It’s never a good idea to be standing squarely and absent-mindedly outside a large tent with your nose in a book or thinking about a flat white coffee on the first Thursday of the Hay Festival. At the end of an event when whatever’s going on in there comes to an end, a horde of liberated, excited primary school kids suddenly come tumbling, careening, cheering and running at you like a roaring tidal wave.
They’re on site all day. Thousands of them. All suddenly over-stimulated by brilliant books, bright ideas, festival fun, ice cream and maybe the collective desire to hunt down Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, Julia Donaldson and other great favourite writers for children. Warned off by Rodney, the steward at the Wales tent this morning, not to stand my ground, I made a run for it. Teachers and parents of young children, used to waiting st the school gates, will understand the sense of panic.
The good news is that, following Hay Festival tradition, the opening two days give primary and secondary school pupils the chance to experience the Festival for free. Special programming funded by Hay Festival Educational Trust and the Welsh Government, offers the chance to meet scientists, explorers, award-winning novelists and historians and the one-off opportunity to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company. There is no such thing as a free day off school – it’s still subtly educational.
But it’s the best fun when speakers on the first schools day include the likes of novelist Sarah Lean, English rugby union footballer Tom Palmer, author-illustrator Curtis Jobling,CBBC’s Sam and Mark, author Tony Bradman, illustrator Tom Morgan-Jones, How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell, novelistCaroline Lawrence, and scientist Dr Emily Grossman.
School’s out for two days at the Hay Festival, but the kids are all in for a great time.