Monday, 29 June 2015

Hay Fever

How The Light Gets In could be considered the Hay Fringe; the cooler cousin to the famous Hay Festival just down the road. It was my second visit to this yearly celebration of writing, and this time I just strolled across for some mango lassi ice cream and a few talks, detailed below.

After Charlie Hebdo
Martin Rowson and Jean-Pierre Filiu

Whilst I expected this to be an interesting talk about visual journalism and freedom of expression, it was so much more insightful than I could have imagined. Cartoonist Martin Rowson explained his stance on offending people. "I only attack people more powerful than I am... Not for what they are, but for what they think." Also quoting Finley Peter Dunne, "My business is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". Jean-Pierre, a writer and Professor of Political Science, discussed what happened in Paris on 7 January and how it fitted into political currents in the Middle East. Those behind the attacks were contracted criminals and not representative of followers of Islam, essentially using Western media to make a recruitment video. One issue that I took away was the dangers of people falsely assuming you are making satirical work, not because you have something to say in response to something you disagree with, but because you have an irrational hatred of a certain group.

Why We Make Things And Why It Matters
Peter Korn

A stand out talk from Peter, basically addressing all my current introspections as a creative person, such as why I find making more satisfying than other work, if it is a sustainable practice and "what is a good life and how the heck do you go about living one?" A furniture-maker and founder of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, Peter explained that whilst there are more effective ways to make a living, we enter the studio because we expect to come out different people, and creating things can help satisfy our hunger for meaning and fulfilment i.e. the feeling that we are using our capacity. For him, making deals with qualities of integrity, simplicity and grace, and he sees 'ordinary work' (working with your hands) as a profound exercise in who we are and how we should live. He also signed a copy of his book for me which makes him a total dude.

Getting Creative With Rap, Rhyme and Reality
Steven Camden and Alex Wheatle

I think we were the only adults in the crowd who weren't parents, but no matter. This lovely little chat from Steven (aka Polarbear) and Alex was all about their new books for young adults, and involved spoken word, rap, and word games, such as collectively mapping out characters for a narrative through asking a series of quick-fire questions. It was really effective and fun, and lord knows if I was a kid I would have been really inspired to get writing. One girl said that her favourite food was "sushi" though, and if the Q&A was anything to go by these children already seemed well on the way to cultural victory. I squirmed when Alex dropped the occasional swear bomb on cherubs' ears, but y'know, they've got to learn sometime, and his prison stories were incredible.

Further reading:

The Coalition Book by Martin Rowson
Best of Enemies by Jean-Pierre Filiu & David B

Why We Make Things And Why It Matters by Peter Korn

It's About Love by Steven Camden
Liccle Bit by Alex Wheatle

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