Tuesday, 28 June 2016

More Beer, and Cider, News

Something else to look forward to at the weekend, at Beer Revolution:

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Marquees Going up around Hay

At the Castle, there's a marquee on the lawn which was used yesterday for Barty's memorial service - he was the owner of Bartrum's stationers, and died suddenly a week or so ago. The shop will continue to trade. I'd met him, but didn't really know him, but I believe the memorial was well attended, and the community choir sang.

Next weekend there will be a Crafts and Rural Skills event at the Castle, using the marquee, which sounds like fun, while in the Town Square, the marquees will be going up for the Food Fair and, on the Sunday, Hay Does Vintage.
So there's lots to look forward to, here in the Independent Kingdom of Hay!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Small Business Saturday

Last week's entry seems to be the last of the new businesses around town that I'd taken photos of, so in future, this will be an occasional slot for any new businesses that start up in Hay, or for any news about local businesses. I started recording all the small businesses in Hay on 28th January, 2012, with Doll's House Fun on Brecon Road, and have hardly missed a Saturday since!

Friday, 24 June 2016

News from Hereford Hopvine

I'm feeling rather depressed today, having woken up to find myself on the losing side of history, so to cheer myself up, I'm thinking about beer.
I went into Hereford today, and picked up the Hereford Hopvine at the Lichfield Vaults (owned by a Greek chap who does really good Meze).
One thing I'm looking forward to is Beer on the Wye, on July 8th, 9th and 10th at the Rowing Club. They have a new, bigger marquee this year and over 120 cask beers, 40 World Beers and 120 ciders and perries to choose from. My Young Man is coming that weekend, and we're planning to go on the Sunday, which is Family Fun Day, with a folk band called Emma & the Professor. I don't think we'll be having our faces painted, though it is an option that's available. There'll even be a Ladies' Morris Side, Jenny Pipes from Leominster, dancing there.
On the Saturday, we'll be at Mallyfest, which is on the Hay Festival field this year.
On the bus into Hereford I noticed that the Boughton Arms in Peterchurch is closed - the Hopvine says this is because of the landlord Alan Hughes' untimely death.
Meanwhile the Nag's Head, up the road in Peterchurch, has re-decorated, and re-surfaced their car park.
The Rhydspence Inn seems to be doing well under new landlord Mark Price, who now has Swan Gold real ale at the bar, from the new Swan Brewery in Leominster.
The Bells at Almeley, which I visited last year, has just won the BBC Award for Best Food Retailer of 2016! They have survived as a pub by turning half the building into a local Market and Deli shop, full of interesting local produce.
There are a lot of new and interesting bars in Hereford - which I never seem to have time to visit on my shopping trips (and of course there are no evening buses). There's a micro-pub now where a laundrette used to be, just outside the ring road on the way to Sainsbury's, and another in Bastion Mews, called Shack Revolution.
Firefly has opened where the Orange Tree used to be, near the Cathedral, part of a company from Worcester, and there are finally plans to knock down the Ship Inn, which has stood empty on the roundabout near Asda for as long as I can remember, to replace it with flats.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


I've been avoiding any mention of the up-coming referendum here, as I don't think this is the place for campaigning (I've been doing that on Facebook!), but it is important that everyone who can goes to vote tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Guest Post by Emma Balch - Hay Library

This is the first guest post I've ever had - and Emma is far more coherent in her thoughts about the plans for the Library than I am!

Some thoughts following the public consultation about Hay Library last week.

It was a good meeting, although I thought it was disappointing that various key people and groups in Hay were not represented. Perhaps they sent apologies. A lot of sense was spoken by those who did attend, and I hope the Powys CC representatives can take those views and ideas on board, given that they are asking the community to practically and financially support the library service.

In no particular order:

* I'm not sure about a 'friends' group, or at least one called that. One of the unique things about a library is that it is for everyone and as soon as there is a group who are the 'friends', what does it say about everyone else? They're not a friend of the library because they're not on the committee, or they don't give money, or they don't agree with having to pay to put up a poster in the public library etc. I would argue that if a group is formed it is not called the 'friends'.

