Monday, May 31, 2010

More festivals

I'd never been to the Hay Festival before, even though I grew up in nearby Hereford, and my parents still live there. I'd expected the Festival to operate across the little town of bookshops, but in fact it's a posh, Anglicised version of the Festivals I've attended in Australia and New Zealand, with all the events in tents (or marquees, for Hay), somewhere in a crowded field. We went to a debate about youth and education, which included an inspiring contribution from Hilary Hodgson, who was our contact for the grant we had from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation towards O Patrin. Then listened to Ian McEwan reading from, and talking about, his new novel Solar. I'd already read the book - very quickly and with much laughter. It's a return to form by McEwan: I loved Atonement, and then felt that both Saturday and On Chesil Beach were disappointing. Solar manages to employ the ironic method McEwan used in Saturday without having the effect of patronising the characters (or the reader). Although his central figure is repulsive, he is also capable, and strangely sympathetic - his life spinning out of control, entirely as a result his own actions. I also much enjoyed the fact that this was a comic novel about climate change. McEwan spoke interestingly about this: he had been very anxious to avoid the preachy, the worthy - and so decided to come at his subject from an oblique angle. I find this very helpful at a time when all the funders are asking for socially relevant subjects and "impacts": there have to be ways of making art which allow for this and yet are still artistic instead of being dull propaganda. McEwan has found one.

In the evening, we listened to a Christy Moore concert. I've loved this singer for years - a great teller of moral and emotional truths. I'd never heard him live before, so this was a real treat.

I find Festivals more and more appealing: they really allow people to clear some space, stop their everyday mania and contemplate other things over a period of time. Far better than a show hastily snatched at the end of the day, after a quick meal and before the last train. I very much want to do another Origins, and have also been chatting to a number of people about joining forces, so that other Festival events can get an Origins input. There's a lot of excitement about the initiative across the globe... this morning I met up with a Native American storyteller who was in London and wanted to chat about it. And I'd also like to get the work we create into more Festival settings: it somehow seems more appropriate for our audiences to be receiving the work in that kind of environment.

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