A photographer at the Hay Festival 2016

“The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.” Laszlo Moholy-Nagy


an avid reader

A two hour drive in the early morning through misty landscapes and roads largely devoid of the cars that later on in the day will be infesting them as it is the Bank Holiday at the end of May and a Saturday which is change-over day resulting in people going on holiday and coming back from holiday not always in opposite directions. However, the mayhem does not start till later and I find myself reaching Hay on Wye in the time suggested by my Sat Nav in spite of a wait at the toll bridge.


the 60’s comes to Hay !?

I call my friends who are camping here but there phone is not switched on as yet. Finding the appropriate camp site is not difficult since I have been texted their exact location.

Moray, a friend, brewing up in the campsite

Julie is out and about as I approach and Moray is sitting up inside over a brew with toast in the cooker’s grill. We chat awhile over breakfast about the Hay Festival. The folk musician Danny Thompson comes up for discussion following a concert the previous evening of Appalachian folk music. Moray is surprised that Thompson emigrated to the United States and so am I but reflect that this might have been a result of the ingrained attitude in the United Kingdom towards, well life in general at times! America is much more liberal towards the arts as a whole and I expect Thompson ironically found more support for his folk music across the pond.

bus stop outside the festival

I mention this because as I walk into the site, an official accosts me. Perhaps he saw me taking a photograph of the bus stop outside where people were queuing up or maybe he just noticed the camera, a small one hardly bigger than a phone, strung around my neck. Of course, I am used to being challenged as a photographer but am still surprised to be told that no photography is allowed on site and that if I am seen with a camera, I might be asked to leave since cameras are not actually allowed on site unless one has permission.

entrance to the festival

After burying the camera in my bag, I enter the site and seeing the media centre, decide to enquire further about photographing here. Although I am with a group of students for whom I would like to provide photographs for our blog, permission can not be given. They can however send me a link from where photographs can be downloaded; they also inform me that contrary to the official who challenged me on entry, photography of the general site is permitted subject to the usual restrictions such as not including children.

The food hall

I can’t help reflect a little upon this. The attitude of the Press Office would be understandable if they had sent the link to where photographs can be downloaded (later I find it on the Hay Festival website) as they said they would but they don’t; the official seems to reflect the popular misconception of photography as a form of aggression. Photographs can appear to be devoid of imagination yet they are also objects to be read though in a different way to the books that are the lifeblood of this festival. Someone in the cafe where I write this shows me a Guardian headline discussing literary festivals.
Last night I was photographing an exhibition on the request of the painter. I found myself met with a blinkered response. Painters tend to see photography as a particular kind of representation they do not see that it might also have depth, a depth similar to that found in a painting, to that which can be read in a book. However, the public are largely uneducated in regard to photography and do not see the implications inherent within it. Painting continues to largely dominate the arts yet, of course, it is photography we see everyday and almost everywhere, not paintings.

tutor Nina and her son

There is a convivial attitude at the festival. The need to share a table while drinking one’s beverage does not incur any hostility rather friendliness. At the beginning of the talk, a sign flashed up to say that photography is forbidden during the events which helps to clarify the situation; I also hear that to photograph briefly at the beginning of a talk is also acceptable. This makes sense.
The first talk I attend is about the artist Velasquez. I can not help but be struck by the author talking as if the characters in one painting must have existed because Velasquez painted them. He was however, not a photographer and his mode of representation can not be as realistic as the photograph is even though there is a remarkable realism in his work. His faces are lifelike in a remarkable way yet this surely contains a fictional element unlike that of the photograph.

outside the festival toilets

My next talk is about 1606, the year Shakespeare wrote King Lear among other plays. The book being aired here is about the relationship between the politics of the time and the matter of the plays Shakespeare wrote. Afterwards, I see the actor Benedict Cumberbatch in the crowd, leaving; he has recently been acting in a series of Shakespeare’s history plays in the BBC film, The Hollow Crown, in which he played Richard II. Am starting to get a feel for the festival.
My final talk is the Russian Nobel prize winning author, Svetlana ???, who is interviewed by BBC Russian correspondent . A riveting talk.

Nina Milton, authoress, creative writing tutor with the OCA

I meet and chat with OCA tutor and author, Nina Milton, and another student called Pat;The Open College of the Arts account of the visit is HERE Before leaving, there is dinner with my friends to be enjoyed.


goodbye to my friends after a pleasant dinner

Yes, I would come again.

other diners in the camping area

5 thoughts on “A photographer at the Hay Festival 2016

  1. That really took me back to the day; now 5 weeks behind us, along, it seems, with those sunny days. It was a great event, wasn’t it. The photos are so good, Amano, they sum the whole thing up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s