Hay Festival must be one of our most favourite places to go in the world. To attend talks, to eat and drink, to read books, what could be better? Well, to be asked to take part in a discussion on family businesses was pretty amazing.
Our discussion was centred around artisan food standing up to price pressures, amongst others, and Kate Humble got us off to a good start – ‘there is something lovely about food that has a story…You can’t tell a story about a packaged meal.’
Meeting the other panellists in the Green Room had an air of unreality. I didn’t dare do more than sip at a glass of water as we ran through the hour ahead. Our interviewer, Kitty Corrigan (how many times did I try to avoid saying ‘Hello Kitty’?) introduced us to our fellow speakers.
Nick Tonkin, a bee keeper and marmalade maker from Pembrokeshire who described his delight in discovering a Mennonite friend who produces maple syrup tapped in the spring and concentrated in buckets over wood fires. He sells what he can from his horse and trap and the rest is flown over to Wales to be bottled and sold by Nick.
Charlie Westhead has run Neal’s Yard Creamery since 1990, making beautiful cheeses, yoghurts and goats curd. He has set up a windmill to provide electricity and a willow bed system which filters and cleans the waste water through beds of willows, reeds and wild orchids.
Kate Humble is a journalist, TV presenter and farmer. She is passionate without losing her sense and takes an enthusiastic view of artisan foods -“by supporting small artisan producers over supermarket chains, we are keeping alive a wealth of skill and knowledge, we are reconnecting with where our food comes from.” I suspect it was she who caused the audience to be numbered in hundreds rather than single units.
The talk itself went well with amusing and insightful questions from the audience. Lunch in the Green Room finished- I was ravenously hungry after pre-breakfast nerves- we enjoyed our complimentary tickets to the usual eclectic selection of talks: a Swedish feminist economist, a dress historian, Mary Portas and finally, for light relief, Tony Hawks cycling round Devon with a micro pig called Titch.
All that and a paper rose and a case of wine to thank us for speaking, too.
We may not be talking again next year, but we’ll certainly be listening.