The lowdown on the annual Hay literary festival, which starts this Thursday
Appearance: The Woodstock of the mind.
I have absolutely no idea what that means. Me neither. But Bill Clinton said it, and he’s an ex-president and everything. Let’s just picture a bunch of naked hippies rolling in the mud, while smoking joints and holding flowers.
A-ha . . . Then hose off the mud, stick some clothes on them, age them by a few decades, confiscate most of the drugs and swap the flowers for bags-for-life full of slightly foxed first editions.
So it’s no Glastonbury? Well, there’s less music. And fewer tents. And smaller loudspeakers. And many, many, many more books. And it takes place on the edge of the Brecon Beacons national park, rather than on a farm in Somerset. Otherwise much of a muchness.
So what Clinton really meant was: “It’s a book festival in Wales”? To quote Bill again: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” There’s non-literary stuff, too – music, comedy, a circus, kids’ events, an informal spot-the-Miliband competition and so on.
Why are we writing about it today?
It starts on Thursday, and some big names will be turning up: Hilary Mantel, Martin Amis, Philip Pullman, Beth Orton . . . This newspaper sponsors the festival, though that shouldn’t influence our coverage in any way.
Perish the thought. I must say, the Guardian Hay festival sounds like the highlight of this year’s cultural scene.
Even the Independent has described it as a “smorgasbord of heterogeneity, a mixum-gatherum of creativity and gravitas”.
Will there be a lot of people? Perhaps if I go I can find someone who can explain that for me. More than 100,000 visitors are expected. They should all be “fairly gorgeous”, according to the organisers.
Really? So I might even get a sh–. A shining moment of intellectual stimulation? It’s practically guaranteed.
Do say: “Is that Bryson over there?”
Don’t say: “I love his bagless vacuum cleaners.”