Reading is cool (for 10 days a year, anyway)

Last week we returned to another one of our favourite Caravan Club sites, the Brecon Beacons site. Sitting at the bottom of the impressively imposing Pen y Fan – the highest of the Beacons – the Black Mountains and the rivers Wye and Usk make for the perfect family adventure playground.

Unfortunately, we never got to paddle on the Wye or romp in the hills this time; no, and that’s because, like a lot of others that made it outdoors to enjoy the balmy May weather, we spent much of last week suffering from a serious bought of Hay Fever. Well, when I say suffering, what I really mean is enjoying. Yes, that’s right, enjoying Hay Fever! You see the Hay Fever I’m referring to was a family-focussed programme presented at this year’s Hay on Wye Literary and Arts Festival – a remarkable festival that has been running since 1988 that brings a quaint and quirky village alive with books, writers, performers, artists, environmentalists and of course, people. Lots of them. Of all ages and tastes.

As I wandered around Hay this week something struck me – just how different this festival was to others I’d been to. It wasn’t the fact that it was just so incredibly busy (in a successful way, I mean); it wasn’t because the temporary port-a-loos were so posh (with dark wood panelling and fancy fittings – nice); it wasn’t that the ‘celebrities’ were just strolling around casually with the masses. No, the most striking thing was the fact that there were people, everywhere you looked, explicitly partaking – without shame I might add – in an act very rarely seen in public. Something normally done in private and behind closed doors. The act of … wait for it… reading. Yes, reading. Adults, children, teenagers, all reading. For at least 10 days a year, in this part of the country, reading is cool. Super cool. Something to be celebrated and enjoyed. And this was backed up by the sizes of the audiences we saw at events we attended, ranging from the fun and entertaining: Tom Gates author Liz Pichon, The Parent Agency author David Baddiel, to the adventurer Bear Grylls, to a workshop on children’s writing run by the BBC. Amy got to meet one of the writers of the TV programme Atlantis and learn about drama script writing. Ella got to meet the very funny author of The World of Norm, Jonathan Meres.

We were lucky enough to be invited to run a workshop at Hay, and give a talk about our book 100 Family Adventures. And very proud too, as it is an event even the most aspiring of writers hope to be apart of. This certainly was an amazing learning experience for us all; a highlight of our Year of Edventure.

It was our first time visiting Hay but the experience was such that we have already vowed to come again next year.

Meanwhile, it’s time to head for the chemist for some antihistamine tablets as Amy really is suffering from a mild dose of the other type of hay fever.