Lindsey Hilsum on Hay 25

Lindsey Hilsum on Hay 25

Lindsey Hilsum is the International Editor of Channel 4 News.
Hay Festival is 25 years old, yet this is my first visit. I feel like a virgin who didn’t discover the joy of sex until middle age. The audience for my conversation with David Aaronovitch about my book on Libya was enthusiastic, interested and incredibly well-informed. One woman, I learnt afterwards, had been brought up in Tripoli. Another had designed the opera house in the Kazakh capital, Astana. And – this as all speakers know, is critical – they laughed at my jokes. I was amongst kindred spirits.

The joy of a festival is to learn about things you didn’t know you were interested in, as well as to see writers you admire. So it was that this morning I listened to Alexandra Harris’s passionate presentation about Virginia Woolf, a writer I have always struggled to like. Half way through I began to get it. As she talked about Woolf’s descriptions of a simple white plate changing with the light through the day, I realised that I had never understood the significance of Woolf’s observation, even obsession, with the everyday. Back to Mrs Dalloway…. when I have time.

Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t stay in Hay, because my London neighbourhood calls. So I’m headed for the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. People tell me that it’s “Hay in London”. I’ll just have to make sure I get back to the real Hay next year.