Susy Smith: Editor of Country Living
The sun is shining in Hay. But for the moment we, my fellow judges and I, are unable to bask in it. We are gathered instead around a makeshift kitchen table – gingham cloth and all – in a large tent, in front of an audience of 150. This is the Country Living Magazine Kitchen Table Talent event where five entrepreneurs are about to pitch their business ideas, Dragon’s Den style, to win a mentoring package that will help them grow their enterprise. Each has three minutes to convince us. The ping of a kitchen timer will tell them when their time is up. And they’re off! We are sold hand-dyed wool, crafting events, paper-cut cards, embroidered upholstery and screen-printed textiles. We love them all, but we choose the cards.
I emerge into the excited babble that personifies the Hay Festival: a constantly roving mish-mash of visitors moving from one event to another, chatting, laughing, and today, eating ice-cream. Many have stopped to settle themselves in deck chairs and zone out for a while. I, meanwhile, have important appointments with India Knight and Edna O’Brien. I will be surrounded by hundreds of others, part of a rapt audience, but I will feel an immense sense of privilege to be part of it all – sitting only yards away from these writers and absorbing their sound advice and funny stories.
I last came to Hay six years ago and it is heartening that it really doesn’t change: the enthusiasm and dedication of the organisers – and the visitors – ensures a great experience. The list of varied events and famous faces is ever-impressive. I have spent two days buying books, catching up with friends, browsing the eclectic shops in the pretty town, eating and drinking well and listening to talented raconteurs – a pretty satisfying way to spend a weekend in anyone’s book.