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Friday 30 May 2014, 18:51
6 Music DJs Gideon Coe and Chris Hawkins at Hay Festival 2014 The Hay Festival celebrates the power of language and the pleasure of debate. It encourages new thinking with a focus on our planet’s future and the wellbeing of next generations.
Along the way there are bacon sandwiches from locally reared animals, tasty pies brought to the site from the town, less than a mile down the road and breweries in Herefordshire and Powys. I sampled the full range through the course of today.
It’s a day which began in the mud. The Hay app said ‘wet weather parking’ which meant the 10 mile drive from a farmhouse in the hills ended just short of the festival site and required a shuttle bus to complete the journey.
My wife, daughter and I are sharing the farmhouse in the hills with my 6 Music colleague Gideon Coe, his wife and son. DJs don’t always bunk up together for holidays but we’ve made Hay an annual date for five years now. We spent last night indulging in some of Gid’s favourite pastimes - drinking red wine, eating cheese and with Britain’s Got Talent in the background, mumbling about karaoke standard singers on TV.
Gideon has been to two events so far this year. Both have been about war. My day of enlightenment began at 11.30 with Roman Krznaric. This was the philosopher’s one hour opportunity to start an empathy revolution. Krznaric believes the act of stepping into someone else’s shoes and viewing the world from their perspective is a tool for social change and should be a guiding light for the art of living. With that in mind, I spent half an hour this morning experimenting with being Gideon Coe. Alas, with the yardarm before midday, it felt a little early for cheese and wine.
The people of Hay are largely receptive to the massive influx of festival goers for a fortnight each year. Most are welcoming and many are grateful for the 14 day surge in the local economy. Gideon and I had a ‘power lunch’ off site in the picturesque town today to discuss the show we will present from here on Sunday (2 - 4pm, BBC Radio 6 Music). We agreed on the music, jotted down questions for our guests (Bob Stanley and John Hegley) and absolutely confirmed* that we will engage in a heavyweight debate about the intelligence or otherwise of animals, starting with sheep.
This afternoon, while my wife and daughter learnt how to draw huggable bears with the brilliant illustrator David Melling, I got to see one of my favourite authors up close and personal. Ian McEwan was on the ‘Wales Stage’ with one of the UK’s leading neurosurgeons recounting his triumphs, disasters and the moments of black humour that apparently characterise a brain surgeon’s life.
At Hay, McEwan is usually on the receiving end of questions about a new book - on this occasion he turned inquisitor on the basis that his intricately observed novel ‘Saturday’ centres around the life of a neurosurgeon. For research, he followed a working surgeon in London who was trained by Henry Marsh who, on stage this afternoon, described surgery as a bloodsport. He spoke of the adrenalin rush experienced before a major operation, the heightening of the senses and intensity of manipulating such an indescribably delicate matter under the microscope. When asked how neurosurgery compares to any other kind of surgery, Marsh spared the audience a detailed medical response and simply revealed, “The good thing about brain surgery is that it doesn’t smell."
Chris Hawkins is a DJ on 6 Music