The sleepy green market town of Hay-on-Wye is fast becoming the place to be and be seen – with a book in hand and an intelligent quip on tongue. Maybe East London is dead, if so, our bet for the next creative hub is the bookworm paradise of teeny tiny amazing Hay.
i-D arrived on site for the 25th anniversary of Hay Literary Festival yesterday morning with a hardback library on our backs and plenty of bookmarks. Fresh from a swim in the River Wye, our newly re-elected, bowl-cut blonde, London Mayor Boris Johnson was the first act of the day, talking about his new book ‘Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World’. Now an old-boy Tory talking at a literary festival sounds on paper fairly hum-drum. But may we say, to any Boris-haters out there, the man’s got chat, delivering one-liners like ‘Maybe I’ll shove Dickens in the next book’ and ‘I have as much chance of becoming Prime Minister as being decapitated by a frisby’. Insisting that we acknowledge the 50th anniversary of The Rolling Stones as well as the Queen’s Jubilee, mysteriously music-mad Johnson went off on one about his love for the unsung hero of the rock’n'roll outfit, Keith Richards, ‘he’s the greater talent’. Referring to Florence Nightingale as ‘that old Flo’ and her peer Mary Seacole’s nursing style as ‘slap and tickle’, Mr Mayor was on fire! We were laughing so hard his ‘zero carbon taxis’ and ’15% cycling increase’ banter slipped in without agenda.
The chairwoman opened the floor to questions, which included ‘who would you like to be stuck in a lift with’, to which he replied, ‘Ken Livingstone’ and ‘what are you looking forward to seeing at the Olympics’, to which he replied, ‘Well I didn’t get any tickets in the first ballot and in the second only got basketball and beach volleyball, which I thought was a bit rich all things considered’. A sharp sense of humour and intellect to match, and a very clear love and knowledge of his city, Boris won everyone over and brought the patriotism of the weekend to Wales.
Other highlights from Day 1 included a hip hop Shakespearean (more from him to come), Lianne La Havas and a hot Welsh cake on the side of the road. Today literary giants Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, voice of reason Stephen Fry and cult poet John Cooper Clarke all go for a spin on the hotseat. Stay tuned for more. In the mean time, we leave you with this from C. S. Lewis: ‘We read to know we are not alone’.
Hay Festival runs until 10th June 2012.