Writers love being invited to Hay. You’re part of the club, sales will rocket into double figures, you get invited into the Green room and get a free coffee, a chance to smile flirtatiously at Germaine Greer and listen to Stephen Fry talk about his bunions. You used to get paid in cheap Champagne until there was a deal with VisitSpain ™ and then it turned to cheap Cava. The festival was first sponsored by the Times, then the Guardian, Channel 4, Tata Steel, a few dubious oil states, Borat, a Russian Oligarch who was friends with Vladamir Putin and then the Telegraph. There’s a progression and a theme.
There’s always someone with cash who likes books. Rishi Sunak is sponsoring it this year along with Mark Drakeford.
So why in this year has the festival programme abandoned Wales? I know it’s online, most things are but the level of engagement is paltry with a festival receiving a significant amount Welsh government/ Arts Council of Wales, British (Welsh) Council money. According to their website there are 138 events this year. From my reckoning there are 4 with any Welsh cultural content. It opens on the Llwyfan Cymru Digidol. Although why they bother with the translation I’ve no idea as there’s no events in Welsh. Other Welsh sponsors include the Arts Council of Wales, The National Lottery (of Wales), Aberystwyth University, The National Library of Wales, Swansea University, The Open University of Wales (Welsh Campus), The National Library of Wales, all anchoring it down. But perhaps being digital the festival has become unmoored from the land, existing out there in the ether somewhere between Bloomsbury and the Cotswolds.
The children’s programme has an even poorer representation, from twenty-seven events the closest thing to a Welsh connection is Bad Wolf talking about the process of adapting His Dark Materials. They have the English Children’s Laureate, a former Irish children’s laureate and one of the writers was born in Dorset which is only a few hours from Wales. There’s no room for Eloise Williams, the young people’s laureate for Wales or any of the wonderfully talented children’s writers and illustrators that have a real connection and understanding of our culture. We are again outsourcing our children’s reading culture to another country and in the case of Hay thanking them for it. Where’s my fetlock again or was it the forelock I should be tuggin. For Wales see England.