Where the main festival site of The Guardian Hay Festival is all white marquees, asparagus sellers and summer wedding attire, the institute of art and ideas presents a much more vibrant affair with philosophy lectures and music workshops, delicious cakes, and beautiful bar staff adorned with feathers and face-painted flourishes. An altogether more delightfully inviting place to chill out, or let your hair down and have many a dance.
Expanding into the globe field, this year the festival offered a tea tent and cocktail bar, an talk yurt and an open mic/ acoustic stage. In between taking advantage of their wifi in the mornings and traipsing back to base camp late at night I idled many an hour away in the field watching ukele players, poets, giggling entertained children, and being bought Pimms by some real characters including Scary Guy. Then we’d be ushered indoors and into the hall to catch Live Sessions from the sensational live poet Dockers MC, the unstoppable poetry, music and performance of the Book Club Boutique, the unique Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon, the (very) Sweet Baboo, the ‘chic geek’ scot King Creosote, up-and-coming Jonathan Powell, shoegazing Man Without Country and the magical folk wonders of Martha Tilston.
Those wanting to expand their mind needn’t have reached for the drugs with philosophy sessions offered on all aspects of being human from language, sex and culture to emotion, truth, mortality and sanity and featuring big thinkers like Robert Winston, Frank Furedi and John Dupre and journalists like Will Hutton and Tom Hodgkinson discussing the meaning of life. Apparently there is much more to it than simply ‘42’.
As the witching hour approached it was time to get sweaty and move down the narrow staircase to stomp about to the Night Sessions including the best new live band around (Islet, believe me they are bloody marvellous), and get dance crazy to the tunes Broken Hearts, Bethan Elfyn and Huw Stephens chose to play.
An eclectic programme, great performances, pleasant staff and tip-top atmosphere made this THE town venue to visit. No longer a fringe event but a festival in its own right, don’t forget to visit How The Light Gets In next year.