Well, what a way to end the month of May!
Every year, as an avid reader, I try to go to the Hay Festival in Hay on Wye, South Wales to soak up some of the wonderful atmosphere that only a festival virtually made of books can provide. Luckily, I’ve been able to continue with my tradition as the festival is amazingly wheelchair accessible! I bit the bullet and spent more time than usual there (poor me eh!) so that I could confirm those accessibility points.
First of all, there is a disabled car park for anyone who has a Blue Badge. You can book in advance or pay at the door but it’s best to book ahead just in case it’s full. It costs £5 but lasts all day and into the night if you’re there to see the later artists. There is a park and ride system but I found the access to the buses to be very difficult with my powerchair plus there wasn’t a great deal of space in which to park myself on the bus so whilst I gave it a go (see photos below!) I didn’t bother and went by car instead.
Once you go through the ramped entrance, all the walkways are flat and covered if a little bumpy on occasion. The Hay Festival is not enormous but there is so much to do and see; from talks from leading authors, workshops on creative or digital writing, concerts from famous singers and bands to comedy nights and the chance to meet your favourite author!
Most of the talks etc are ticketed (when you ring, ask to book a free carer ticket too for each talk, very good of you, thank you very much Hay!) but there are many things to do there for free as well and there are so many things for children to do, it’s outstanding. Face painting, tree planting, musical workshops, book signings from their favourite writers and so much more.
Dining is sorted for whichever type of food experience you could wish. They have a fine dining tent, bars and restaurants, ice creams stalls, chocolate stalls and a food hall with every type of food imaginable for sale. Indian, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, Welsh; for us carnivores Welsh venison burgers, Hereford Beef and for vegetarians and vegans, they are also well provided for with many stalls selling vegan and gluten free meals! I chose a Greek chicken Souvlaki which was absolutely gorgeous and served in a very social way on long communal tables, as a couple we both wanted different things (as usual!) so I could get my food while good old P had his usual Hereford beef burger, medium rare and delicious!
Most of the stalls had fairly low counters but not all and unfortunately there weren’t any adapted picnic benches but I just slotted in on the end. One problem I did encounter though was the cash machines – they were up a small step (where have I heard that before….?) so I had to get P to get my money out for me.
As for accessible toilets, they had 3 at one end of the festival and 3 at the other end which was a bit of a trek but at least one of the accessible toilets I saw had a ceiling hoist and an adult sized changing table. The ramps to reach them were ok as well, if again, a little bumpy in places.
When it was time to go see your chosen speaker, there was always a separate queue for wheelchairs or people with limited mobility and you were always taken into the tents first. There were no actual spaces for wheelchairs but you could put your chair in front of the flip down chair behind you. Unfortunately you couldn’t go right in the middle of the front row, “health and safety” apparently, but the side sections were ok and for the more famous authors, they had a camera filming them so we got to watch the ‘big screen‘, which worked really well.
We managed to see Paul Merton and his Improv Chums, a talk from a couple of short story writers and our favourite, the historian Lucy Worsley who was talking about Queen Victoria. They were all amazing and we even managed to shoehorn ourselves into the queue for her to sign our book. She was so sweet and gracious and Mr G was more than chuffed that she’d put her arm around him…..!!
It was a really great day and so interesting, it was difficult to pull away from the plethora of stalls selling local produce, wine, gin, whiskey, chocolate brownies, vintage clothes, handmade jewellery and so much more but eventually it was time to leave.
It had been an amazing day and has increased my love of the Hay Festival yet again. There are so many other things going on in the town centre too but it was time for this weary soul to go home. Plus Mr G was on his knees, I dread to think how many steps he’d done – I forget that whilst I’m in the chair, he has to actually walk every single step!
Bye bye Hay, see you next year……..!!!