What do Bill Clinton and Desmond Tutu have in common, the answer is, they have both appeared at the ‘Hay Festival‘ and both charged ninety pounds a ticket for their one hours lectures. After his appearance in 2001 Bill Clinton called this event the ‘Woodstock of the Mind.’
Over the past twenty years I have been to this festival on many occasions and have managed to meet and chat with such notable and diverse personalities as Roy Hattersley, Fred Truman, Ken Dodd, Lawrence Krausse, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Gitta Sereny, Ed Milliband, Robert Winston and my own personal favourite Sir Roger Penrose.
This is the Worlds largest literature festival and takes place every year in this small Welsh border town of books, during the late spring bank holiday. The festival is a ten day event which presents over four hundred lectures on current affairs and dispenses contemporaneous literature offerings from the world of the biblio. Thousands visit this event over the school half term and, with this in mind the festival is visited by many school teachers, college lecturers and journalists, fertile ground for the promotion of Veterans For Peace.
Three members from VFP Birmingham ran a print of five hundred flyers to distribute to festival attenders prior to two events of interest. The first was at the fringe event of ‘How the light gets in‘ and a film of Afghanistan Taliban Voices the second a lecture on the effects of combat on returning servicemen coinciding with the book ‘AFTERSHOCK‘ by Reuters journalist Mathew Green
The response was unbelievable, we gave out the five hundred leaflets in just over half an hour and we were engaged in conversation with some amazement that an organisation like ours actually existed. Only Angela, a twelve year service former Queens Alexandra army nurse, was allowed into the show area to distribute leaflets and answer questions. While we poor blokes were denied entry and were forced into the Three Tons local hostelry to lick our wounds and sob over the fact that they would only let Angela in to the VIP area.
The highlight of the day for me was when I handed a leaflet to a guy who while walking past showing little to no interest, only for him to turn around grab me and hug me within an inch of my life. He was tearful and said, “boy does the world need you guy”, his sincerity was overwhelming. Many, many festival gatherers took the time to engage us in conversation and all were fully supportive of our message
This was an amazing and worthwhile day, we all agreed we could have given out thousands of leaflets. We hope to have a stall there next year. We engaged with many school teachers and educators and were asked if we would go into some schools to do talks. The general public were fascinated and displayed much interest in Angela’s story of being a military nurse.