* There are of course many people who believe public services should not be funded by the community or private enterprise. As I said in the meeting, I think there would be resistance to putting Powys' pocket, especially when they're threatening to close the local high school. (I appreciate the funds come from different pots, but there is a general perception that Powys can't be trusted because of the situation with schools and failure to deliver on promises.)

* It struck me there were two key issues raised at the meeting:

1) publicity/awareness of what the library offers/could offer (to the local community and to tourists)

2) costcutting/fundraising

* In light of the previous point, I do think it is fair to ask the local community and library users to help with publicity and awareness-raising. There is a lot of goodwill on this point and so many of us are grateful for the role that libraries played in our childhood and today. There are services on offer that many people don't know about, and opportunities that people in the community would grab and run with if they knew they were there. The local government services can't be expected to do everything, and if we value a service - private or public - we should support it and encourage others to do the same. There are changes that people would like to see, and those voices should be heard, and perhaps there are simple ways to make them happen. So I think as a community we could certainly get together to give more profile to the library, its services and resources and the brilliant staff at Hay Library. Jayne and her team are unofficial social workers, supporter the community in whole range of ways in addition to lending books.

* The costcutting/fundraising side of it is more tricky. As a relative newcomer to Hay (arrived 2011) I am amazed at how many times the community is asked to give to a whole range of groups, causes and public services - and how political and tribal these groups become. There is something wonderful about the library that is outside of that. By stepping in the library you are not aligning yourself with specific people or a group within Hay - anyone can go there. Nobody expects you to donate or pay for your time there, you can stay for a minute or as long as it is open, you can be loud or quiet, nobody 'owns' it more than you do. Jayne and her team treat everyone equally and they're the ones who are in each day, so they know everyone's name.
I think as soon as their is a group assigned to fundraising it creates another tier and it would be so sad to create those divisions in a space that is so blissfully free of it.

* So, the Hay Festival funding is great [for the last couple of years they have generously given £7k to Hay Library which supports one of the staff posts]. The Hay Festival receives plenty of grants and public funding, so that makes sense, to support the library in their own community.
Are there other organisations like Hay Festival who could support the library e.g. by paying for staff time for say one day a week to run events, or drop-ins, or a workshop in part of the library, with the library staff time and opening/running costs during that time covered as part of the funding, but offering a specific new service, with the rest of the library open to the general public. In this case it would be an independent project that is using the library as a venue, but in doing so pays for the library to be open to the community at that time.

* It would be useful to see a breakdown of the costs for running Hay Library and the list of things that will be cut if the £18k is not found. What if £14k is raised - what will be saved, what will be kept? I think there is great value in community fundraising efforts, because it brings people on board and make it a joint effort to support OUR library, but there are big costs that perhaps could be funded by other ways that not only provide finances but really contribute to the service that libraries provide. (I felt that was lost a little in the meeting - the value and purpose of libraries and why they are important.)

* Last Thursday I was in Ledbury and I had a good look around the Master's House. This beautiful heritage building houses the council offices and the library services. The renovation was lottery funded and it is an interesting, tasteful and welcoming public space. Could the plans at Hay Castle be adapted to accommodate the Powys CC library service within the castle grounds? I have no idea if it is possible, but it would certainly be a wonderful way to meet a genuine community need AND bring together books+libraries+castles as places of refuge in a physical space in the centre of Hay.

