Friday, May 27, 2005



Yes, it's Hay Festival time again. The Guardian (which sponsors the festival) has a generously long write-up of the festival and its history by Aida Edemariam. My favorite Hay-on-Wye folk Richard Booth, Diana Blunt and Derek Addyman -- all of whom figure in Sixpence House -- turn up in various parts of the article.

And, as always, any festival article is good for a few author anecdotes:

There was Bill Clinton, in 2001. Florence is dismissive of this as an achievement - "he stands up on his hind legs and talks anywhere", especially for the fee of £100,000 - but the town has not forgotten the buzz he brought to their corner of Wales. The crowds were five deep. People held up their babies. They also booed, when he was late.

Some old-timers carp that the festival isn't as much fun as it used to be, when everyone drank together at the Swan, and you could talk about football with an unknown Nick Hornby into the early hours, but Hay in festival time is still a town of surreal late-night encounters.... Most performers do hang around, and tents are difficult places in which to stand on your dignity. Though some do try. Technical director Paul Elkington remembers hearing Jeffrey Archer say grandly to a fan, "I don't sign paperbacks." "You miserable bastard," said Elkington under his breath. Archer heard and complained to [artistic director] Florence, who said Archer would not be asked again.

The festival highlights include the inspired pairing of Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens at 9:50 tonight.... late enough to allow plenty of time for fermented nourishment over at Kilvert's beforehand.

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