Kazuo Ishiguro at Hay Festival 2015 by Anna and Emmeline

Writer of acclaimed novels such as Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro spoke yesterday about his new book The Buried Giant. A clearly devoted and well-read audience lapped up his experience of the process of writing and how his work ties in to social morals relevant across the globe today.

Ishiguro’s new novel focuses on societies’ suppression and selection of memories and whether issues are better left buried (hence the title) or raked up and discussed despite the pain left there; this contrasts to his earlier work which he always felt was based more around individual struggle with memories. The Buried Giant is in the fantasy genre (and even includes ogres which, as the author commented, are rather unnecessarily disliked in the literary world). If it came to it, “I’d be on the side of the ogres,” he commented, eliciting a warm response from the audience.

Amongst other topics, he discussed the placement of genre stereotyping in the world of fiction and how he tried not to write with a particular genre in mind.

We were eagerly anticipating this talk by one of the world’s most treasured authors and I’m pleased to report that he did not disappoint.

Greg Jenner at Hay Festival 2015 by Patrick

You may think you don’t know Greg Jenner, but if you’ve ever watched ‘Horrible Histories’, you have Greg to thank. He is the historical consultant for all the series (and occasionally pops up as a corpse or two in a few episodes!). His latest book, ‘A Million Years In A Day: A Curious History Of Everyday Life’ explains the origin of everyday objects and practices; things to which we don’t give a second thought, for example brushing our teeth or going to the toilet.

In his talk, Greg took us through an average day, from the moment we get up in the morning to when we go to bed, and explained when each object was invented and where in the world it came from.

In fact, much of our everyday life dates back to an even earlier time than we think. For example, the first bed was invented 77,000 years ago, with mattresses woven from plants. The first toilet seat was invented 3,200 years ago.

Do you want to know where your underpants came from, or when alarm clocks were first invented? All the answers are in Greg’s new book!

Another thing he showed was that hygiene didn’t improve over the years – for example thousands of years ago, hygiene was far more sophisticated than in the 18th Century.

Because Greg is used to writing for ‘Horrible Histories’ he was able to make it accessible to people of all ages, and he brought the history to life by using humour, making a few jokes about recent politics: “In history, there have been 128 billion people in the world, which is nearly as many times as Nigel Farage has been on the BBC!” Whether you’re 8 or 98, this event is not just informative, but extremely entertaining.


Tim Bowler, Sam Hepburn and Ken Oppel at Hay 2015 by Olga

There was a general hum of anticipation in the Starlight Stage as we all waited for Tim Bowler, Sam Hepburn and Ken Oppel to appear. These three authors share one thing in particular; all their stories have a certain dangerous aura around them. At first glance Hepburn looks like a friendly BBC documentary maker, but when she talks about her story, ‘If You Were There’, she seems to take a mysterious tone. Hepburn told us that she based her story on a pizza shop owner from Afghanistan, living in Streatham, who was convicted for terrorism. She takes inspiration from Malala. Tim Bowler, who wrote ‘Game Changer’, believes in going with the flow, and often doesn’t know where his stories will lead him. Bowler has a very funny and natural air and when he talks he takes everyone with him. Ken Oppel, all the way from Canada, wrote ‘The Boundless’, a story about a seven-mile-long train with a mini civilization on it. His story is tense and intriguing and draws you in the more you hear it. I hadn’t previously read any of these books, and went in expecting to some books written for pre-teen boys, but have come out ready to go and read all of them! Olga

Steven Moffat at Hay Festival 2014 by Jaffa

Being a Whovian, I was very much looking forward to seeing Steven Moffat, and by the sound of things, so was everyone else – as soon as he entered the tent, everyone erupted into the loudest cheer I have heard yet. He was very funny, and the best thing he said was, “My wife divorced me she thought I liked television more than her. I proved her point by writing a sitcom about it.”

He made everyone laugh and didn’t use too many big words, which I expected him to do as he writes so much using big and clever words. Asked what would be in the next series of Dr Who, he said, “I have lots of things in my head… but I’m not giving away any of them.” I think the best question was, “What do you find harder, finding a pre-written text and putting it into a modern script, or writing your own plot?” The answer was, “They’re both very hard.”

By Jaffa.
Jaffa, 13, is a Whovian who spends an awful lot of time writing stories and playing piano.

Anthony Horowitz at Hay Festival 2014 by Finn

I went to see Anthony Horowitz to talk about his new book, ‘Russian Roulette’, part of the popular Alex Rider books, which he wrote 15 years ago. The difference between the books is that the earlier Alex Rider ones are from the perspective of the good guy and ‘Russian Roulette’ is the other way around.

He was very funny and said that when he was smaller he asked his mum to buy him a human skull for his birthday. He wasn’t sure who was weirder: him for asking for it – or his mum for buying it! Then he chatted about films not being as good as books because with books you have the power of imagination.

I would highly recommend reading his books as they are gripping and you cannot put them down. So go to the nearest bookshop and buy one of his books!!!!

By Finn.
Finn, 11, likes reading, tennis, drawing and being outside.