* I agree with the point that Oliver [Balch] made at the library consultation meeting that Hay is in a unique position that could definitely be drawn upon. It is the library in the town of books. It is great for PR, for marketing as part of the town of books. The library could be the hub for potential projects, for providing a cross-generational, public space where anyone is welcome to be part of the town of books and make it their own. You don't need to own a bookshop, or a castle, or even a book to be part of the town of books - you can borrow one from our fabulous library free of charge!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Small Business Saturday

The Secret Garden, now a shop divided into craft and vintage units, with a cafe in the pretty little garden at the back.
Previously it's been an underwear shop called Sigi's, a solicitors' office, a book shop and a shop selling vintage pottery.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Our Kingdom of Books Exhibition

Here's King Richard Booth this morning at Hay Castle, opening the Exhibition on Our Kingdom of Books, telling the story of Hay as a Book Town, and how Richard's vision brought Hay international recognition! The exhibition is open from today to 23rd June, from 10am to 4pm, and entrance is free.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

And Now it's Chickens

If it's not one thing, it's another. There's now a plan, over at Lower House Farm in Clyro, to build two big chicken sheds - that's 26,000 chickens crammed into two large and unsightly buildings, right where everyone driving into Wales can see them. People complained bitterly about the plans to site a wind turbine near Clyro a while ago because they claimed it would look unsightly - but a wind turbine doesn't produce tons of chicken manure which has the potential to pollute the nearby River Wye with ammonia. And the River Wye is a Site of Special Scientific Interest around Hay and Clyro.
To comment on the plan, the email is holly.hobbs@powys.gov.uk planning reference number P/2016 /0397.
There's also a petition on the 38 Degrees site, called #CluckOff - Say No to Factory Farming near Hay, which has 98 signatures so far (aiming for 100).

Monday, 13 June 2016

Too Many Meetings

I'm starting to lose track of them all!
I went to the Library this evening, thinking I was going to a meeting about the new primary school which we're supposed to be getting some day.
However, it was about the future of the Library service itself. I came in about halfway through, straight from work, to find two ladies from Powys Council with one of those boards with sheets of paper to write on - which she was filling up with ideas about how to promote the use of libraries when I came in.
The idea seems to be to have a Friends of Hay Library group, like the one that already exists in Crickhowell. There, they fund extras for the library, such as folding tables that can be used for events, but I think something more would be needed in the way of fund raising to keep the eleven libraries that are under threat in the county to stay open. And it's yet another group for volunteers to run, to prop up Council services. Several people pointed out problems with that - voluntary groups often start off well, but founder in the long term, and what guarantee would a voluntary group have that the County Council weren't going to make further cuts down the line which made it impossible for the Library to stay open - and then blame the community for not rallying round enough?
Another way round the problem, apparently, is some sort of privatisation, such as with the company that now runs some of the leisure facilities in Powys - which I'm not wildly enthusiastic about either.
One of the chaps at the meeting has just moved into the area from Cornwall, and had quite a bit to say about how things are done down there, which was very useful.
The consultation is going on until July 2nd, and the ladies said something about publicising it again so that more people get involved. A decision is due sometime in September, and action would start to be taken next April, in the new financial year. So if Hay residents want a Friends of the Library group - hopefully not with "the usual suspects" on board, but with a cross section of the different sorts of people who use the library - time is quite short to set one up.
Gareth Ratcliffe was there, giving some useful advice, and he said that groups that have varied representatives (like a disabled library user, or someone from the Chamber of Commerce etc) tended to work better. He sits on several committees like that.
Of course, one of the options for the Library is for it to move out of the present building and into the new school - or even into the Council Chambers, which would make it a lot less accessible for disabled users. In those scenarios, the present Library would be sold off - though it's difficult to see what for, as access is so difficult. Another option is to retain the Library where it is now, and add on offices for Dial-a-Ride and other local groups. Or even move the Council there, and get rid of the Council Chambers building. It's all open for negotiation.

