The Hay Festival is all about books, authors, intellectuals, academics, poets, only the best celebrities, and more books in the sunny green wooded hills of the Welsh border.
It’s pretty much my dream come true, especially as by the best celebrities I of course mean Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch. And I got to spend two days there for free over the weekend for work.
The Festival doesn’t actually cost anything to enter, it’s free though you do have to buy tickets for the numerous talks and to park. These talks are the real reason for visiting Hay, as awesome as the stalls clearly are (ahem). As I did not get to see any of the talks (sob) by free I mean I didn’t have to pay for accommodation because it can get pretty extortionate in the area as it’s THAT popular. Locals in the town often rent out their houses for the 2 weeks for as much as £5000! Sadly we stayed in a B&B miles away which meant I couldn’t even attend the evening talks as I had no car.
I may not have seen the celebrities I was keeping my eyes peeled for and may not have attended any talks even though one of them was by my favourite author, but I did have an amazing time. It was brilliant to see such a passion for literature and academia. Also, the best bit about my job is always talking to people about our work and to see how much they believe in what we do and how much they love nature. And that brings me onto the main thing at the festival that really astonished me. This literature festival’s dominating theme by far was nature and the environment.
I did get to visit the Festival Bookshop which is a huge tent covered in so many books. It mainly featured festival authors and a big chunk of those were nature writers. Autobiographies, academic examinations of our relationship with nature, science books, dystopias, you name it. I wanted to buy them all! The amount of environmental talks matched this. For example, there was one discussing whether exploring climate change in fiction can change people’s attitudes. It sounded fascinating. Helen Macdonald is also talking about her popular nature book of the moment, H for Hawk. I can’t imagine we would have seen this focus on humans and our relationship with nature together, in our literature and in the most topical of discussions, five years ago. I think it’s a sign of the times, a positive sign. We are in the midst of a shift to recognising just how important nature is to us on all levels. Our love of it and our dependence on it, how being in nature is our default. We are recognising the imminent threats to us and this relationship too. It’s also how it features and should feature in everyday life. It’s exciting to see this positive shift happening before our eyes.
In the end I only opted for one of these books, due to low funds. I chose ‘The Bees’ by Laline Paull. (I did buy four other books at the secondhand stall of course!) I stumbled across a review of it on the internet and it sounded really interesting. I’d all but forgotten about it until I saw it at Hay. It’s what it says on the tin, it follows the journey of a young female bee as she emerges into the organised chaos of a bee hive. It’s dark, totalitarian and hums with an ominous expectation of environmental disaster. I’m only 20 pages in but I’m already addicted to its vivid depiction of such an alien world. I’ll post a book review here when I’ve finished. I’m also planning on posting a book review for H for Hawk by Helen MacDonald on here soon, so go read it! Also, head to Hay Festival if you can or book up for next year, I highly recommend it.