David Goodhart's got a book to flog, so why won't the Hay-on-Wye Festival let him flog it?

In general, it's the tail of publishers’ hype that wags the literary festival dog

Share

Every literary festival needs a good row. Normally, they flare up thanks to the invited rather than the uninvited guests. But this year’s Hay-on-Wye Festival, which continues on the Welsh borders until next weekend, has felt a chill spectre pass over its annual feast. Its director, Peter Florence, who from small beginnings in 1987 has transformed the Hay brand into a glittering international franchise with offshoots from Colombia to Lebanon, this year refused to give a platform to David Goodhart.

The British Dream, a study of mass migration and its social effects by the director of the Demos think-tank, has picked up more attention than almost any other work of non-fiction published this spring. Kenan Malik, whose own critical stance on official multiculturalism has influenced Goodhart, wrote in a balanced and fairly sympathetic review for The Independent that “Goodhart raises important questions.”

By any yardstick, this book counts in British policy debate. A shoo-in for Hay, then? Not for Florence, who disagrees with Goodhart’s critique and dislikes his “predictable and sensationalist” book. Hence the absence of any solicitation in the Goodhart inbox. Goodhart has struck back by suggesting that Hay prefers cosy consensus to any serious challenge to liberal orthodoxy.

There are almost more ironies here than sheep on the wet, green hills of Powys. First, The Telegraph – daily home of fulminating punditry about the alleged silencing of critics of mass migration – now sponsors Hay. Next, the past few days have seen festival discussions with global tax avoider Eric Schmidt of Google, with ex-MI5 head and hardline security hawk Stella Rimington, and with former BP chieftain John Browne, whose drastic cost-cutting at the oil giant led to accusations of his ultimate responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon blow-out. Florence himself has just interviewed Jack Straw, populist hard man of New Labour. In this company, Goodhart looks like a dripping lefty.

Beyond the evidence of double standards, or directorial caprice, lurks another issue. Why do literary festivals select and schedule authors? In general, the tail of publishers’ hype wags the festival dog. Most authors appear, unpaid or underpaid, because they have new books to sell. Very few organisers in Britain dare to start with urgent themes and topics, and then find the voices who can best address them.

Snip the intravenous drip that ties festival programmes to the life-sustaining fluid of sales and you might end up with fewer, but more passionate, events. Let’s begin with today’s big ideas, not this season’s catalogue. Now there’s a heretical proposal.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Theresa May was kept on as Home Secretary by David Cameron in his post-election Cabinet reshuffle (EPA)  

The Only Way is Ethics: Rights to privacy and free expression will always be at loggerheads

Will Gore
The handling of the tragic deaths of Bobby and Christi Shepherd in 2006 by Thomas Cook was appalling  

Thomas Cook case was a failure of heart

Danny Rogers
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine