Monday, 4 June 2018

Natalie Lamb and Travel: Hay Festival 2018

At the weekend I visited Hay Festival for the first time. I had lots of questions that I struggled to get answers for before the festival and only really got them answered during the event itself. I thought I would make this post about Hay Festival 2018 and it will potentially help others attending for the first time next year.

I would advise signing up to email alerts because events sell out very quickly. Yes, the booking fee is expensive (I paid £3 plus delivery) but if you have the slightest inclination that you're going, get it booked. It seemed the big named events and the children/family activities sold out first. Also, they release the events in a staggered way so you may have to check multiple times.

One thing I did discover at the festival is that if you can no longer attend an event and it is sold out, if you go to the box office, they will give you a refund for the cost of the event (not the booking fee etc), no questions asked. If you can't attend but the event hasn't sold out, you can place it on a table and someone else can pick it up with a donation to charity. So nothing gets wasted, which I thought was really nice. I would recommend going to the desk to the right of the box office to see if there are any spare tickets going too.

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Getting to the festival
The postcode HR3 5PJ took me straight to the festival.

I wasn't sure what to do about parking. The website said the closest car park to the festival site was the "Car Park at Hay in Aid of Macmillan" and it seemed you could come and go as you pleased but it cost £7 per car per day, which I thought was expensive. The only other option on the website was the Park & Ride at Clyro Court (Baskerville Hall Hotel, HR3 5LE), which you have to take a free regular shuttle bus which drops you off at the Festival entrance and costed £5 per day. In the end I decided to go for the closest car park because I couldn't find out any information about how "regular" the regular the shuttle buses were. After seeing the massive queues for the shuttle bus, I think I made the right decision on that front. But, once I arrived at the site, there were so many signs for "charity car park" that I got confused and just followed the first one. It turns out, if you drive to the festival site, there are actually multiple car parks around. I parked in one very close to the festival, opposite PCI Pharma Services for £5. It was a very cramped car park and I was worried my car would be scratched but there are other parking options out there. I saw car parks advertised for £5, £4 and £3, all very close to the festival. I would advise driving very slowly and reading all the small signs. Better yet, take an observant passenger!

The festival: What I brought
Security are fine with you bringing any food and drink to the festival. I brought chocolate fingers, cheesy Doritos and a reusable bottle with water in and it was OK. I took the following for a day at the festival:

  • Bottle of water- could be refilled at the festival using multiple free taps
  • Books- to be signed by the authors I would be seeing
  • Food- biscuits and crisps to keep me going, although I would being more food next time
  • Purse- to buy gifts/more books
  • Tickets
I would bring more food with me next time because I found the food prices extortionate. I was expecting music festival prices, £7/meal, £5/snack but it was more than that, think £9 for a burger. Also, I found the food very pretentious (difficult for fussy eaters!) with no cheap alternatives.

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The festival: Attending events
The festival itself was so much more packed than I was expecting, True, I went on a sunny Saturday in June, but I wasn't expecting it to be THAT busy! The queues for events were incredibly long. I would say get to your event tent with at least 15 minutes to spare. I quickly found that getting from one side of the festival to the other was very difficult because everyone walked very slowly and would often stop suddenly in front of you, I felt like I was in London travelling for work but surrounded my tourists. I can imagine it being worse if the weather is poor. The festival is essentially one massive tent with walkways in it. There are the event tents, a food tent, stalls etc., all under this one tent. When I went, the people were pretty spread out because many of them were sat outside on grass (there weren't many options for indoor seating). So in bad weather, I assume everyone gathers inside this giant tent.

After getting in the event tent, there were two sets of seating on plastic chairs, normal and tiered. I opted for tiered so I could see even if I was at the back. I found the seats very close together and had peoples legs pressed against mine (which I hate!). Volunteers were shouting "leave no gaps" on entry but actually there were entire rows free behind me so I wish I would have left some gaps!

The festival: Signings
Book signings took place in the book shop, which was pretty packed. They happened straight after an act finished and the correct door to queue at would be added to a chalk board outside the shop while you're still in the event. However, this didn't happen with all authors (I was disappointed to find out!) so don't assume you will get your books signed. There are copies of pre-signed books within the shop too, which you are free to browse and purchase if interested, as well as gifts (which I thought were very expensive- £25 for a mug!).

I bought myself a gift- £12 pencil case

A summary
Overall, it seems like I'm moaning quite a bit but I genuinely had a great time at the festival and I would go again! A summary of my top tips:

  • Book in advance
  • Don't worry about or pre-book parking 
  • Bring food and drink
  • See if there are spare tickets for a donation
  • Get to events early-ish 
  • Go straight to the shop after events if you want a book signing 
There are a few things I haven't experienced and would be interested in future. Firstly, it seems like student tickets were a possibility (I didn't realise this) so I would check that out if I was to go again. There is also an option for "Hay Player", an audio subscription for £15 that allows you to watch audio and film recordings from the festival. This is not something I have tested so I would be unable to recommend it. If you're thinking of going to Hay Festival 2019 have a great time!

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