The festival bus takes ten minutes and arrives at a field with gigantic white tents. It’s like a
quidditch world cup final. The Sky TV banners flap high in the sky. A mini white city of canvas concert halls has been erected with a warren of walkways that lead to a bewildering program of events. The sound of applause spills out into from somewhere: where (?) nobody knows. This festival is gorgeous. I enter the green room a place where artists settle, drink, chat.
“Chatted for half an hour last night with Jimmy Carter” the elder statesman and ex president of the United states of America, whispers Paul Blezzard as he sucks his
Marlboro outside the artists green room where I join him. Blezzard has two tones of voice – conspiratorial and inclusive or tutorial and inclusive. He’s all inclusive, warm hearted curiously angry man which in my book makes for a fascinating and engaging human being. And so damn knowledgable. With Blezzard a little information goes a long way. But so should alot of information which is why he is writing his book and is never sans moleskin.
Blizzard is befriends presidents having interviewed Bill Clinton on previous occasions. He definitely has the coolest calling card that I have seen. It’s a plane ticket stub. I bump into Tony Curtis “Belgium” he says. Tony Curtis remembers our last meeting seventeen years ago. The memory floods back as if he had just stretched inside me and opened a door. “you’re at the south bank” says his friend whom I assume his wife. The South Bank story.
The Hay on Wye Literary Festival is all about conversations. One writer enquired to me about another writer. I said that I didn’t know the writer in question. “He may be a good writer “ she drags on her cigarette and fixes me with the most arresting eyes “but he’s a cunt” she smirks, stubs her cigarette out and walks away. Love it!
It’s been a long journey. I text Anita Sethi whom I met on The Simon mayo Show last week and we go eat. Anita Sethi’s and author and freelance writer for the guardian. We go to the festival restaurant . I go for steak – medium rare – and chips with a genourous
quivering Alpine peak of mayonnaise on the side. Gorgeous – Sorted me, right out. I finish with Chocolate Fudge cake and cream. Anitais feeling a little delicate
post The Sky TV party that occurred the night before. I have done this at festivals and shortly after the meal she disappears for some R and R. I am diving in and out again.
For journalists its a long haul two week affair of hardcore work and partying. Enjoying a festival is all about pacing it. And it’s a wise move on her part.
Back at the green room, Salman Rushdie swishes through. Last time we met was ten years ago (?) for a radio four programme called kaleidoscope – very seventies that title, like rainbow.. I meet Marcus Brigstock which is good since later on the year we’ll be travelling to the arctic together. And have the real pleasure of meeting Carrie Quinlan of The News Quiz. I have been here for the day enjoying the spirit of the festival.
But the people who get my golden festival award are Anita Anand and Simon Singh. They are sat together in the green room enjoying both each other and the reverie. I sit with them and chat. They are both hard working and fun but have the air of people who are getting what’s there’s, pure undiluted success. As a couple they are, though totally and pleasingly unpretentious, formidable.
Time flies generously by. The Liverpool poets are on at 6pm and I make my way to The Barclays theatre, a massive tented theatre with raised stage and tiered seating to fit at least one thousand. “Alright lemn” says Phil Bowen in a cheerful liverpol accent. There’s a thousand people at this event and I am stood next to a man who has written a book about The Liverpool Poets!
See what’s amazing about that is that I shall now be getting the book he has written. On 23rd June I am reading at The Arts Theatre in London as part of an event called “Under the Influence” – I shall be talking about how The Mersey Sound and the Liverpool poets affected me. This book that he has written will be the perfect research material for some of that talk. What are the odds. It’s the perfect connection. Perfectly timed. And what’s more it was a great gig.