I thought there was also a Council meeting tonight, but Gareth told me that wasn't happening. However, he was going straight on to the Bronllys Hospital meeting at the School. He'd already been to the one in Talgarth last week, but wanted to show his support.
I came home, and had a rant to my Young Man about austerity, and cuts, and local people being expected to volunteer to run all sorts of local services for free.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Young Archaeologists at Hay Castle

My weekend didn't turn out quite as I expected.
I'd put my name down to do some volunteer archaeology on Friday, but was told that one test pit had been finished and the next one wasn't ready to start - but would I mind coming up on Saturday with some of my re-enactment stuff to show the Young Archaeologist group?
Any excuse to get the dressing up clothes out!
I arrived in time to tag along with a tour of the Castle, given by Mari Fforde, and then the children were divided into two groups. One lot went out to do some trowelling. Two areas had been de-turfed at the edge of the lawn, and there was a spread of stones just under the surface, which they made good work of cleaning off:

The other group stayed inside the Castle to do some pot washing (technical archaeologists' term here!). They divided up the pot sherds into different types and then spent some time with a piece they had chosen, to describe it and draw it. The younger children needed a bit of help with this, along the lines of: "How do you spell pottery?" but the older children sat in pairs and got on with it with great enthusiasm and very little need for help. There was quite a bit of Victorian and modern pottery, but some interesting slipware and medieval green glazed pottery as well.

One of the mothers who'd come along told me that several of the children were home educated, and belonged to a group that meets regularly.
In the middle of the day, after lunch, I emptied my shopping trolley of weaponry and spinning tools. Apart from one instance of using my leather gauntlets (for safety while sword fighting) as boxing gloves, they were all careful - nothing was lost, and nothing was broken, and they seemed to enjoy trying on the helmet, chainmail and gambeson (the padded jacket that goes under the chainmail) as well.
Next session, they're doing something Egyptian.
I wish there had been a group like this when I was growing up!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Small Business Saturday

Underwhere for underwear - previously an antique shop, and before that a food shop.

Friday, 10 June 2016

A Typical Evening at the Rose and Crown

It was so hot we sat outside. There were a few locals, including Adrian the artist, a visitor called Ian who said he remembered staying up on Hay Bluff in the days of the hippy convoy and had been coming back to Hay ever since - and a young man from Singapore who Brian had taken under his wing, when he couldn't get back into his B&B.
Brian did a bit of ringing round, and the people from the B&B were eventually found - by which time I'm sure the young man thought that people in Hay are all crazy!
There was Brian's rendition of Buddy Won't You Spare Me a Dime, and the way the conversation jumped from listing famous Belgians to the prehistoric dig at Dorstone to early memories of Doctor Who, to comparing notes about an area of London several of us turned out to know, amongst many other subjects.
Then a neighbour ambled past on his way back from the meeting at Talgarth of the Community Land Trust which wants to do interesting things at Bronllys Hospital. He'd just joined up as a member, because he had spent time at the hospital, walking round the extensive grounds, and wanted to save them from being sold off and developed. Which reminded him of the sad state of Talgarth Hospital, which led to remembering the Taliesin Project which had tried to buy it when it closed as a mental hospital. They wanted to use the building as a sort of university of environmental projects, only to have the bid fall apart at the last moment when one of the committee decided to set up her own bid as part of a Christian group (which also failed). The winning bidder got the whole thing for less than the worth of the slates on the roof and it's been through several different hands since then.
The prospects for Bronllys Hospital look rather brighter than for Talgarth, which is still mouldering - someone tried to get planning permission for housing there recently, but it didn't get anywhere.
The meeting about Bronllys Hospital in Hay is on Monday, at 7pm at Hay School.
Later, Brian introduced Adrian to Elena, who has her art exhibition opposite his shop at the moment, so they could talk about art together - Brian is very good at networking and getting interesting people together.
When I left for the night, the remaining drinkers had just moved into the bar, and were still talking.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Friendly, Texting Local Police

Over the Festival, one of the PCSOs in town saw me sitting outside my house, and cleverly deduced that I must be a local! So she gave me a leaflet about a new scheme they're trying to promote. It's a community messaging scheme for Dyfed Powys, to give useful information to residents about crime in their area, and watch schemes, and various events and initiatives. They can be contacted on www.dpcm.co.uk

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Photos From the Festival

My computer decided to talk to my camera again, so I now have a few pictures taken around town during the Festival.

