I’d heard the stories, read the blogs and seen the photos, but this was my first visit to the Hay Festival itself.

I arrived in driving rain, to flags whipping in the wind while clouds hovered overhead like an invading alien fleet. But it takes more than a drop of rain to put off the folk at Hay – the deckchairs may have been slightly damp, but festival goers carried on undeterred.


I have the directional sense of a trapped bluebottle, so the maze of green walkways caused a few problems and after five minutes I was lost. Luckily there were plenty of signposts to guide me.


I followed the trail of daydreamers to this mural drawn by Oliver Jeffers. The jumpers had been painted by various festival speakers, including Tim Minchin, Sara McIntyre, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Marcus Sedgwick. The artwork will be auctioned for the Volunteer Reading Help charity next week (see the festival website for details).


There was even more live art around the corner.

One of my childhood ambitions was to be a illustrator, so it was fascinating to watch Korky Paul, illustrator of Winnie the Witch (also celebrating its 25th anniversary this year), in action.


The first picture shows Korky starting to add colour to the outline sketch of Winnie. The second was taken five hours later and the picture is almost complete. After a full day’s painting, Korky was still happy to sign and illustrate a couple of his books for me. A true legend!


At two-thirty I headed across to the Starlight Stage for my event, 15 Days Without a Blog! Despite the downpour rattling the roof, the skies inside the tent were clear and sparkled with stars. I had a great crowd who asked some brilliant questions – one of my favourites being the young audience member who asked how I was hoping to finish my next book in four days when the first one had taken me four years to write. I’m still thinking about that one …


After the session I was rushed across to the bookshop to sign copies of 15 Days Without a Head.


Thanks to everyone who queued, and apologies to those who couldn’t get a copy when the book sold out. Then it was time for a quick photo with Matt Dickinson, author of the superb Mortal Chaos books.


Not a bad first day at the festival. Thanks for sharing my Hay Fever Haylights!


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  1. Jane McLoughlin says:

    Fantastic, Dave. Looks like you (and your lucky audience) had a great time. One of my school’s year 7 kids was a finalist in the Radio 2 competition, and I’ll ask him if he was at your gig!

  2. Wonderful Dave. Looks like you were a great success!!

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