Meet the Haymaker – Alison Chappell

Our monthly 'Meet the Haymaker' series shares stories of the change-makers at the heart of Hay Festival and the impact it has had on their lives. This month, get to know Festival Benefactor Alison Chappell, whose day job is managing the regeneration of closed power station sites for sustainable energy projects.

What does Hay Festival mean to you?

Hay Festival means hope. The first time I came to Hay was after a long year supporting my husband through cancer treatment. My horizons had shrunk without me even realising it. Entering the Festival tent, hearing the excited voices of all the festival goers and seeing the amazing programme of events was a profoundly emotional experience, and I still feel it every time.

What’s your favourite Hay Festival memory?

Probably the first Winter Weekend we attended; the town looked completely magical, the weather was cold and frosty, and the atmosphere was amazing.

Have you ever changed your mind on something after having been to a Hay Festival event? 

Not on anything major, but I regularly come away from talks with a better understanding of and respect for the point of view of others, for example, the opinions of farmers on environmental topics such as rewilding.

Who was the best speaker or performer you saw on a Hay Festival stage? 

Difficult! Jeanette Winterson is definitely up there, completely bewitching, with strong competition from Horatio Clare.

What advice do you have for a first-timer at the Festival? 

Book a few events in smaller venues with speakers you know nothing about – they are often more compelling than the big-name authors whose sessions are generally very good, but polished by regular repetition. 

Hay Festival in five words or less...

A feast for mind and soul.

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