|Salem Baptist Chapel|
I wondered what Hay-on-Wye would have been like if it hadn’t been festival season. I saw some statistics that seemed almost unbelievable noting that a town of just over a thousand residents would be hosting some quarter of a million visitors. Over the last week there have been three concurrent events happening there. The Literary Festival, consisting mostly of celebrity authors is staged on the outskirts of town in a marquee city to which shuttle buses run regularly. Audiences for this festival often book accommodation years rather than months in advance. In town there was a festival of philosophy and music which looked interesting (the philosophy was not of the Alain de Botton philosophy-lite variety: the big festival would have gladly accommodated that). Then there was the Poetry Jamboree, held in an old Baptist chapel in the middle of town. I was staying in the village of Talgarth some seven miles up the road. It proved a wise move. I was able to catch a bus in to town and get a lift back with people headed in that direction. In Hay itself one of the main car parks was closed because it had turned into a bog. Entering the town from any direction you needed to navigate past lines of cars parked on the verges of the narrow roads. On Thursday and Friday strong winds and heavy rain showers kept a lot of us indoors. Fortunately there was no shortage of pubs and of course one could (and did) spend hours in The Poetry Bookshop.
|The Poetry Bookshop|
The Poetry Jam was, despite poor funding, a magical event, running from Thursday evening through to Sunday evening. The poetries represented tended to be of the linguistically innovative variety though there were also some relatively conventional poets included. Even within the first category poetics of great variety were exemplified (the nonconformist chapel might well have been the perfect place for this event). It would be hard to single out highlights because there were so many though each of us will have personal moments that were particularly memorable. What I sensed about the Jam was that it exemplified poetry as a project rather than a platform for the individual ego. As is always the case with events planned some time ahead there were people who couldn’t attend, but in each case a replacement was found who was not only suitable but in a strange way delivered work that contained an element of the work that was lost. I thought the organisers, Lyndon Davies and John Goodby, had managed something quite distinctive and worthwhile. The poets were, in approximate order of appearance, Andrea Brady, JP Ward, Jeremy Hilton, Steven Hitchins, David Pollard, Simon Jenner, Caroline Goodwin, Harry Gilonis, myself, Philip Terry, David Burnett, John Goodby, Harriet Tarlo, Peter Larkin, Keith Hackwood, Andrew Duncan, Anthony Mellors, Nerys Williams, Scott Thurston, Sophie Robinson, Jeff Hilson, Tony Lopez and Ulli Freer. Here are some of the readers: