We had an amazing time over the Hay Festival. If you couldn't make it this year, or are curious to find out more, we've rounded up some of our personal highlights below. Let us know if you saw an amazing event which we missed! Here's Louise talking about her favourite moments...
"My festival experience started with a session on sustainable fashion with author and academic, Sandy Black. It didn't inspire me with confidence about the future of fair trade to be honest, and made me wonder if the concept of sustainability has helped or hindered the fair trade movement. Much of the questioning was around the recent Rana Plaza tragedy, but brands seemed to be excused for making changes to their environmental policies. Can you offset poor welfare behaviour with a good recycling policy?
Next was Cath Kidston and the audience were eagerly anticipating her tips for success. Alas we didn't come away armed with any finger clicking magic, but did get that the willingness to work hard and to love what you do is important.
The next morning started with an emotional tour through some key historical papers around the suffragettes movement, now housed in the LSE womens library. Some incredibly inspiring stuff, and startling to think that only 100 years ago women didn't have the vote.
I recently read the Great Gatsby with the Hay book group so was keen to hear what Sarah Churchwell, author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby had to say about this much talked about novel. She was an energetic and interesting speaker who spoke of issues at the time that might have influenced Fitzgerald. She's a self confessed 'word geek' and explained that GG is the first time the phrase 'wicked' is used to mean something good, and 'party' is used as a verb, e.g. "I partied hard at the weekend and it was wicked!".
The Telegraph Question Time was an all women affair (Jenny Abramsky, Joan Bakewell, Allison Pearson & Katy Brand), and boy, didn't we know it! Because of the unusual gender balance on the panel, feminism was the topic of the day. All very interesting, but it does frustrate me that women have to always be the topic of a debate involving women. Couldn't we have discussed the news of the day like a 'normal' panel would have?!
I'll let Andrew talk more about the Safraz Manzoor session, but his fanatacism for Bruce Springsteen knows no bounds!
Early the next morning, ex UN Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, spoke about the difficulties surrounding humanitarian aid. He'd faced some tough challenges during his few years in this post, and often questioned whether supplying aid was ultimately allowing despots to continue the status quo. All particularly relevant given the situation in Syria, which Holmes said would be the Rwanda of these times.
Ian Goldin's session followed which talked about the necessity of a global approach to counter international challenges. We have a great global structure for things like the postal service and air travel, so why can't we have a similarly linked up approach to tackling things like pandemics, cyber attacks and climate change. All made perfect sense, but I'm not sure how or if he'll make it happen!
That evening Peter Hook spoke about his time with Joy Division. He's a great raconteur, and said that contrary to appearances it was actually a really happy time.
I helped to organised a debate around the link between the twin towns of Hay and Timbuktu, for local charity Hay2Timbuktu. We had representatives from the council and local charities in Hay along with the Malian Consul and Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 News. It was great to hear Mark Saade, the Consul, talk about the importance of the work Hay2Timbuktu are doing, and what it means to the people in Timbuktu. The Telegraph did a good write up of the session here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/10087581/Hay-Festival-2013-Saving-Timbuktu-Library.html
There was so much more I would have loved to go to, but there was also loads happening in town and, of course, a very busy shop to run! It was a fantastic 10 days and we met some wonderful people in the shop. Thanks to all of our new customers and for the Groucho and Tomatitos for keeping the cocktails and wine flowing!"
And here are some of my own thoughts on an incredible week and a half...
My festival journey began on the first day and appropriately enough revolved around all things local. Rob Hopkins is the co-founder of the Transition Network and he was speaking to festival sustainability guru Andy Fryers about how communities can adapt to the challenges of a changing climate and economy. There were a lot of lessons for Hay and who knows, perhaps by the next festival you will be able to buy your medium latte with a Hay Pound note!
Oscar Guardiola Rivera wrote one of my favourite books of last year, "What if Latin America Ruled the World?" We saw him speak at the Hay Festival in Xalapa, Mexico, so it was great to see him chairing a session at the Welsh event. Sarfraz Manzoor also gave a hugely entertaining personal account of his lifelong obsession with Bruce Springsteen accompanied by some amazing slides of his musical journey with The Boss. I saw him on the shuttle bus the next night and we compared notes on our respective fan antics. I've seen Oasis 29 times - he said he lost count of his Springsteen gigs after 110. That's devotion for you.
Stephanie Flanders, the BBC economics editor, was an unusual star turn at Hay as she had nothing to sell - no book, no queue in the signing tent, nothing. What she did have was an incredible insight into the current financial playing field in the UK, which she delivered in an even handed yet entertaining way. She held the huge Barclay's Pavilion in the palm of her hand, as did Marcus du Sautoy, Kate Humble and Mark Watson who took part in an amazing hour long experiment chaired by Mark Lynas to try to work out how to keep the lights on in the UK in a sustainable way. The short answer is there is no short answer, and the long answer seemed to be that you'd need a bit of everything to make it work.
My personal highlight of the festival, and perhaps one of the most moving experiences I've had in recent years, was seeing Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the Lockerbie disaster, talk about his 25 year search for justice. A modest, unassuming man, Swire had faced (and continues to face) seemingly insurmountable opposition from the establishment in his quest for the truth, yet continues to pursue his cause with quiet dignity and calm analysis. A standing ovation, and not a dry eye in the house, were his reward from a passionately vocal Hay crowd. No-one who saw him speak would dismiss his Lockerbie Truth campaign.
Philip Glass is probably the biggest name I've ever seen at Hay and he didn't disappoint. His wry, deadpan tone was inflected with an unexpected humour, and his 45 minute solo recital was unforgettable.
I spent the last weekend at the Globe taking in some of the "How the Light Gets In" festival of philosophy and culture. This was a very different scene, and had a more grass roots feel, a pleasant change made all the better for being based in the town rather than out on the perimeter. Highlights here were Joe Volk, a brooding, atmospheric presence who reminded me of Elliott Smith being portrayed by the baddie from Terminator 2, and Stealing Sheep, a Liverpool threesome with a folky, psychedelic take on songs about sharks. Great stuff all round, and we saw Esther Rantzen so that was cool.
I wasn't sure what to expect from our first festival as residents/business owners, but I already can't wait for next year. Until then, don't forget about our next Sixteen Tambourines night on 20th July, thanks to Kate and Hannah for hosting us at the Old Electric shop which looked amazing, and cheers to Derek for all the sausage rolls!