My drive to Hay-on-Wye was very slightly delayed due to Top Gear being filmed in the Brecon Beacons. I am not a follower of Top Gear, mainly because I know very little about vehicles, but the fact that something other than sheep was decorating my scenic view helped to distract me from newcomer’s nerves. For the next 11 days, I would be one of five new members to join the pre-existing Hay Writers at Work scheme, where we would attend workshops, masterclasses, round-table sessions, many of the main Hay events, and share readings of our work-in-progress with the general public.
Twenty minutes after my car was turning its wheels again, I was approaching my accommodation, which thankfully was in the centre of town. I spilled my luggage into my new bedroom and, in the sunny haze that seems to accompany the memory of all fond afternoons, I began my daily ritual of attempting to close the wrought-iron gates on the driveway, before strolling towards the bunting-dressed festival entrance. I followed the sign labelled 'Writers at Work' already feeling as though I had a place to be, and continued along the green boardwalk towards the tent that would become the centre of creativity for the next week. It would also be the place where I would meet 19 warm, talented and ambitious writers, all with a passion for literature and learning.
As I naturally feel privileged to be given such an opportunity to explore so many events, and to drink in the atmosphere, it is safe to say that I am attending as many events as I physically can while I have the chance. This has already consisted of a healthy balance of literature such as Anna Burns, Pat Barker, Jonathan Coe and Malorie Blackman, comedy such as Jo Brand, Natalie Haynes and Marcus Brigstocke, workshops led by Alys Conran and Gillian Clarke, a Hay Artists’ party in the beautiful Richard Booth's bookshop, and music by The Waterboys and Ezra Furman. This is only to name a few, and it excludes everything I am looking forward to, such as a visit from Owen Sheers, a Jacqueline Wilson event and a whole lot more.
After six days of a morning-until-night programme, and on some occasions, a cheesecake-takeaway before power walking to the next venue, I was expecting to be exhausted. However, this is far from the case. Every time my brain is fed a wholesome meal of knowledge, it is insatiably searching for the next of its kind – which, of course, it will not find. After all, Hay Festival is either a place of originality, or wonderfully revamped editions of something already deeply appreciated. Even the Q and A sessions that follow each event offer space for our innately inquisitive nature as human beings. This is what I already love most about Hay; the sense that we are all on the look-out for a better future together, breathing and imagining through science, history and the arts.
Even though I have not yet reached the end of my Hay visit as a Writer at Work, I have learned the importance of authenticity. Every author who has visited our group, and every author we have listened to at the Hay stages, has spoken deeply from the heart about their unique writing process and the sometimes serendipitous nature of ideas that forge a path to success, as though stories sometimes summon the author, rather than the other way around. This proves that there is always an element of magic that we can’t pin down but will continue to create all the same – we simply can’t help it! As an emerging writer, I sense the Hay Festival laying daily pavestones of inspiration to enable our words to find their way towards us, so we can pick them up and rearrange them in a way that will move people.
Writers at Work is a long-term professional development strategy to nurture Welsh talent, writing in both languages. It runs during the 11 days of Hay Festival Wales. The project gives access to the unique gathering of the literary world at this time and exploits the publishing and creative writing expertise on offer for the direct benefit of professional writers in Wales.