Sunday, 24 June 2012

Making Hay in the Rain



(My outfit worn to Hay Festival on the third day comprised a vintage skirt and hat, second hand boots and a bell-boy's jacket from a Parisian market. The film camera was quite gratuitous considering that I was using my Canon 5D at the festival, but I thought it was a suitable prop.)

The feeling of Hay Book Festival on a sunny day is hugely exuberant. Colourful flags ruffle and flutter, the book shops are crammed and the stretch of pavement between the town and the festival site flows with a never-ending current of people. Over at the ‘How the Light Gets In’ festival, one can buy the best chai in Hay and listen to any number of philosophical debates and talks. For ten days, the whole town is soaked with thoughts and ideas.

I must mention however that for me, the scene described above was exclusive to the second Saturday. The previous two days threw down abysmal weather. I spent much of the Friday stomping across muddy walkways with a heavy bag, defending myself from car splashes with a half-broken umbrella as I wished for sun. My task during the time I spent there was to take street style photos for Oxfam (the results of which can be seen in Part 1 here and Part 2 here), which was made trickier by the fact that storms and fabulous outfits don’t mix well – as one guy quipped, the overall ‘look’ of Hay was “mud”. However, with a keen eye and a fair amount of lingering in book shops, I managed to snap some wonderful individuals. From an Oxfam volunteer who claimed she was 'just wearing her winter woolens' to a delightful pair of sisters whose outfits subtly reflected each other, the attendees of the festival proved that sideways rain and wind couldn’t quell the desire to dress up.

With the clouds tucked away on the last Saturday, the anoraks came off and the groups of book-readers emerged. These people were united by passions - for literature, for history, for philosophy, for art, for languages, for technology, for music – with the festival serving up a menu to suit all tastes. In the course of my three days there, I saw lectures, listened to debates, laughed throughout comic Dylan Moran’s set, and brought home several books signed by their creators. I was inspired, startled and challenged by the range of events. Here are some of the best.

Stefan Collini’s event, linked to his excellent and thought-provoking book ‘What are Universities For?’ felt like the most important talk I attended. I completely agree with his worries about the university-as-a-business model (something I will possibly expand into a post of its own over the summer), particularly in the path this paves for students to be treated as consumers, rather than individuals who want to take part in “unfettered intellectual inquiry”. Collini defined the purpose of University as being a place of “extending and deepening human understanding” – which goes some way to explaining my own desire to spend three years studying English literature. However, as I pointed out during a question I posed at the end, the way that University is ‘sold’ to us at Sixth Form is as a way to increase our employability and wages, to give us new experiences and ensure a sounder future. The issue of whether or not one is genuinely passionate about a subject barely figures – and woe betide anyone who decides that university is not the right choice for them! Such a decision goes completely against the expected norm and must be justified to all the careers advisors and teachers. Collini is a wonderful and persuasive writer, thinker and advocate of the need for universities, and I cannot recommend his book highly enough.

Another interesting event was a debate on authors in the digital age. Again, I could devote a whole article to this – and am tempted to do so at some point – but felt the questions about content, skill and readership to be very timely for someone interested in writing as a career. The Internet gives unprecedented global access to a huge audience (something that I’m fully aware of writing on my blog!), but perhaps lacks the editing or rigour of formal publishing. Writing needs to be accessible, but there were some disagreements on whether making content free was canny or counter-productive. Although no one pays to read my blog, and the only revenue generated is through an occasional item of clothing or in modeling/ writing for somewhere else, I'm of the opinion that professional writing deserves a fee. This blog is something personal to me, and pays dividends in the experience, motivation and training it has given me, and yet I still want to work as a paid freelance journalist in the future. We pay the plumber, the electrician and the carpenter for their carefully honed skills, so why should we expect to be given crafted writing for free?

I saw two lectures on Shakespeare – one by Michael Dobson and another by Germaine Greer – that were stimulating and, in the case of the latter, often amusing. Listening to Greer talk about Shakespeare was a most engaging experience. It’s a testament to the power of the playwright that his work yields new talks, productions and discussions year upon year. David Crystal’s talk on Dickens’ language similarly suggested the continuing importance of this great author, with an astonishing range of words and techniques celebrated.

A talk with Madeline Miller and Sjon on updated versions of epic tales left me with a huge desire to go home and write a book of my own. Miller’s re-imagining of the Illiad through the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is a tender, lyrical story that still conveys the brutality of battle. It’s stunning. Both authors pinpointed the relevance of such huge, devastating narratives in times of instability. Whether the Greek gods are embodiments of forces of nature or human emotions, their resurgence in publishing – from Miller’s Orange Prize winning novel: The Song of Achilles, to Alice Oswald’s ‘Memorial’ – is very indicative of the times we live in. 

I took plenty of photos while I was out 'style hunting' and below are a sample six - ranging from a tailor (David in the second image) to someone I thought looked rather like a young Jim Morrison. The full descriptions of each subject and their outfits can be found in the links to the Oxfam blog above. 







27 comments:

Thrifted Shift said...

This post made me remember once again how much love being a student and listening to new ideas by intelligent people. I look forward to reading more about your ideas about universities as businesses and writing in the digital age. I am off to search my local used bookstore to see if they possibly have The Song of Achilles yet. I enjoyed the photos as well, especially of you and the two girls in cordoroys and boots- lovely cool weather textures! Take care!
--Vivienne

Angie said...

you look fabulous!
and I love to read your texts! :)
kisses from the bottom of the sea

Closet Fashionista said...

