Attending the Hay Festival has been on my wish list for a good many years. Each year I promise myself I’ll do something about it “next year”. Then next year arrives, I realise the Festival is already happening and I’ve done absolutely nothing. So … this year I put it on my list of writing goals.
Whilst waiting for the schedule to be published so I could decide when to go, I got a huge surprise – local accommodation is booked up a long, long time in advance. So, a leap was taken and a booking made for a couple of nights in a nearby(ish) foodie pub (the Roast Ox in case you’re interested). Once the schedule was released, I was delighted to discover four writer events I’d be interested in attending – Maggie O’Farrell, Rose Tremain, Salman Rushdie and Ruby Wax (of which more in future posts). Although, in all honesty, there were several options available for booking on the day which I’d have been entirely happy to attend as well.
For those of you who are considering it, the Festival is held on the outskirts of Hay-on-Wye, a small village in the Brecons. Just down the (slightly steep) hill, you’ll discover a large tented structure. Inside there is proper flooring, a mixture of open areas and covered walkways, miniature shops and one large bookshop (of course). Catering facilities are good and the queues moved quickly. For hot & cold drinks, take your own re-fillable cups or pay a small charge for a returnable one on site. Oh … and the ice cream is quite superb – all the traditional flavours and some you’ll not find elsewhere. Highly recommended!
Accommodation in the village is expensive and probably already booked for next year (and maybe even the year after) but there’s a plentiful array in the surrounding area. Some are on the shuttle bus route, some not. The shuttle bus also runs between the Festival and the village regularly for a minimal daily charge. For those who’ll be driving in each day, there are multiple fields given over to parking, but we found the adjoining field well worth the £7 charge made by Macmillan (you need to book).
Lessons learned were that despite the weather in the rest of the country being decidedly warm, it was a lot cooler in Hay. Do take an extra layer and avoid high heels or other fussy footwear. To be honest, the more sensible amongst you would probably have made this decision anyway, but I get thrown by even the prospect of hot weather in this country and took the wrong footwear! This resulted in my tripping and taking a rather spectacular fall right outside the tent; the benefit of which is I am able to confirm (from personal experience) how superb the on-site paramedics are – kind, caring and they don’t fuss – so also highly recommended – should the unfortunate occur. As an unexpected bonus, my spectacular grazes and hobbling meant I was allowed entrance from the side of the main arena with all the other less able bodied visitors, which was much appreciated.
All the events I attended were in the main stage where three screens relayed the event live to the large auditorium – especially useful for those more diminutive in height, or needing of long-distance spectacles.
This visit was so brief that a mooch around the village streets will have to wait till 2019, when I look forward to enjoying the throng of book shops and other lovely browsing diversions.
Having booked for just one day this year, next year is already booked for four days. Yes, it’s that good. Give it a try – but book your accommodation early!
© Debra Carey, 2018