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Today marks the start of ‘Hayferiority’

The Hay Festival starts today. Along with correspondent Rob Shelley's Hayferiority complex. Photo by Peter Curbishley

In a small city called Hamilton, Ontario, there’s a restaurant which also acts as a theatre, with a big sign over the door saying “Restauarantainment”. You can watch Othello and eat chips at the same time. Neat idea, even neater word. So I thought that I’d use the ITV Wales blog to announce my Hayferiority complex.

Hayferiority is this: you (and by you, I mean I) turn up to the Hay festival wearing the usual uniform of slacks and white linen jacket, look around and realise that everyone else’s jackets are just a little less creased, more pressed.

One year it rained sending not just puddles but a whole Somme worth of mud over the village of tents that is the festival site. Out stepped Sian Lloyd, our own meteorologist – wearing white, looking immaculate. How do people do that?

Hayferiority also comes from the fact that you worry that the books you’re buying aren’t quite classic or stylish enough. That you don’t manage to get the relaxed vibe because you’re worried about whether you can remember where you parked your car.

It is worrying whether to buy your organic coffee because you’re bound to spill said organic coffee all over your white linen jacket, which is slightly less white than the other white linen jackets around.

It is meeting nineteen year olds who’ve just published their first novel – ‘well, really it’s an autobiography, yeah?’ – and remembering the manuscripts yellowing away at the back of the drawer that you found when you last moved house.

Alright. Hayferiority is a personal thing.

The good bits about Hay in my experience include:

  • Meeting John Major, one of the few men to shake my hand to say goodbye as well as hello. He came to talk about cricket. But one hour’s worth of speaking made you realise just how a poor childhood had provided both the reason and the rocket fuel of ambition for him to go from boy who left school at 15 to prime minister
  • Thomas Keneally, the author of Schindler’s Ark, who was the most fun and thoughtful bundle of literary talent you could ever hope to meet
  • Eating organic crisps whilst sitting on the big red tractor meant only for children and ITV Wales reporters to play on. Well, only children really.
  • Being invited to parties on a big red London bus which used to be parked in the middle of the field.

And my Haysperience of all time… the dazzling interview we snatched with Gordon Brown. I’ll quote it in full – it went:

Me: “You looking forward to speaking at the festival, sir?”

Gordon: (with Scottish accent) “Grrrrh” – interviewee then dashes off to speak to bemused looking man holding an even more bemused looking baby who frankly, was not cheered by the sight of Gordon Brown and several security officers bearing down on them.

This year, there’s the usual cast of thousands, including Oscar winners from Ralph Fiennes to Vanessa Redgrave. World leaders and the Miliband who isn’t the leader of the Labour Party will be there. And of course – as Peter Florence and anyone associated with the Festival will tell you – not just the carrying voices of Hampstead-on-the-Wye, but the lovely quilt of accents from Hereford to Newport, Brecon and the Valleys.

Hay only gets a small mention on the roadmap. This week, it becomes a capital of words, a destination for the imagination. And at least unlike the test match down the road, rain doesn’t stop play.



One thought on “Today marks the start of ‘Hayferiority’

  1. What an evocative piece that captures the spirit of Hay! I’m going next week and can’t wait.
    I was recently at the very first Cowbridge Book Festival last week , interviewing Adam Hoschild about his book on the First World War and hearing Alistair Campbell ‘s insight into life at 10 Downing street.

    I imagine the Cowbrdge festival will be the first of many and perhaps was a little like the early days of Hay.Lovely !

    Posted by Lynn Courtney | May 26, 2011, 2:53 pm

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