JUST ASK – PHIL JONES, WRITERS AT WORK

I’m staying with Jo who runs the vintage store at Hay Festival. She tells me how she got her ‘in’: a flippant remark to Peter Florence, Hay’s festival director, about how well her clothes would sell on the site.

 “Well, how about we try it?” he replied. Five years later Hay Does Vintage is an annual bustling emporium of floral frocks, boho jewellery and dapper hats.

 And that to me is the spirit of Hay Festival – ask. The whole programme is brought together with daring questions. Would Stephen Fry and Neil Gaiman like to chat about myths? Let’s ask and find out.

 Every event I go to ends in a Q&A, so often my favourite part. I love to see new thoughts develop from unexpected interrogation. Something original is always made.

 Incredible writers come to talk to us in our intimate Writers At Work tent. Every single guest is open and honest and each session dissolves into amiable and illuminating chat about writing. Sometimes the tables turn, like when David Mitchell asks us our names, the most exotic scribbled down in the ‘name bank’ – his page of names with high scrabble scores that become characters in novels. Zillah Bowes makes it in. Phil Jones does not.

 I ask around for a gig and The Old Electric Shop in town kindly host us. I ask Amanda Palmer if she’d like to play too. Unfortunately she’s already got a booking: somewhere called the Oxfam Moot. Maybe next year.

Phil Jones is a part of the Hay Writers at Work programme, which is a long-term development programme for selected new Welsh writers.