, listening, thinking and (far too much) shopping in the lovely bookshops of Hay.

Booth's Books

My friend Barbara and I also went to a wonderful free talk about Welsh blankets, given by Athene English in the garden of her shop, The Great English Outdoors.

Athene and her blankets

The garden hidden behind The Great English Outdoors

If you haven’t been to the festival before, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But if you want to go in 2012, book your accommodation now. It goes quickly!








6 Responses to “The Hay Festival”

  1. Jennie June 7, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Seriously, so, so, so jealous. It looks awesome. The Hay Festival is on my list of “things I must do”, and you’ve just bumped it to “things I must do next year”!

  2. Liz June 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    When did V.S. Naipaul become Simon Russell Beale’s father?

    • Helen June 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      I thought he looked more like *my* father! It’s actually uncanny!

  3. Rose June 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    I was in Hay too for the first weekend – it looks like you really got the best of the weather (we ‘enjoyed’ wind and rain, but were snug and dry in the yurt of job). I whole-heartedly agree about Booths books – and spent a lot of time staring at the beautiful shop-fronts-in-frames at the front. And also about David Sedaris, who looks nothing like what I’d expected…

    • Helen June 13, 2011 at 8:08 am #

      Rose, I don’t know why it is, but that first bank holiday weekend always seems to suffer from bad weather. It never fails!

  4. Jessica {lovely jubbly london} June 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    SO jealous you went to Hay! Looks like an amazing time.

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