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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas