We eventually reached our guest house in Hay at 7.30pm - just enough time for a quick shower and then out to meet Mike Richards, Egmont marketing chap, along with his wife, Anna, and the writer and illustrator team of the Stripy Horse books - Jim Helmore and Karen Wall, for dinner - all marvellous company for the evening. We had a remarkably quiet restaurant considering everywhere else was booked up due to the festival and, as it was my birthday, I finished my meal with a lovely ice cream.
Ellie and I had been to Hay-on-Wye about four years ago, as part of a few days away in the Brecon Beacons, but this was our first time at the festival. To describe it as a collection of tents in a field just outside the village wouldn't do it justice - it's like a little village in itself, with walkways, stores, play areas, lounging-about areas, cafes, flags rippling in the breeze, and the venues themselves, which are more like little theatres, function rooms or lecture halls than tents. The atmosphere was extremely laid back and pleasant.
My talk was in the Oxfam Studio. At first I balked at the size of it (my main worry was that no one would turn up) but as it turned out enough attended to fill the space more than not. Despite that, it probably wasn't quite the right venue for me - my talk relies on showing art and pictures on a slide show, and rather than a nice big projection screen (as at Cheltenham, and even Bristol) I had two television screens either side of me that got slightly lost in the light of the tent. But, if not ideal, it worked fine, and I was certainly able to do my talk as intended.
The other thing I was somewhat wary of, was the fact that this was me, on my own, talking for an hour - to (predominantly) kids. The majority of events at Hay were interviews, panels, or teams of creators. It's quite a tall order to stand there on your own and talk, and children are not generally thought to be the most patient of listeners (certainly not for that long). But again, it all went very well and the audience were fantastic - I didn't stay too long on each slide and I put the emphasis on how I make comics and therefore how you can make comics, and on making up characters, drawing animals, writing and sketching, and on researching things such as revolvers so I know how many 'bangs' a .32 Mauser can make before the bullets run out. This was the first time I'd made my slideshow this long, and somehow it lasted just the right amount of time for 15 minutes of questions at the end. I needn't have worried about that either as there were plenty of really interesting questions from both parents and children of all ages. All in all the talk went well, and I know which bits definitely worked, and which bits could do with bit of fine-tuning, so next time (the Edinburgh Literary Festival, I think) should be better still.
The next thing I knew I was being whisked off to the festival bookshop where I sat at a table and signed books for just over an hour. This was really enjoyable because I was able to talk face-to-face with those who came along and hear their enthusiasm for the talk, the book and for comics in general, which was lovely. It was also great to have such a variety of people, a few older readers, and a great mix of boys and girls (in fact, probably more girls this time, I'd say). I'm really grateful for everyone who came along - thanks very much! And Ellie and I were so well looked after at Hay, so a really big thanks to Mike Richards from Egmont, and also to Sophie Lording and Rhiannon from the festival - I couldn't have been made to feel more welcome or had a nicer time.
After a rather filling dinner in the artists' area of the restaurant, Ellie and I went to see Paul Gravett who was on a panel about the current Tate Britain exhibition, Rude Britannia, along with Gerald Scarfe, Brian Griffiths and Tate Etc. magazine editor, Simon Grant. While Griffiths made a case for his bits-and-pieces sculptures being an art-equivalent of The Office or a Carry-On film, yet also using that oft-used defence of modern art, 'it means what you want it to mean', it was Scarfe who stole the show, and who should have had a lot more time to talk about his work. Paul Gravett was rather under-utilised, and I think another hour of this interesting subject wouldn't have been amiss. Afterwards I had a nice chat with Paul in the artists' lounge - he's currently working on Comica Argentina which will be taking place in London throughout June.
We went to one more talk in the late evening - Alex Butterworth talking about his book The World That Never Was. I wanted to see this purely because the subject sounded intriguing, but I knew nothing about the book - and to be honest, by the end of the talk (which was a bit like part two of a lecture), I still knew very little about the book! Alex leapt right into the depths of his subject - he certainly knew his stuff - it was complicated but did hold my interest. I also felt for him as, like me, he had to talk on his own for the hour. Being given the five-minute signal from the back, he seemed to skip three pages, and then only had time for one brief question. A book I will certainly be having a closer look at.
We left the festival that evening (it had one more day to run) and drove to Hereford, spending a lazy Sunday morning in the town before heading for the comforts, and tea, of home. It's nice to go away and do these things, but it's lovely to be back home again.