I think I’m as well qualified as the next writer to muse on literary festivals, having spent an inordinate amount of time at them lately.
The thing is, I’ve recently had a bit of a revelation. Which is, why go halfway around the world (or all the way to Hay on Wye, which sometimes feels like the same thing) to a literary festival and then not partake of the offerings?
Note, I am not talking about the offerings in the various Green Rooms — which generally involve coffee, cake, gossip, and celeb and/or old friend spotting*. Everyone partakes of that bit. At length.
I’m talking about the bona fide TALKS given by other people.
Radical thought, eh?
Today I heard Siddhartha Deb talk about industrialisation in modern India and learned that more than 125,000 farmers have committed suicide due to GM crop promises that failed to materialise and land squeezing. The director of the CERN Hadron collider overcame John Snow’s irritating interview technique (which consisted largely of insisting repeatedly that he knew nothing about science) to deliver a fascinating and straightforward explanation of how the collider works, the Higgs Boson (and why they’re searching for it), and dark matter (please don’t ask me to explain it to you). James Atlee spoke on the subject of moonlight. Julian Assange defended his position on Wikileaks and superinjunctions.
Impressive, eh? Certainly makes a change from greeting Monty Don like an old friend because (having seen him on TV so much) I thought we were old friends.
And who knows? If I attend enough literary festivals and follow my own advice, it might actually make up for all those thousands of hours wasted staring at a blank page.
*If you must know, here’s who I saw in the Green Room today: Julian Assange, John Snow, Eoin Colfer, Rosie Boycott, Alfred Brindel, Anne Robinson, Marcus Brigstock, Daniel Hahn, Garth Nix and Sean Williams, Julia Eccleshare (Guardian), Monty Don, Gaby Woods (Telegraph), James Naughtie, Lucy Christopher, and whole bunches of other people I didn’t…quite…recognize. The lemon drizzle cake was exceptionally nice too.