Here's Paul Haynes' book tent.

And the fascinating multiple teepee on the Riverside site.

Paddington Bear advertising the refugee event at the Parish Hall.

Anti-fracking campaigners singing in a circle

While Gandalf talked to passers by.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Launching the Community Land Trust

The group who want to create a Wellbeing Park around Bronllys Hospital are holding meetings locally to talk about the ideas they have, and to look for people who want to become members of the Community Land Trust. They need to form the Land Trust to be a legal entity for the authorities to deal with.
The meetings will be:
7pm at Talgarth Town Hall on Thursday 9th June
7pm at Hay School on Monday 13th June
7pm at Royston Hall, Bronllys on Tuesday 14th June.
They've got some very good ideas for the site, and they're committed to keeping the hospital open for the local community.
Monday 13th June will be a busy night in Hay - there's another open evening about the future of the school from 5pm to 7pm at Hay Library on the same evening, and Hay Town Council will be meeting from 7pm, having put back their usual first Monday in the month meeting for a week, so they can discuss the Hay Festival.
I'm not sure yet which of the three I'll be able to get to.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Good News for the Castle

Hay Castle has been awarded a £4.46 million Heritage Lottery grant!
The money will be used to consolidate the ruinous part of the castle, restore the mansion part, re-open the medieval gateway with access to the Town Square, create a museum-standard gallery inside the mansion, with an educational space and cafe, and flexible spaces for use by the community. They still need to raise match funding of £900,000 for work to begin in 2017.
And starting today, archaeologists Peter Dorling and Dai Williams are digging up the castle lawns in a series of test pits. I'm going to be going along on Friday as a volunteer, which should be interesting - it's a long time since I last jumped down into a trench to wield my trowel!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Festival Volunteers

I've been hearing some rather worrying things about the volunteer stewards at the How the Light Gets in Festival this year. I've always thought that stewards, who do have some responsibility at events, should be paid for their work, so I wasn't thrilled when I saw the posters from the Globe advertising for volunteers to man their Festival, but that's the way they decided to run their Festival, and if people wanted to volunteer, it was up to them to decide if they thought the benefits outweighed the disadvantages.
Then my neighbour took pity on one girl who had signed up as a How the Light Gets in volunteer steward and gave her a bed for a couple of nights. She was a student from London, and had assumed, when she signed up to come to Hay, that accommodation would be provided. She found that she was expected to roll out a sleeping bag in one of the tents at the Globe after the last event had finished (and they went on into the early hours of the mornings) and sleep on the ground surrounded by young men she didn't know.

The other evening Brian and I got talking to a chap in the Rose and Crown. He was camping down at the Riverside site, and had thought that volunteering to be a steward would be a good way of experiencing the Festival. He told us that the stewards got various perks, like half-price food on the sites, but he also told us that he had to pay a £50 deposit, which he would only get back if he worked for the hours he had signed up for. Apparently some volunteers left early last year - so this year the Globe were demanding the deposit.
He also said he'd been on duty at the Riverside site when the accident happened. One of the volunteer stewards was told to take a trolley load of pallets from the Riverside site to the Globe site - and it was a wobbly load that the man we talked to at the bar had to help through the entrance tent. A couple of minutes later, they heard the crash and thump outside - the volunteer had been hit by a car while trying to cross the road at the bridge, and had to be taken away by ambulance. They asked him if he knew where he was, and he said "What's Hay Festival?" so he may have had concussion. Brian already knew about the accident, because Dickie Hebbard, who walks Denzel the Staffie for him, had been there, and spent some time directing traffic around the accident site while Denzel was tied up to the bridge.
Brian used to work for Balfour Beatty, managing large projects, and he said he'd have been fired instantly if he had allowed that to happen to one of his workers. He knows a lot about risk assessment, and risk management, and was very worried indeed about the way the Globe site was being managed. He wondered what would happen to the volunteers sleeping in the tent if a fire had broken out, for instance.