Laura Bates at Hay Festival 2014 by Clara

I am a feminist. Whoops. The number of people who would be undeniably and/or unashamedly put off by that statement is a testament to how depressingly internalised sexism is in our society, and indeed throughout the world. Unless, of course, people are outwardly misogynistic, which happens (surprisingly or unsurprisingly) all too often.
Laura Bates’ book, ‘Everyday Sexism’, is full of accounts (many from girls, a handful from boys) of people’s experiences of sexism. And it’s not just apparent in the young or uneducated: one account is that of a Cambridge University student who was asked by a don on her first day if she had to ‘bend over’ to get in.
But the talk, like the book, was not only an explanation of how (and to some extent why) this harassment (and assault) takes place, but also tackled how to combat and counteract this, and even educate people out of the normalised, implicitly sexist culture that, in my opinion, stems from the patriarchy.
Bates may not be the first to have the idea of making relationship education (including the idea of clear lessons on what consent is) a compulsory government initiative, but she certainly seems to be the first to voice this on such a public platform. Could that have an effect? Maybe, if she gets enough people behind her.
Though her talk and book are real eye openers to all the nastiness that seems to have been ignored, it’s heartening to walk into a tent full of people who are there to listen and to learn. It’s nothing short of emotional when a young boy gets up to talk of his experiences with watching sexism at his own school and what he’s done to try to stop it. It’s something quite incredible to hear about the tens of thousands of girls that have shared their experiences. Maybe, just maybe, something can be done. And there’s nowhere to go but up.

By Clara.
Clara is 15 and enjoys Homer, but is an unabashed fan of Harry Potter.

RSC Workshop at Hay Festival 2014 by Patrick

On Wednesday I did a workshop in the Scribblers’ Hut about Shakespeare’s histories, run by the RSC. We performed extracts from Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. We all played different characters; I played the roles of Henry IV, Henry Hotspur, Henry V and Margaret Beaufort! There was a group of about 15 of us, children and adults, and we all learnt something new about the history plays, including the dramatic speeches. We also re-enacted the battles and as we died in an extremely over-the-top way, bellowing one of Shakespeare’s lines. Overall, I thought it was a great experience as well as great fun, and anyone who is interested in Shakespeare, acting or just wants to try something new should go along.

By Patrick.

Michael Morpurgo and Rae Smith at Hay Festival 2014 by Eleanor

A massive crowd turned up and the atmosphere was wonderful in the packed tent. Michael Morpurgo decided to begin the event by telling us how he came to write ‘War Horse’. It all began when he was talking to a soldier in a pub in Devon. He learned about the special bond between the men and their horses, and just knew that there was a story to tell. So the book was published from the horse’s point of view.

Michael admits that he was originally dubious about the National Theatre’s plans to adapt ‘War Horse’ into a play: “It is in World War One, you can’t turn it into a pantomime with puppet horses!” But by now, he can see what a huge success it is.

Then Rae (‘War Horse’ artist) and Ben (‘War Horse’ actor and singer) were welcomed warmly on to the stage. The three of them created a spectacular performance. Michael read extracts of the book, Ben sang, and throughout, Rae was sketching scenes beautifully in charcoal.

But the most fantastic surprise was when Michael ordered us to be silent and Joey (the horse puppet) galloped into the tent! The puppeteers did such an amazing job that it was hard to believe he wasn’t real. In fact, when question time came, a little boy shot up his hand and asked, “Where did the horse, Joey, come from?”

By Eleanor.
Eleanor, 14, loves cats and reading fantasy epics (preferably about dragons).

Darren Shan at Hay Festival 2014 by Dylan

Shivers ran down my spine and my hair began to spike as Darren Shan read a disgusting and gruesome scene from his book Zom-B, one of the most descriptive books I have ever read! Darren Shan is an amazing author who writes horror/fantasy and does a good job of it too. His books are gripping and thrilling with suspense and great cliff-hangers that leave you thirsting for more. But thankfully he writes a book every three months so he doesn’t keep you waiting for too long. He has always wanted to be a writer and his mother inspired him the most because she taught him to read. Altogether he is an experimental, engaging and awesome author who writes brilliant, exciting must-read books!

By Dylan.
Dylan, 10, likes Minecraft, reading, trampoline and adventure.

Oliver Jeffers, Rachel Bright and Chris Haughton at Hay Festival 2014 by Eleanor

“All good illustrators give layers of a story,” said Rachel Bright. She, Oliver Jeffers, and Chris Haughton all write picture books, and all have their own stories to tell.

If you haven’t studied art at college, or you just have completely different interests, do not think that it is too late to get started with picture books? was one question posed to the panel. Oliver Jeffers had never intended to be an author, and Rachel Bright had numerous other jobs before writing. She was an air steward and even claims to have been taken hostage by Daleks – as an extra on ‘Doctor Who’. It was solar etching that she used to make her first book, ‘Love Monster’. She just loved the idea of “a book made of sunshine”. Now, as well as her books, she has her own range of witty greeting cards and gifts called The Bright Side.

Chris Haughton talked about the process of writing his three books – ‘A Bit Lost’, ‘Oh No George!’ and ‘Shh! We Have a Plan’. He says that one of the key aspects of creating a good story is to have a character with whom readers can identify. Chris was also greatly influenced by Fair Trade work he did with the ethical fashion business People Tree. He’s currently working on Monkey – an interactive app for toddlers. Fingers crossed, it will be coming out soon! Oliver Jeffers discussed his different experiences in illustrating. He was originally inspired to write when it occurred to him that his sketches told stories – stories that couldn’t be expressed in just a series of images. They needed to become books. And so he created his first book, ‘How to Catch a Star’.

A member of the audience observed that there was not enough illustration in adult literature; the art of ‘picture reading’ is becoming scarce. We need to learn to appreciate the beauty of picture books as well as novels.

By Eleanor.
Eleanor, 14, loves cats and reading fantasy epics (preferably about dragons).