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
- Nigella Lawson looking even more gorgeous than she does on television
- David Lodge talking about his new biographical fiction work based on the life of H.G. Wells
- Stephanie Merritt (aka S.J. Parris) discussing her Giordano Bruno series of books
- Paul Merton’s improv show
- V.S. Naipaul talking about his father
- 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
- David Sedaris, someone I never tire of listening to
- 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.
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.
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!