I’ve never been to a literary festival, though I have often meant to do so. Yesterday, however, a neighbour drew our attention to fact that the 33rd edition of the Hay Festival, usually held in Powys, is being broadcast free online this week.
This meant that last night we were enthralled to share in a discussion with Maggie O’Farrell about her recently released, and much applauded, Hamnet – an imagined take on the death of Shakespeare’s young son and how it might have affected the playwright’s life and work.
DO PLEASE GO AND TAKE A LOOK: hayfestival.com/wales/bbc
There are many other other treasures to share: poetry readings, ballet, discussions on the science of corona virus. Stephne Fry being erudite about Ancient Greece. All free – though the festival organisers do hint for a donation. But Maggie is probably the highlight for anyone with an interest in historical fiction or, for that matter, quality fiction of any kind.
I was particularly taken by her tale of the difficulties of writing a fraught emotional scene while sharing a household with noisy and intrusive family members. Her solution? To spend two hours hidden inside her children’s Wendy House, accompanied only by her her cat. It worked a treat, apparently.
Being confined at home with one’s family can, of course, be challenging. Young children will need to be home-schooled or entertained. Older ones found space where they can continue to be gainfully-employed on-line. Partners will need to be placated at being abandoned in favour of a laptop and fistful of editing notes. But, as Maggie proved, a way can always be found.
And for those creative people who are completely isolated from their nearest and dearest, just remember that the artist Lowry once confided to a friend: ‘Had I not been lonely I would not have seen what I did.’
Put your isolation to creative use. And find something to watch from the Wye Festival.