Wow that sounds like an amazing festival!! There is nothing like that here in stinky Connecticut, ha ha...
Those streetlight shots are amazing. I love the first one in this post and the group of 3 people in the day one photos
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

ZoƩ said...

I love the photos and the festival looks amazing - the sort of festival I'd enjoy. :)

Joy said...

Wonderful photos to what seems like a fantastic event. Due to the education bubble in the States I am having second thoughts about high ed. Sometimes I doubt why I am in college still. Nevertheless it's so refreshing to hear something so positive about college in a long while!

Patricia Snook said...

What a fantastic festival! I love these images you captured of the gorgeous outfits!

xoxo

Vix said...

I'd forgotten how stylish the folk at Hay were! That lady with the flowing locks and Broderie Anglaise panel in her dress is just breath-takingly lovely, she's got a look of you and your mum about her.
You certainly wear a hat with style, my dear! x

Lydia said...

The woman in the second to last pic has such amazing style. She looks so authentic. Great shots.

FRUIT SKELETONS said...

this sounds like it was amazing. the first two girls look wonderfully cozy & your description of the last boy is spot on!

Caitlin Rose said...

Rosalind you found wonderful pictures. I particularly love the beautiful woman in the grey dress with glasses hanging around her neck, she looks so mysterious.

Zwolsche Diva said...

Nice look, Roz!
And my, my, my, that last guy is stunning!

Bella Q said...

You are such a sharp photographer- capturing personality as well as the style of the subject. Sometimes I don't know which I prefer you in front of, or behind the camera. All I know is that you behind the typewriter (how archaic is that?) is prerequisite to both. the Citizen Rosebud

SabinePsynopsis said...

I live the hay festival through you because I've never been... ONE day!

Rain or shine - your outfit looks amazing and is perfect for all weather conditions.

xoxo

alexandratherese said...

A wonderfully appropriate outfit Roz - a pop of colour was definitely what Hay needed! It's wonderful to see the fruits of your street style photography endeavour (though I'm sure you were one of the best dressed at the festival anyway!) and I just want to second your view that people shouldn't be constantly expected to write for free; language and branches of it such as journalism and storytelling are crafts which need to be honed like any other and the skill involved should be transparent to everyone. I finally replied to your lovely email today where I've expanded on this comment!

Alexandra xx

Fashionistable said...

I have been looking forward to this post since you talked about going when we last met. I popped over to the Oxfam site and had a look at your work there too. I have to say I am happy to see you re-featured 2 of my favourite shots from there here - the one of the Jim Morrison look-alike guy and Toby. you have a good eye for a handsome face.....I also see you now understand the joys of taking pictures in the rain. It sounds like a wonderful festival and one I really should go to. Xxxx

Christobel Amelia said...

What a fantastic post, The Hay Festival sounds so inspiring, I wish I could have gone! It is so lovely when one finds an event that merges one's passions, and the way you've given us hints of academia with talk of the lectures you attended combined with the street style shots is very compelling-and enjoyable to read!
I do love the way you've captured beauty and personality in a range of characters too.
Your outfit looked perfect, adore your hat-stunning as ever!
Christobel xxx
www.calico-casa.blogspot.co.uk

nazmeen said...

looking fantastic good.

nazmeen
www.andaazonline.com

nazmeen said...

lovely and stylish dress..

www.andaazonline.com

Melanie said...

Wow! Your imagination must still be whirling. I could talk for hours about all the topics you raised. I am excited by your engagement in the event, and I also get a quickened pulse when I suddenly realize that it's never too late to indulge in that same youthful exuberance! I love your photos, and your outfit here is perfect. The film camera is a most apt prop.

SACRAMENTO said...

Beautiful writing and wonderful fashion as a way of self expression. You are such a gifted person, do not hurry or worry for the future.
Mil besos, my dearest Rosalind.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Flis said...

Love love love the last photograph :) xxx

http://felicityotoole.blogspot.com/

Fashion Tales.... said...

I enjoy talks such as the ones that you experienced (about Shakespeare) with Dobson and Greer. It reminds me of some of my favourite professors that I had in school ... always intriguing discussions and debates, which I loved. You look good in the stylish aqua hat!

Hope Adela Pasztor said...

Love your street style photos! The pops of green in your outfit are delightful. I wish I could sail across the pond and come visit you one of these days! =)

http://pinkchampagnefashion.blogspot.com/

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Oh, I truly wish I could attend the Hay Festival someday! You are so fortunate to be a part of that gathering, and with so many interesting (and good looking) people too. This past week has been a bit of a Shakespeare festival at home, as we've been watching some of the best films of the Bard's plays for consecutive evenings. His manipulation of the English language is unparalleled. (Then again, I could heap praises on Dickens, Woolf, etc. without end as well.)

Song of Achilles is absolutely on my to-read list, and am just waiting to get it on sale at an independent bookshop, i.e. not on Amazon. But before I allow myself that treat, I am trying to finish a well-written non-fiction book on the History of Algebra (just to force some discipline on my reading breadth, since the world isn't entirely made up of stories.)

I could comment on many other points to your post but don't like to hog the Comment section! To close, you look charming as ever, with or without rain. -- J xxx

styleodyssey said...

How I would love to attend the Hay Festival one day...
Really enjoyed these photos, Roz.

hellosimpleme said...

I'm new to your blog but its so chic&pretty! Love the backround &you seem like such a smart gal!:) You take wonderful pictures as well! Can't wait till your next post comes into my feed thingie haha:)

100%soie said...

I am sorry but my english is so bad that I can't understand everything you say in your texts. Your skirt is vintage but where do you find all of these beautiful clothes ? on charity shops ?
I just love your style and your universe !