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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory