Diary of a Hay Festival Steward Day 5 – Nazis on Drugs, the Mabinogi and Live Music

hay festival steward - meDay 5 of stewarding at the Hay Festival began very well, with an early start in the catering tent for a cooked breakfast. Stewards get a free meal for each session they do, and if you’re camping, a free (cooked or whatever you prefer) breakfast is just the thing to start your day. This was followed by a solid hour of comedy (The Early Edition) with Marcus Brigstocke, Carrie Quinlan and Andre Vincent, taking a look at the news and poking fun at all sorts, including socks and Jeremy Paxman’s underpants…   

The day continued more soberly after that, including an event entitled ‘Blitzed’ with Norman Ohler, who spoke about the promiscuous use of drugs (cocaine, heroin, morphine and methamphetamines) to enhance the performance of the Nazis. Apparently Hitler began with injecting vitamins to help recover after an illness, but he, and others, gradually progressed to using much stronger substances. Drug use seems to have been widespread in Germany at the time – Ohler showed us an advert for chocolates which contained methamphetamines!

Friends BarFor once there was a free table in one of the on-site cafes (post Bank Holiday chaos) so I spent a pleasant hour in the ‘Friends’ bar with a cup of tea and cake, catching up on my blogging, with a bit of people watching thrown in for good measure. I haven’t overheard so many discussions about politics in a long time, and a quick observation would say that Hay audiences seem more left than right.

Matthew Francis

Matthew Francis speaking about his re-telling of the Mabinogi

I had a break from stewarding then, attending a fascinating event on the Mabinogi (an ancient Welsh myth that was first written down in the Middle Ages) re-told by poet Matthew Francis. I managed to squeeze in food and a book buying expedition before the next event in the BBC tent – Live Sessions introducing unsigned musicians from the local area. Teddy Matthews (from Kidderminster) was incredible – with a fantastic voice and a great band. We also heard from Will Hunt, accompanied by his father, and I particularly liked his final song, Hearts of Gold, written about a friend.

I returned to the Baillie Gifford to steward the final event there – Sophie Ridge and Yvette Cooper talking about women in politics. They discussed what it’s like in parliament for female MPs. It was interesting to hear Yvette Cooper explain how difficult it can be in the chamber to make yourself heard, partly due to the acoustics – you have to speak in a low tone of voice.Teddy Matthews