I once interviewed Ken Livingstone in front of 500 almost motionless (read: asleep) people at the Cheltenham Literary Festival.I had the suspicion at the time that most of them had come in to shelter from the rain. When you see a full auditorium at the Hay Festival, you assume most of the audience know almost as much as the people on stage (in some cases, more), and are looking forward to furthering the debate.
In terms of media attention, Hay now gets more traction than Cannes, which is why this year both David Miliband and Julian Assange chose to speak here (at breakfast in his digs, Assange apparently asked for freshly squeezed OJ made no more than 10 minutes earlier). Even if the guests are determined to keep schtum, tidbits appear – pressed by Peter Florence, Andrew Davies let slip that he may be adapting Les Mis next year.
The green room this year witnessed the rapprochement between Paul Theroux and V S Naipaul, as well as the delightful sight of Germaine Greer and Richard Hammond happily oblivious to each other's fame.
My highlights were lunch with Hollywood legend Roland Emmerich, watching AC Grayling dance at our party, seeing the Duchess of Cornwall glide between the deckchairs as though she were at Glyndebourne, and hearing David Bailey's aside to me on stage at his talk on Afghanistan, after a gentleman had objected to the tone of the session and stormed out: "I bet he hasn't gone to Helmand".
It is Peter Florence's intellectual rigour that makes the Hay Festival one of the best festivals in the world. Next year, it celebrates its 25th anniversary, and if I were you I'd book a hotel now.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'Reuse content