Hay Festival Trip 2014
We are pleased to report that
there was no repeat of the distressing scenes at The Hay Festival last year
when the sun shone on our tents continually and traumatised pupils had to apply
sunscreen to themselves. This year saw us return to proper British-style
camping: rain, some light flooding and a liberal coating of thin brown mud over
tents, equipment and children.
Our convoy of minibuses arrived at
our camp site at tea-time on Friday to discover that Julie and Mrs Carr had
already pitched the school's marquee and set up the kitchen and dining areas.
We are informed that this involved Julie climbing on the roof of her van as it
was driven through the marquee. Sadly no photographic evidence of this
remarkable event exists. However, it raised our spirits to see that our camp was
To our delight, the
pupils set to it and pitched the rest of the tents in the rain with everyone
helping out and quite a few pupils showing impressive leadership and
initiative. Within the hour, the camp was set up and all thirty two pupils and
four staff were sitting around a long table under the marquee eating fish and
We called it a night fairly early
on Friday as we were all tired and we wanted fully to enjoy the sound of wet
Welsh rain pounding onto the wet canvas of our tents.
Saturday morning dawned earlier
than some of us might have wished, but by then Julie had already set up
breakfast, of course. The rain had stopped, so we used the time to explore the
campsite and to put the finishing touches to camp. However, it was the festival
that pupils were really excited about and we were there by 10.00 for our first
events of the weekend. We were given exclusive use of a covered but taped-off
area in the middle of the festival site as our rest and rallying point (much to
the bemusement of the other festival goers who thought we must be some kind of
art installation). The main thing was that we were out of the rain and from
this dry area pupils set off for the events they had chosen.
Arvon Foundation Reunion
The first event of the morning
involved five of us going to see Tiffany Murray in conversation with Emma
Healey. Tiffany, who was one of our creative writing tutors on our Arvon
Foundation residential course back in January, spotted us as we came in and
swept off the stage to hug the children. She even remembered their names. She
also referred enthusiastically to our pupils during her talk when asked about
the value of creative writing courses. We felt that we had made a bit of a
splash at Hay at this point.
Whilst this was happening,
seventeen pupils were being entertained by Cressida Cowell, author of the 'How
to Train Your Dragon' series of novels. The rest of the group were at a talk given
by Robert Rigby discussing his new novel 'The Eagle Trail' or helping Kipper to
celebrate his birthday.
Next up was an inspirational talk
by 'The Fonz'. Actor Henry Winkler discussed his life-long battle with
dyslexia and his children's books with their dyslexic hero Hank. These are
being made into a new series by CBBC and he also showed us his CBE, awarded for
his charitable work raising awareness about dyslexia. At the same time, five
pupils went to hear Holly Godberg Sloan discussing her new novel 'Counting by
7s', which is already attracting a cult following.
The hit book from our Book Fair
last term was 'Tape' by Steve Camden. This book has been eagerly passed from
pupil to pupil ever since. It was no surprise, therefore, that his talks were
popular amongst our pupils. Fifteen pupils went to his workshop on rhyming and
poetry writing where he appeared as his alter-ego Polarbear. Later on, sixteen
pupils went to hear him talk about 'Tape'. Other popular talks on Saturday
were: 'The Last Viking Adventure', attended by ten pupils and a talk by Lauren
Child, creator of 'Charlie and Lola', which attracted nine pupils.
On Saturday evening we returned to
camp to find parents James and Annabel Lewis helping Julie behind the barbecue
and supper already set out. The parents who came on the trip really helped to
make it a success and, as well as those already mentioned, we would like to
thank Sarah Williams, Tania Potter and Pam Hattersley for their help.
supper, the pupils were happy to have a relatively early night and the chance
to read the books they had bought during the day. These had been bought at the
festival book shop and most pupils had had their books signed by the book’s
author, which was generally agreed to be an exciting improvement on Amazon. Teachers
Mrs Whawell, Mrs Dinnigan and Mr Carr also had time to catch their breath and
have a quiet read by the camp fire. The parents and Julie got lost at this
point but were offered shelter by The Groucho Club, which sets up - temporarily
- at Hay during the festival.
Apparently, The Groucho Club made them drink cocktails and eat a lovely
meal before sending them back to the campsite.
Sunday morning was pretty dry
apart from the odd flurry of rain. We feasted on bacon rolls before striking
camp. Once again, we were astonished by the speed with which pupils took down
the tents and packed up the minibuses. Several pupils stood out due to the
initiative they showed but all pupils did their fair share of the work without
having to be asked and this ‘can do’ attitude helped to make the trip so successful.
At 10.00, twenty pupils went to
see Liz Pichon, creator of the 'Tom Gates' novels. This was many pupils’
favourite talk. Having explained how, as a dyslexic child, she had doodled her
way through school, she soon had the whole audience doodling a page in the
style of her novels. The interactive talks, like this one, really engaged our
Next up, at 11.30, was the star turn
of the weekend, Jacqueline Wilson. All of the girls went to hear her talk.
Timetabled the same time was a boy-friendly talk 'Geeks, Gadgets and Sci-Fi'.
In-between these events, the Hay Festival photographers snapped some of our
boys reading quietly as they waited (something our pupils had done all weekend
to the surprise and admiration of a number of festival goers who congratulated
us on their attitude) and this picture was posted on the festival's Facebook
Back at the campsite, all had been
packed away and all that was left to do was to have the minibuses towed out of
the mud. That done, we set off back to Bakewell. It was only when we traipsed
into MacDonald's in Shrewsbury for a late lunch on the way back that we
realised how muddy we all were. The buses were quiet on the drive back. Pupils
were mostly reading the books they had bought and this is, perhaps, a fitting
end to the weekend which was such a celebration of books and reading.