It’s Monday and all of the excitement of the Hay Festival is a memory. I didn’t write any blogs for the final few events that I attended but thought that it might be interesting to some of you if I give a quick summary before I sign off for good.
On the 29th May I joined a packed audience to listen to the talented dynamic acoustic folk/rock singer/guitarist Frank Turner. Being of a certain age, his performance transported me to my past, to the days of Dylan, the Doors and the many other anti-establishment protest artists of that era. I was surrounded by fans of Frank who were able to sing every word and I think that it is fair to say that the evening performance gave us all a real treat of an extraordinary talent.
Debborah Moggach is a prolific writer who is able to position her stories in locations that are not familiar to her because she understands her characters so well that they can drive the story rather than the place. A luxurious flat is a luxurious flat, wherever it is. She finds smug marrieds hard to tolerate, an opinion that made the front page of the paper on the following day.
Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian born campaigner for the rights of women, spoke passionately about confronting oppressive regimes throughout the world. She pointed out that women’s liberties and rights are compromised in many western cultures in addition to the better known areas of the Middle East and northern Africa. Divulging some of her most intimate experiences gave weight to the evidence of the suppression that women encounter on a daily basis. Her book ‘Headscarves and Hymens:Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution’ is a plea to confront the toxic mix of culture and religion that affects the daily lives of the women in those areas.
I finished off my Hay experience this year with a delightful session from the Call the Midwife team. Virginia Nicholson lead the discussion where the screenwriter, producer and star (Jenny Agutter) gave insight to the research and story development for the series. As an ex-midwife, this series intrigues me and it can move me to tears as I remember some of my own experiences delivering babies. The attention to detail is remarkable even to ensuring they have the correct size of fake umbilical cord for the size of the baby.
Now I have returned to my home, inspired to return to my second novel, and thankful for the opportunity to experience the wonderful Hay Festival.
From the moment that Pam Ayres walked onto the Tata stage, she captivated her audience with humour, wit, facial expressions and a perfect sense of timing. Her introductory piece was a poem about the arrival of a letter from the pension office and it was the start of a series of hilarious poetry and stories which had the audience in an uproar, I have seen Pam Ayres on television but her impeccable delivery of her material and the twinkle in her eye can only be appreciated in a live show.
What was unexpected for me, was the sensitivity with which she described things such as the departure of her son for university and the arrival of her grandson into her family.
Most people know that her husband features in some of her material (not always in a positive way) and I think that he must have a forgiving nature as they have had a long marriage.
This session was one of my highlights of Hay Festival this year because I laughed so hard that my stomach ached for hours afterwards and it is wonderful to witness a true craftswoman practice her art.
Where else can one see Victoria Hislop, Alan Bennett and Jack Dee but the fantastic Hay on Wye Festival? I am lucky enough to be part of the crowd this year and am loving every minute of it.
Greg Jenner, a historical consultant for the Horrible Histories, gave an entertaining presentation ‘A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life’, charting the history of our everyday morning routine. From the question of how to dispose of the elimination of our body waste to the development of the toothbrush Greg delivered a précis of what the reader can expect to find in his new book. Photos of the ancient beds and pillows made me thankful for the million or so springs in my mattress and the desire of our Victorian ancestors for privacy means that I do not have to share my morning ablutions with the entire community. At one time, a shower or bath could prove fatal as the heater blew the poor unsuspecting victim into pieces. Arsenic seems to have fallen in and out of favour over the years and I am certain that the unhappy wife could have used this to her advantage whilst seeming to care for her husband’s skin, teeth, etc.
Greg’s book charts the history relating to a day’s activities of the human being, including timekeeping, personal care, sourcing food, etc. Our sophisticated modern society has not necessarily progressed beyond that of the ancient civilizations. I wish that Greg had been around in my days of learning history when dates mattered more than understanding the sociology of the period.
This year I will be joining other bloggers on the Making Hay wordpress site, posting quick impressions, observations etc of a few events at the great festival. For a flavour of what it is like to join in with the fun take a look.