The editors' blog
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, May 26th 2014
Rule one of the great British arts festival: there will be mud. Rule two: there will be courtesy. Hay is, among other things, a very polite scrum. As the rain blows in again from the hills, the queues are long, the walkways packed, the going slow, but the good humour unflagging. It’s like being at a football match where all the fans are neutral.
Jeremy Paxman didn’t get where he is today by erring on the side of politeness. His schtick is to speak truth to power, or at least to lob scornful questions at it on our behalf. It has made him famous and rich, feared by the few and trusted by the many, but has it made him happy? When he announced that he would be quitting “Newsnight” next month after 25 years, Charles Moore wrote a persuasive column in the Telegraph arguing that the BBC’s grand inquisitors end up disillusioned, feeling a contempt for their medium. Coming to Hay in his other capacity as an author, Paxman shows a hint of this by telling a 1,700-strong crowd that he will take questions at the end, but not about “BBC politics or any of that nonsense”.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, May 25th 2014
Saturday at Hay was mostly about one man, Stephen Fry, the new president of the festival—it was Hay-on-Fry. Sunday morning was all about another Twitter phenomenon, just as ubiquitous and rather less lovable: sexism. This was Hay-on-Why. To sit there was to wonder why on earth some members of one half of the human race still think they can treat the other in a way that is at best bigoted and at times vile.
Laura Bates (pictured left), who runs the Everyday Sexism Project, drew a sell-out crowd of 800 to the Telegraph Stage. That alone was a nice touch: this is the paper that, not long ago, ran so many phwooarr photos on its news pages that it was nicknamed the Daily Hellograph. The Hay crowd, whose politics are closer to those of their old sponsor the Guardian, greeted Bates with a big hand, and saw her out with a standing ovation.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, May 24th 2014
Two hours after coming off stage at Hay, Stephen Fry is back on it. Again, he is facing a packed house of 1,700 in the Tata Tent. Again, he is wearing a caramel corduroy jacket. But this time he is alone, and instead of chatting to one of the creators of the iPod, he is giving an hour-long lecture on Shakespeare and Love.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, May 24th 2014
You know you're off to one of the great British festivals when you awake to the sound of pouring rain—and the last e-mail to land before you leave has the subject line WET WEATHER PARKING. My drive from London to Hay-on-Wye was basically one large puddle, 150 miles across. Hay is the Glastonbury of words, and, like Glastonbury, it is most itself in the rain: a warm sodden world of mud and wellies, Anglo-Saxon stoicism and middle-class ruefulness.
The first talk I went to was scheduled for 2.30, and hosted by Stephen Fry, whose drive had taken even longer—five hours. "I was in a total panic," he told an audience of 1,700, packed into a sweaty tent. "I arrived at 26 minutes past two. And then I drove onto a pedestrian walkway. Deeply embarrassing. I do apologise to the child I trampled underfoot."read more »
~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, May 22nd 2014
When Marion Cotillard is sashaying up the red-carpeted staircase at the Palais des Festivals for the premiere of a potential Palme d’Or winner, it’s easy to forget that the Cannes Film Festival isn’t just about megawatt glamour and art-house masterpieces. It’s also about business. All around the city, cinemas are screening hundreds of films to potential buyers. Some of those films are big-budget vehicles for the likes of Tom Hanks and Bill Murray. Some of them, on the other hand, are not. Just a staircase away from the auditorium where the premieres are held, the Palais also houses a distinctly un-glitzy trade fair, Le Marché du Film, where introductions are made and negotiations get under way. It’s here that you realise just how many films never make it beyond the borders of their home countries.read more »
~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, May 20th 2014
I wonder what Lily Johnson (cleaning lady, battered wife, heroine) would have made of the Travellers Club. This was the gentlemanly backdrop for last night’s dinner in celebration of the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje prize, an annual award for a book of fiction, non-fiction or poetry evoking the spirit of a place. In the past, the prize has generally gone to books set in far-flung countries—from Bangladesh to Libya, Jamaica to Outer Mongolia—but this year’s winner is set closer to home, in London. The judges, Jenny Uglow, A.L. Kennedy and Imtiaz Dharker, gave the prize to “This Boy”, an extraordinary memoir of a childhood of eye-stretching poverty in Notting Hill in the 1950s, by Alan Johnson, the best Labour prime minister Britain never had. Of all the books I read last year, it has stayed with me the most vividly. And Lily, Alan’s mother, is at its centre.read more »
~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, May 19th 2014
I was recently tasked with finding an unusual dinner venue for a group of friends in London. We're spoilt for choice in this city, but it’s not as easy as it sounds when you have 20 people to please. I suggested Tito’s, a popular Peruvian restaurant I'd heard of, but a friend rejected the idea—“Peruvian food is horrible,” she said. “Most of them won’t like it.” (In the end I played it safe with Pan-Asian.) But later, I pondered her rash dismissal of Peruvian cuisine. Ceviche, quinoa salads and pisco sour cocktails have made it onto supermarket shelves and other restaurant menus, but there must be more to it. What does the full cuisine from the land of Incas and llamas taste like? And can it take off in London?read more »
~ Posted by Jo Caird, May 15th 2014
This year the BBC Proms, which dates back to 1895, will welcome a new sound. On August 3rd, the "War Horse Prom"—inspired by the National Theatre's hugely successful stage production—will feature the Proms Military Wives Choir, the Cambiata North West boys choir, the BBC Concert Orchestra and, most spectacularly, the life-size equine puppets that won the production such acclaim. The audience will hear music from the period by Elgar, Holst and Ravel, along with the "War Horse Suite", specially created by Adrian Sutton from his score for the original production. All this, and the unmistakable clip-clop of the puppets' hooves.read more »
~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, May 13th 2014
Why is it so hard to get rid of books? Our shelves are loaded with good intentions, expressing the hope of all the free time that we'll one day have and implying that life will go on forever. Throwing them out, then, is a little death. But this time, in order to accommodate the tottering piles of books by my bedside, I swore I would be ruthless.
First to go—the easy part—are the books that I didn't like first time round. Why have I kept them until now, when I'm not going to lend them to anyone or reread them? Onto the charity pile go Will Self's "How The Dead Live", Siri Hustvedt's "What I Loved" and others that left me feeling hollow (who cares if that was the author's intention?). I feel a certain lightness come over me.read more »
~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, May 8th 2014
Two months ago, Future Islands were just another rock band, eking out a living in the age of downloads. The three regular members had been making synth-pop together for ten years after meeting at East Carolina University. As Future Islands, they had released three albums and umpteen singles on small labels without troubling the compilers of the charts. By their own reckoning, they had played more than 800 gigs, and they were still well on their way to languishing in near-obscurity. Then they went on the David Letterman show.
It was their first time on a national network. Their frontman Samuel T. Herring, a stocky figure in a workmanlike T-shirt, seemed close to tears as he stalked the stage, bathed in blue light. He thrust his neck in time to the music and pounded his chest with such force it vibrated through the microphone. He sang straight into the camera, first pleading, then roaring with guttural force. “How ‘bout that?” Letterman said, sauntering over to shake Herring's hand, “I’ll take all of that you’ve got!”read more »