Dylan Jones: 'I've never heard so many complaints at the Hay Festival that weren't directed at the weather'

Talk of the Town

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Unusually, the talk of the town at this year's literary festival at Hay-on-Wye wasn't the superb performances by the guests (and this year there were dozens, including those by David Frost, Frank Gardner, Jacqueline Wilson and David Simon) but a housing estate instead. I've been going to the festival since God was in short trousers, and never have I heard so many complaints that weren't directed at the weather, the mud or the quality of the food served at the service stations on the M4.

The barnacle in question is the appalling Barratt Home-style housing estate that now sits opposite the Globe arts centre (one of many great reasons to visit Hay). The estate looks as though it was designed in the dark by a couple of monkeys using a slide rule, a pair of broken HB pencils and a pot of jam. One wonders how the constructors ever got planning permission, because not only are the houses (and I use the word "houses" with some caution) completely out of character, and not only do they look nothing like the "visualisations" on the hoardings on the "lawns" in front of them, but they also appear so brazenly cheap (the brick is the colour of baby poo, the wood the hue of fire-damaged Lego) that I'd be surprised if anyone was mad, stupid or inebriated enough to buy one. Ugly, incongruous and seriously ill-conceived, the whole thing displays an arrogant disregard for everything and everyone around it, not to mention any of the principles of modern, egalitarian architecture.

Honestly, if you're driving through the Golden Valley, cycling to Brecon or hitchhiking to Anglesey, and you suddenly think to yourself, "You know what, I really miss the ghastly satellite towns of the Home Counties, and would love to see an ill-thought-out housing estate that looks as though it took three minutes to design and half an hour to build," then make your way to the Globe, order a perfectly made cappuccino, and plonk yourself down at one of the outside tables.

Trust me, you will not be disappointed. In fact, I think there should be a huge sign put up right in front of the damn thing, so large that it obscures everything behind it: "A little piece of Slough in Wales".

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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