Diary of a Hay Festival Steward – Illustrating Films, Tolkien, Skeletons and Hay Mela – the Last Day!

Hay Mela musicThe fun part of stewarding at Hay is that you never know what to expect. The venues change each day, some events get cancelled, and new events are organised. Day 6 began with another delicious cooked breakfast, and the discovery that two of our events had been cancelled – leaving gaps in the afternoon and an early finish, so I decided to try stewarding in a different venue…   

Our first event was a presentation from Alan Lee, illustrator for the Lord of the Rings films. I hadn’t realised before that these films rely so much on intricate illustrations, which are then adapted using technology, so that what we see on screen is a merging of actors, drawings, physical props and photography.

Other events that morning included a real skeleton and a bit of a biology lesson, an interview with Alastair Sawday about travel writing, and a discussion on migration from Tahmima Anam. I had a second go at running around with the microphone for the questions – not an easy task at all, especially if the person directing isn’t used to how these things work.

Wales Arts Review magazineI then went to steward in the Starlight Stage, where there was a Wales Arts Review event (part of a series of events entitled ‘Hay Mela’ for the India-Wales project ‘Valley, City, Village’ and the launch of the first ever print version of the magazine). It was fascinating to hear three Welsh writers and three Indian writers reading their poetry and talking about their visits. I particularly enjoyed Siôn Tomos Owen’s poem about India, a series of impressions and snippets of speech which really capture the flavour of a tourist experiencing India for the first time:

“Walk a bit, then a bit, then another bit,
Get lost, how much’ll this cost…?
Dur that’s cheap
Beep beep beep beep
Call a cab, taxi cab, tuk tuk, rickshaw
Passing stalls…”

I then returned to the Baillie Gifford for the final event there, and had my last Hay Festival meal. It was difficult to say goodbye to my fellow stewards, and very tempting to change plans and stay for one more day! Last year I stewarded at the Tata Tent, and I have definitely preferred stewarding at a smaller venue this year, as it gives you more of a chance to get to know your fellow stewards, even though you don’t get to see all the big names.

I returned to the Starlight Stage for the final Hay Mela event – a fusion of Welsh folk, Indian classical, rock and jazz – like nothing I have ever heard before! It was incredible, but I think I’d have enjoyed it much more if I hadn’t had to stand up for the whole hour.

Hay Mela - music bandThere was a mad dash to the shuttle bus, in an attempt to beat the crowds coming out of the Will Young concert, and I finally made it back to the tent for a very well deserved rest.

Stewarding at the Hay Festival has been an amazing, exhausting and inspiring experience, but there does come a time when one has to return to the real world, complete with a set of books and a pair aching feet!