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

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The demise of a Sixties monster

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?