In Defence of Festivals

For those of you who use social media and read the press you will have seen a rise of criticism against some of the bigger festivals, including Hay. Accusations of commercialism, poor pay or no pay for middle rung writers – those authors readers may know but who have yet to make a massive media impact. We accuse festivals of making thousands off celebrity names and dumbing down culture. There is collective smarting against famous, rich writers – there are a few of those still. The same people blame a lack of representation of culture but this is a failed argument. What is culture? Take Sir Walter Scott, the spearhead of the gothic revival, of chivalry but ask many people today who he was and they’d look at you blankly. Scott influenced an entire society, from morality to architecture. He did this through his books and friends. Creating a movement but in an age of cynicism, apathy, we have got the culture we deserve. A culture of I, a culture of greed, a culture of privatisation, a culture of exploitation. So applaud those festivals that reflect so strongly what we wanted, greed and I. We can make a difference in society, we can make a difference to culture, we can make a difference to arts and writing. We can. I can’t. I smacks of greed not culture.

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