Category Archives: 2012 Festival

Hip Hip Hoor-HAY!

Phew! We’ve just about recovered from the festival, which gives us chance to say a mahoosive THANK YOU to all the fantastic writers, illustrators, performers and organisations that made it so darn special this year.  But the biggest pat on the back has to go to all our wonderful young audiences, who bring the site to life and make every Hay Fever event so awesome.

Here are a few of our favourite moments from this year – thank you for the lovely snaps. More to follow later this week!

Atinuke sharing her amazing stories.

We rocked the wellies!

The amazing god mother of children’s fiction, Jacqueline Wilson.

Can you guess what it is yet? We love a good bit of face painting, especially when all the proceeds go to charity.

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Hay gets inventing!

There’s been a recent invasion at Usborne Towers – from the humble cornflake packet to the fancy aftershave box, piles of recycling have been adorning our offices in anticipation of this year’s Hay Fever.

Is it because we were simply too excited to tidy up after ourselves? Or were we attempting to break a world record for the biggest collection of cardboard? In fact, the truth was that we were planning to transform the Hexagon into an inventors’ haven:

Guided by Professor Boffin and Professor Egghead (AKA Carolyn and Amy from Usborne!), we delved into to the amazing world of inventions, from the groundbreaking to the downright silly.

After discussing inventions we couldn’t live without and the lives of famous inventors (did you know that Frances Gabe still lives in her very own self-cleaning house?!), it was over to the audience to get their thinking caps on to come up with their very own invention to wow the world with.

We were blown away (at times quite literally!) by the creativeness of our young inventors, who got straight to work inventing everything from a glow-in-the-dark book to rocket-boosting trainers. So look out for trampoline shoes, a mind-reading encyclopaedia and a time-freezing device – all coming soon!

But don’t worry if you missed the workshop, here’s our Crazy Professors’ guide to creating your very own patent-ready gadget:

  1.  Remember that inventions don’t have to be machines – from chocolate, to glasses, to anaesthetics and the humble post-it note, some of the world’s most popular inventions don’t require any cogs or pulleys!
  2. Think about what problem you are trying to solve (a popular one turned out to be eliminating teachers!). This could be anything from finding something that you always lose, to being able to get from A to B more quickly.
  3. What does it do? How would you describe it in one sentence?
  4. Think about what noise it might make – boing, buzz, whirr, clank, whoosh, zap… or will it be silent and undetectable?
  5. What do you need to make it? Does it need buttons? Does it need to be light so that you can carry it around?
  6. And finally, every invention needs a good name (e.g. ‘telephone’ comes from the Greek for ‘distant sound’) – so think about what you are going to call it. Make it memorable!

–  Pre-order your homework machines now!

Good luck budding inventors!

You can find out more about the world’s most fascinating and funny inventions in Usborne’s See Inside Inventions and The Story of Inventions, available at Pemberton’s bookshop.

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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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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in Hay!

Thank you to the wonderful Joe Berger who illustrated this beautiful picture to mark his visit to Hay with the other half of the dream team behind Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, Frank Cottrell Boyce.

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Emma Dodd: A hint of what’s to come!

An awesome sneak peek at some of Emma’s work before her interactive event with Kelly Gerrard tomorrow (Wednesday 6 June, 10:30am) Come and learn how to draw your very own comic strip!

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Ellen Richardson: You can be anyone you want

Our merry band of young writers, The Scribblers, posed some particularly brilliant questions to some of the artists appearing at Hay this year.  Over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you their answers. A big summer thumbs up to ELLEN RICHARDSON.

Describe your latest book in 5 words.

Best friends, fun, mystery island

If you had to pick one of your characters to spend the day with, which one would you choose?

That’s really difficult. All three girls in the Flip Flop books would be great company. I’d choose Tash if I wanted a day sailing or seal watching; Elly if I wanted adventure; Sierra to go shopping with and because she’s funny. Since I can’t choose between the girls, I’ll have to pick Mojo the dog because I really want a border terrier.

Which writer, dead or alive, you would like to collaborate with?

Diana Wynne Jones is my favourite children’s writer and when I discovered her books as an adult, I felt an immediate sense of identity with her internal world. I’d love to have met her. But writing is an intensely personal thing and I can’t imagine sharing characters or a plot with another writer. Working with an editor is totally different and very useful.

What’s the best thing about writing?

The characters. They become like real people to you. Also, when you write, you can be anyone you want and have adventures and experiences you can’t in real life.

What’s your top tip for budding young writers?

Read constantly and read lots of different sorts of things. Realise that writing well – like learning to play an instrument or do a sport well – takes hard work and practice. Most of all: write the story you want to read yourself and make sure you have fun writing it. You have to entertain yourself or you’ve got no chance of entertaining your readers.

Catch Ellen at the festival, a week today, Saturday 9 June, 10.30am

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Sarah McIntyre: Comic Strip

Catch Sarah at the festival on Sunday 2 June, 4pm & 8:30pm; Friday 8 June, 6:40pm, Saturday 9 June 10am and 1pm. See more of her wonderful drawings over at:

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Stewart & Riddell: Dragons in the Wild West!

Our merry band of young writers, The Scribblers, posed some particularly brilliant questions to some of the artists appearing at Hay this year.  Over the next few weeks we’ll be bringing you their answers. Today we’re thrilled to be able to speak to the writing team PAUL STEWART & CHRIS RIDDELL.

Describe your latest book in 5 words.

We have had two books published recently.

Muddle Earth Too – “Narnia meets Twilight meets Beowulf”

Bloodhoney – the second in our Wyrmeweald trilogy – “Dragons in the Wild West!”

If you had to pick one of your characters to spend the day with, which one would you choose?

The wonderful thing about writing books is that characters emerge who you would love to get to know in real life. There are several that both of us would happily spend the day with – and others we’d never, ever like to encounter!

Paul: “I think I would most like to ride alongside Rook Barkwater above Lake Landing on a sumpwood skycraft that I had made myself.” (Last of the Sky Pirates)

Chris: “I would spend it tracking through the Wyrmeweald with the cragclimber, Eli Halfwinter.” (Returner’s Wealth)

Both of us would love to play alongside the characters in one of Muddle Earth’s broomball teams.

Which writer, dead or alive, you would like to collaborate with?

Paul: Ever since I was nine years old, when I first read Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, I have wanted to collaborate with the wonderful illustrator, Jules Feiffer. (But don’t tell Chris!)

Chris: “J.K. Rowling!”

What’s the best thing about writing?

For both of us, the most wonderful thing about writing is conjuring up far-off, weird new worlds, travelling there and inhabiting them.

What’s your top tip for budding young writers?

Write something every day. Anything. A descriptive passage, a short piece of dialogue; something funny, something sad… Keep a journal or annotated scrapbook, a diary, a blog. And if you finish writing something, try reading it out loud to a friend. If they yawn, it’s probably a bit boring. But if, when you stop, they go, ‘And what happens next?’, then you’re doing it just right!

Catch Chris and Paul at the festival on Monday 4 June and Tuesday 5 June.

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Make your very own Dreamboat!

To celebrate our very first day of Hay Fever, our official illustrator this year, Polly Dunbar has created a wonderful way for you make your very own Dreamboat – just like the one on our programme’s front cover!

Post photos your creations on Facebook ( or tweet us (@hayfestival) – we’d love to see them.


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