Inspiring Older Readers
The Hay Literary Festival 4th June : The last hurrah for Festival 2017
Sunday turned out to be a bit of an odd day all round really. The weather was dreadful in the morning with cold wind and torrential rain showers but by the late afternoon the sun was out and the sky cracked into blue. The festival site had a very definite end of term feel about it – the crowds had thinned appreciably and many of the tents were beginning to wind-up their activities for another year.
Our first event of the day was the wonderful John Boyne who was promoting his most recent adult novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies which is a 600 page slab of entertainment and unlike some of his more sombre, melancholic books is riddled with ribald humour. Boyne is an great storyteller and likes to talk but it was his reading of a section from the novel that held the audience in thrall. It was magnetic and wickedly funny and I could have just listened to him read for the whole hour. Sadly, the interviewer ( Who was it? They were uncredited on the tickets) was truly dreadful and seemed to be doing all she could to take the steam out of Boyne’s natural exuberance. Fortunately he’s got a personality big enough to overcome the diffident, stumbling and ineffectual interviewing he was confronted with and what he had to say about his optimism for the changing climate of acceptance towards homosexuality in Ireland was clearly heartfelt.
We wound up this year’s Hay experience with Ken Loach who had been invited to deliver the Raymond Williams Memorial Lecture. And it really would be hard to imagine anyone more fitting to commemorate the great Raymond Williams than Loach who is a natural heir to the great man’s politics. Loach has just past his 80th birthday but he is still cogent, sharp and across the key issues of our time – as his films demonstrate. The audience in the large Tata Tent were clearly all faithful followers and gave him a rousing welcome in a ‘home is the hero’ style but what he had to say was pretty mainstream Loach – no surprises to be had here. As trenchant as his political analysis is, it can’t be denied that it’s also a bit short on solutions and the way opposition to capitalism can be translated into action. However, having said that, it’s just great to have someone with his profile prepared to stand up and say these things. As he rightly said, you have to be prepared to put your head above the parapet.
Despite his obvious frailty he was happy to do a signing after the event and people had a ragbag of books, DVD’s and ephemera they wanted him to sign but, in truth, for most people it was just a chance to say hello and thanks for everything. He’s a great man of British film and a bastion of Left politics and I’m proud to say he’s signed some books for me.