Monday 30 May 2016

Task 46: Glamping at the Hay Festival, Wales

Now if there's one thing I've learnt - and I rather wish I'd learnt it sooner - it's to be a little more flexible in my approach in life. Sticking to rigid rules come what may isn't necessarily a good thing. Like for instance when I said in my last blog that I would be publishing my blog on Task 46 live from the Hay Festival, it seemed a very reasonable idea at the time. However.....oh but I'm jumping the gun again.

Why glamp at a festival in the first place? The finger is firmly pointed at Jonathan this time. 'Any ideas for a task you'd like me to add to the sixtyat60 list?' I asked him breezily at some tube station near Islington in March. As we stood on the platform and he jumped onto the train (we were heading in different directions) he turned round and said 'Attend a festival Mum!' As the doors were closing and memories of being at a muddy, cold and miserable pop festival in my late teens were flashing through my mind, I said 'Only if I can glamp'. 

The original plan was for the whole family to go to a music festival somewhere sometime during last summer. But because of the word 'glamp' (and this was non-negotiable people) the costs over a 3-day period for the 6 of us were simply astronomical. Besides which I had quite a lot of other tasks to do. So the festival task was shelved until this year, at which point we realised that the festival season doesn't really get going until June. There were just two glamping options open to us on the final weekend of May:

1.  Three days and nights of cover bands mayhem at Glastonbudget
2.  One day and night of literary and musical sophistication at the Hay Festival

Guess which one we chose.

To keep costs low, the Hay Festival visit was limited to just Andrew and me. We duly booked our Bedouin tent (with the promise of Turkish Delight to be left on our pillow), courtesy of Tangerine Fields (so chic...we thought), and bought tickets to several events. All sorted.

Yesterday our Hay Day dawned. We packed our bags, threw wellies, coats, extra trainers and a rug into the boot of my car and off we headed. The weather was glorious - hurrah! The M25 was the usual road to Hell but we arrived in Hay in good time.

We found Tangerine Fields camping site (in truth not so hip and not so chic as indicated on their website) and there was our bedouin tent awaiting us.....well, actually it wasn't as it turned out someone else was sleeping in our tent (not literally at that moment). But eventually a new tent was located and made ready for us. And here we are soaking up the whole Arabian Nights vibe.


We made our way to the Hay Festival hub, which was heaving with people of all demographics and various degrees of sunburn.

The first highlight for us was a brilliant interview with two African writers (from the Hay's Africa 39 Project) called HJ Golakai and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, who have written two completely different books in setting, style and storyline but with similar themes of trauma and its effects. We bought their books and had them signed by the authors, who have both themselves experienced trauma during their upbringing in Liberia and Nigeria respectively, and said that they've found it helpful to process such issues through their writing.

 The second highlight was seeing the amazing singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega in concert - Andrew and I are both massive fans of hers, and she was as brilliant as ever. It's a very poor photo but just to show we were there....

With our Hay Day completed, we headed back to the campsite feeling well satisfied with life. The only small cloud in my mind was the inefficient Festival wi-fi connection, which seemed unlikely to let me publish my live blog the following morning. By now it was 11.30pm and the air was freezing. Would it feel less parky in our tent? We undid the flap and stepped inside. Nope, not a single degree warmer. And the power (we were glamping remember) didn't work. We managed to find our torch and were a little taken aback to discover that we could actually see our breath. Oh and a band was playing at a venue up the road - but it was so loud that it might as well have been playing outside our tent. We looked at each other by torchlight. 'So this is glamping' I said. 

We retired to bed, wearing three layers of clothing topped by the duvet, our rug and 2 bath towels. I put up the hood of my hoodie to keep my head warm (Andrew was very envious). The band was still playing.....and playing.....and people were cheering....and yelling.......until finally, at 2.30am, all went quiet. I heard an owl hoot. That made me smile. And I think I must have drifted off into some kind of sleep as the next thing I knew it was light in the tent. Crows were cawing, sheep were baaing, hedgerow birds were singing and a baby was crying. Hurrah - we'd survived our night without turning into ice sculptures. 'What time do you think it is?' whispered Andrew, who was also awake. 'About 6.45am?' I guessed optimistically. 'Er no, it's actually 5.25am...' came the reply.  'I'm tempted to leave now' he added. I pondered for about 5 minutes in silence. Did he mean he was going to leave without me? Had I fulfilled Task 53? Did I really have to publish the blog live from the Hay Festival as I'd promised- and in any case would I be able to publish it given the dodgy wi-fi?  Was some flexibility in order at this stage in the sixtyat60 game?  

Fifteen minutes later we were on our way. The car was blasting glorious waves of heat around our feet. Life was good again. We paused to take photos of the campsite in the early morning sunshine, as evidence that we really did stay a full night - well, pretty much anyway!


The M4 and M25 were almost deserted and we were home by 10.30am. And so now I'm writing this blog in comfort, admittedly having only slept for 3 hours. Our verdict on Task 53? The Hay Festival is fantastic and we'll definitely go again - only next time, we'll find ourselves a nice little boutique B&B at least 2 miles outside Hay-on-Wye. And one important those courageous people who go camping at Festivals, I salute you all - you're clearly made of much sterner stuff than us!

I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Shooting Star Chase children's hospice care in memory of a special little girl called Thea Redford. 


For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at   

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