Small women with important things to say

I’ve been coming to Hay Festival for years and years and it feels like family more than anything else. There is that feeling of a literary oasis and I think that’s really important – the exchange of ideas not just onstage but offstage as well. I was encouraging my audience last night to talk to someone they’d never spoken to before and I asked after the interval if they’d done that and almost the entire audience put their hands up, so it’s about new friendships and new ideas being forged.

It’s nice to be around people who understand that writing a book is quite hard work and it feels like physical labour because once you’ve finished your back hurts and your eyes are strained, so it’s lovely to share your work. I think also there’s a little less cynicism at Hay than there is in London and people are open to new ideas. I'm always happy to try out a new show and the audience are willing to accept that you might be trying out new thoughts and ideas.

What I love is that the Festival Director Peter Florence really does listen. We did a platform on equality a few years ago and I stood up at the lectern but I could not be seen above the lectern. It's an everyday inequality: lecterns are built for tall men to say important things and not for small women to say important things. From that day on Peter had all the lecterns rebuilt so they were all scalable and they could be the height of the person who’s trying to speak. That's what Hay Festival is about, it’s about listening, and making sure that everything, even the lecterns, represent equal opportunities.


Sandi Toksvig attended Hay Festival on Monday 27 May. Listen to highlights of the Festival on Hay Player