A STRANGE KIND OF MAGIC | ED VERE

A STRANGE KIND OF MAGIC | ED VERE

A magical winter weekend at Hay, starting, for me, on Friday afternoon with clear brilliant sunshine and a decidedly wintery bite to the air. As the sun dropped Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris conjured powerful spells to bring us otters, larks and hares. From there, Zillah Bowes, Rosey Brown, Imtiaz Dharker, Menna Elfyn and Pascale Petit read poems in English and powerfully in Welsh to Celebrate the 80th birthday, and brilliant nature poems, of Gillian Clarke.

As the sky darkened further, rain drummed the canvas of the big tent. Inside, by candlelight, Jeanette Winterson held us shivering on the edge of terror as she slowly, teasingly, summoned spirits.

Saturday morning had me in the Swan ballroom reading and drawing with families. A strange kind of magic often happens when you read to families. The grown ups, who might occasionally confront the world with a facade in place, allow that facade to drop completely as they revert to their childhood selves – a rare, privileged and immensely fun place to be.

Later, two sessions from the brilliant pianist, Daniel Martyn Lewis. For the final session, in the candlelit St. Mary’s Church, he played Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which were composed to bring relief to the insomniac Count Kaiserling. Johann Gottlieb Goldberg being the Harpsichord player tasked with performing the variations through the night to keep the unhappy Count cheered.

To clear a head made fuzzy from the previous night’s dinner, a muddy morning walk along Offa’s Dyke Path with Robert Macfarlane’s spells in mind worked wonders. Then a snowy ascent of a wind buffeted Hay Bluff. Wonderful again to turn and see Hay ringed by snow-covered hills. Back in St. Mary’s Church, Chopin’s Mazurkas played stunningly, and in their entirety, by Joanna MacGregor. Watching her myriad expressions as she interrogates the music, is as delightful as the listening.

And finally, an 8 hour marathon journey back to London with Isabel Losada. Discussing (with gusto) her latest book, Sensation – adventures in Sex, Love and Laughter on an otherwise hushed train, made a highly entertaining end to a wonderful weekend.

Thank you, all at Hay, for inviting me. And for bringing the thoughts, words, art and music of these brilliant people together.

Ed Vere appeared at Hay Festival Winter Weekend on Saturday 25 November 2017.