Diary of a Hay Festival Steward Day 4 – Friends, Enemies and the Rabble

rhiannon hooson poetMy fourth day of stewarding at Hay began with a much-needed sugar rush in the form of a Danish pastry. It’s incredible how exhausting it is, and yet so addictive as well. The queue management is a real art, and it gets complicated sometimes, with queues overlapping queues and stampedes for the book tent – the most manic of which was the stampede for Neil Gaiman. The day continued with a rather depressing event about dementia, a smattering of politics and an unexpected new event with Tracy Chevalier…   

Polly Atkin poetIt’s always the unexpected events that are the best. I just happened to be walking past the Compass Tent, where Tracy Chevalier was talking about her journey to publication. She described writing books as like having babies. “You think it’s going to be impossible,” she explained, “but in the end you just have to push it out”.

I had a ticket for the Seren poetry event. Although I’d heard Emily Blewitt before, the other three poets were new to me, and I loved Polly Atkin’s poetry, especially her poem about a jackdaw, which included bird sounds. They were all very different. Siobhan Campbell’s work is more humorous, and Rhiannon Hooson has written about her time in Mongolia.

hay 30 signThe funniest moment of the day – when, in anticipation of my question, a person holding a ticket approached the queue with the phrase “We’re not friends, we’re enemies” (basically the ‘Friends of Hay’ get to queue separately and go in first, so we’re constantly having to divide people into two queues – ‘Friends’ and not ‘Friends’). Other alternative names for non-Friends have included “the normal people”, “the rhiff rhaff”, “the plebs”, “the rabble” and “the hoi polio”.

Nish KumarThe day ended with comedy, including particularly hilarious sets from Nish Kumar and Eleanor Tiernen, but by this point I was exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep.