10 Tips for Planning a Successful Visit to the Hay Festival

Hay Festival LettersImagine a whole site dedicated to books – a programme filled with talks by your favourite authors, the biggest bookshop tent ever, deckchairs made for lounging, fresh food from all around the world…well that’s the Hay Festival and if you’re a book lover then you have to add it to your travel plans immediately!

We visited this year after dreaming about it for decades. There always seemed to be an excuse – not enough cash, a small child, other holidays, but now that we’ve been it’s going to be a firm fixture in our family calendar.  This time we only booked a few sessions over three days – Cressida Cowell, Andy Stanton, Joe Todd-Stanton and Judith Kerr – all child-orientated but fun for adults too.  The loose structure also gave us a chance to work out the logistics of the event – not quite as easy as the venue can get VERY busy.  Here are my top tips for making your visit as enjoyable as possible:

  1. Book your accommodation early.   Staying in Hay can be expensive so unless you are camping, it’s best to look outside of the town. We booked a weekend at the lovely Canal Boat Cottage in Crickhowell and were glad of the peaceful surroundings after the buzz of Hay.  Sugar and Loaf have a whole selection of cottages on their website (2019 Hay Festival will run 23 May to 2 June).Canal Boat Cottage Kitchen Crickhowell
  2. Join the Hay Festival mailing list for ticket notifications. We booked as soon as the programme was released as big names sell out very quickly. Prices average at £7 – some more, some less.  If you want to get in before the crowds you can pay extra to become a Friend of Hay Festival.
  3. When packing for the festival include wellies, umbrella, sunglasses and suntan lotion. We saw all sorts of weather during our short stay. Take fold-up tote bags to minimise baggage.
  4. There’s plenty of parking in town, but we booked the parking via the Hay Festival website when we purchased tickets.  It’s more expensive than other options but part of the fee is donated to Macmillan and it’s right next to the venue.
  5. The festival suggests that you arrive at least half an hour before an event, but I’d recommend getting there an hour before if you’re driving.  Traffic can be slow-moving near the town and there are bag checks at the entrance.
  6.  If you need to buy books for signing then visit the shop straightaway and purchase all of them in one go.  The queues can be long, especially after headline talks.  The signings take place in the book tent too so try to get there quickly after the author session has finished.  You can buy pre-signed copies but the big names sell fast!hay book tent childrens
  7. If you have kids then there are free crafting activities available in the Make and Take and Mess tents. Our daughter is 5 and was just old enough to enjoy the experience, but I’d say that kids aged 7+ would get the most out of the programme.
  8. The food hall is fantastic with dishes ranging from pizza to paella to falafel but incredibly busy.  If you decide to go, then try to avoid peak times and find a seat beforehand – either in the tent or under one of the canopies outside then send out a foraging party!Food Hall Hay Festival
  9. If it’s simply too busy to order in the food hall, there are little snack shacks on the road into Hay-on-Wye. There are also water fountains on site so you can fill up bottles.
  10. You have to visit Hay-on-Wye while you’re at the festival.  It has tons of fantastic bookshops and is very pretty.  My favourite is Addyman Books and everyone pops into Richard Booth’s bookshop at least once.  The town is a good 15 minute walk from the venue but you can catch a shuttle outside the festival entrance for £1.50 each way.Hay on Wye StreetWe are already excited to start planning for next year.  Do you have tips that you’d like to share or questions you’d like to ask?

 

A Penguin Book Pilgrimage to the Ironbridge Bookshop

Vintage Penguin Books

We’ve wanted to visit The Ironbridge Bookshop for ages after hearing about the legendary Penguin book wall (see photo) and chatting with Meg the owner via her Instagram account so last weekend we finally made the trip to this picturesque Shropshire Town.

The bookshop is located opposite the famous Iron Bridge which crosses the River Severn. The bridge was covered for renovation when we visited but we didn’t mind as it gave us a good excuse to return! We were warmly welcomed by Meg, who has created the perfect space for bibliophiles. The downstairs room is packed with a staggering array of second-hand books – from classic to contemporary, plus lots of non-fiction including a stack of vintage Observer guides which I passed quickly knowing that I’d want to buy them all if I looked too closely!

secondhand classic books for sale in the ironbridge bookshop

I’ve been looking for a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! for ages and luckily found a copy in the sizeable Pratchett section,  as well as pretty paperback edition of The Go-Between by LP Hartley.

To reach the second room you climb the best bookish stairs ever. I’m afraid I couldn’t get Martha out of posing mode but you get the general gist!Processed with VSCO with l4 presetThe upper room contains the vintage Penguin bookshelves, the children’s area and a small selection of modern collectables such as the Vintage Minis, Penguin Mugs and Journals.  Meg also sits upstairs so we had a chat while poring over all the amazing titles. If you love the older Penguin editions, as well as Ladybird books then you HAVE to come here – it is a collector’s feast.  While we were having a field day, we were concerned that Martha would get bored. No fear! She made herself right at home.

little girl sits in book corner

Meg’s prices are very affordable so we ended up buying more than expected and were  very, very happy with our book haul. We didn’t have anything particular in mind when we went, but if you would like something specific then Meg will try to source it for you.

vintage book haul ironbridge bookshop

There’s plenty more to do in Ironbridge if you are staying for more than a day. We didn’t have time to see everything on this visit, but will definitely be returning to the bookshop and the town when the bridge is unveiled.  For lunch we ate in the White Hart Pub which is only a few minutes from the bookshop and found the staff friendly, and the food tasty.

The Ironbridge Bookshop is open every day of the week 10am to 5pm.  You can also follow the store via Instagram,Twitter and Facebook. We highly recommend a trip – it is now one of our very favourite bookshops and we thank Meg for making our visit a great one.

Ironbridge Bookshop Exterior

 

 

 

Getting Featured on the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP)

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Last week, the unimaginable and hugely exciting happened – my photo of a book tree was featured on Instagram after I entered the #whp🌲 challenge.  Since then, nearly 600K people have seen my hallway (and Martha) which is mind-boggling!  My personal account has also received a boost. I’ve gained over 2000 followers since the photo was posted and have had lovely comments from all over the world. I am so grateful for each and every one especially after taking such a creative leap this year.

But the real reason I’ve written this post is to shed some light on the challenge itself so that others can join in and have a chance of being featured too.

The Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP) is announced by Instagram on Fridays (late GMT) so first of all, you need to follow their main account.  Each week, they set a new prompt with an accompanying photo or video as an example of what they’re looking for.  The rules do change for time to time so keep checking, but here are the guidelines from last week:

PROJECT RULES: Please add the #WHPoddlysatisfying hashtag only to photos and videos shared over this weekend and only submit your own visuals to the project. If you include music in your video submissions, please only use music to which you own the rights. Any tagged photo or video shared over the weekend is eligible to be featured next week.

You then have the weekend to post material which matches the theme.  After this time, Instagram then selects up to 6 entries to be featured. If you’re new to the WHP, I recommend looking back over past features to get a feel for the successful content. Creative shots often get picked, but so do other styles – and captions count too.  Account size doesn’t make a difference – I had just over 2500 followers when I was chosen so tiny by Instagram standards.

I think my biggest piece of advice for the WHP is to have fun with it. Use it to view the world in a fresh way. Anything goes so be playful and free – find your voice. This was my 9th attempt so it’s worth persisting.

As always, if you have any questions about the challenge, get in contact with me via the comments or the contact page.