Right of Reply: Mary Loudon

The writer rebuts criticism of performers and audiences at the Hay-on-Wye festival
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The Independent Culture
FOR 10 DAYS at the end of May more than 40,000 descended upon the border town on Hay-on-Wye, home to 1,100. They filled hotels, B&Bs and campsites for miles around: they ate and drank, they walked on the hills and along the Wye; some fished, some cycled, some browsed in local shops. All came to the Festival.

Last Tuesday, Michael Glover wrote in this paper about the foolishness of those who go to Hay, and the vanity of the performers - as he has done repeatedly in recent years, although he and his delightful family have been guests of the festival, staying in beautiful accommodation nearby and driving one of the official cars he professes to despise.

This year's attack was astonishingly vituperative. Writers were "a damnable chat-pack", readers an "ignorant" bunch of pensioners. Let them jump in a lake, he wrote, "and may a thousand Excaliburs be poised to receive their tenderest parts."

The Festival takes place in a jumble of marquees on a school's playing fields. Everyone, performers and audiences alike, eats in the same tent, walks through the same puddles, stays in the same B&Bs, chats in the same sunny courtyard. Never have I seen so levelling and unpretentious a setting for such a mixed group of people, such scaling down to size of the few egos there are.

As a writer who has been lucky enough to appear five times at the festival, I find audiences well-informed, intelligent and friendly. The Festival is celebrated, enjoyed, loved, by those who run it, patronise it, profit by it or perform at it. How sad for Michael Glover that he still feels unable to join in.