Monday, 16 May 2016

Mixed Feelings about the Hay Festival

It was great fun when we took Gentle Footprints to Hay. We were in the biggest stadium which was almost full and we had the early Friday evening slot. Virginia McKenna wrote our introduction to the anthology and so she was there. The publishing team had coffee with her in the morning and took her out to dinner in the evening. All of the contributors met her for lunch. It was definitely a red letter day.
My friend and publishing partner Debz Hobbs Wyatt and I decided to go for most of the week. We were joined later by other members of the team. We had a ball. We stayed in a really good value for money B & B that was a short ride out of Hay and in beautiful countryside.
We paced ourselves and even managed a few hours chilling back at the farm.
Hay needn’t be expensive. There are lots of free events and most don’t cost all that much. The food is good – mainly local produce and very good value for money. If you book your accommodation enough in advance you can get it at a reasonable price. There is such an atmosphere – even when it rains – maybe particularly when it rains and you get to paddle around in your willies.  It’s nice, though, as well, when the sun shines and you can lounge around in the deckchairs or sit on the grass reading books. It’s lovely, anyway, to be surrounded by people who love books.
I’ve made a second trip to Hay and enjoyed it just as much. I booked it very last minute but managed to get reasonable accommodation forty minutes’ drive away. It was just as enjoyable though we weren’t such stars that time. I began to think I’d like to do it every year.
One thing bothers me however: they do not pay their writers. They treat you like royalty. You get exposure. You sell books. Maybe. Yet even with Virginia McKenna there, signing copies, we only actually sold 75 at the festival and this was deemed to be good. The profit on that nowhere near covered our expenses.  
I’d thought about going this year. I wanted to support Melvin Burgess who will be discussing Junk there on 2 June. I’ve recently read this and was impressed. Alas, I’ll be up to my neck in marking by then and also moving office. But would I have gone anyway? I do feel inclined to boycott those festivals that don’t pay their writers. Creative Practitioners must be paid.
The counter argument is that it would make the festivals a lot more expensive. Isn’t there a creative way in which we can make this win win?                        

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