The main Hay Festival has volunteers too, managing the queues for events, but there it seems to be much better organised. The volunteers there tend to be older than the ones at the Globe, and local, and come back year after year. I think they should be paid for their work, too, but I got talking to one young girl who had spent the Festival working as an intern, and she was delighted with the experience. She said she'd got the autographs of several authors she admired, and the work had been interesting, fun - and exhausting!

Friday, 3 June 2016

More Mooching Round Festival Week Hay

As usual, there has been lots going on round town during the Festival - buskers, market stalls and so on. The Buttermarket and Cheesemarket have been full of stalls every day, selling vintage clothes, and crafts of all sorts.
There are food stalls in the Castle Gardens again, including Parsnipship (who took food to the refugees at Calais at the beginning of the year) and Weobley Ash, who usually have a stall on the Thursday market. In the Castle itself this year is the Menagerie cafe, with live music. Last night I passed Sarah and a few friends heading up there to celebrate Sarah's birthday - but I'd just come off my late shift at the shop, so I didn't join them.
On Monday afternoon, I went to the refugee event in the Parish Hall - Paddington Bear was wandering around town again, publicising it. Inside the hall was set up for teas and cakes, and lots of different craft activities, and there were stalls outside, including one entirely of teddy bears.
That evening, I was also doing a late shift, but as I walked home past the Old Electric Shop, I noticed Alan Cooper on the little stage in the corner of the front cafe part, along with Di Esplin with her cello and Simon Newcombe on guitar - so I went in, got a bottle of some excellent Hillside Brewery beer, and had a great time listening to some brilliant musicians being totally spontaneous on stage, among an audience of quite a few familiar local faces.
Sitting by me was Toby Parker, who used to busk round town and play at the Globe Open Mic until he headed north in search of fame and fortune! He was just back from Manchester, which he said he'd enjoyed, and he and his friend were up on the Old Electric Shop stage after Alan, Di and Simon. By that time, I needed to crawl home to bed!
I met an American couple in the shop, a couple of days ago, who were touring English gardens - they'd been round the Cotswolds, and to Westonbirt Arboretum. They were in Hay because of a book called Sixpence House, the story of an American who came to live in Hay and who worked for Richard Booth for a time, and they were looking for the Sixpence House of the book. The author changed the name of the house, but I knew where it was. At one time it was the Half Moon pub - and the name change was inspired by Somerset Maugham's novel, The Moon and Sixpence.
During my lunch break, I found them again - they hadn't been able to find the house, so I took them to it, and they took photos to show their friends back home.
That was the day I noticed lots of people walking round with small trees in their carrier bags - apparently the Woodland Trust were giving away small saplings from their stall on the Festival site.
Yesterday afternoon, I went down to the Riverside site - nobody was bothering to check wristbands at the entrance, perhaps because it was so quiet down there. Only a few people were listening to music at the Hat and the cafe, and the fairground carousel was going round empty. I hope things picked up for the stallholders there later on.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Launching the Keep

There's been a table outside the Keep office, at the bottom of the Pavement, all week, where various members of staff have been selling the magazine. There's also been the event at the Festival, where authors with their work in the magazine gave readings.
And there was a launch party at Booth's Bookshop Cafe, which was well attended.
Emanation's green man mask is on display at the top of the stairs, along with a picture from the magazine of Nina Lyon holding hands with a man in the green man mask in front of the door to Kilpeck Church. Nina gave a reading from her book, Uprooted, from the top of the stairs, but the acoustics in the cafe are not good, and it was very difficult to hear her, even though she was speaking at about the same volume as she had at the Vanguard reading in Addyman's bookshop, where it was easy to hear her at the back.
Oliver Balch gave a reading, too (in a nice loud voice) and said that he was very pleased to now have an official Hay nickname, like Stuart the Fruit - so he is now Ollie the Tump!

Tom Bullough didn't do a reading, but did say a few words - and then there was the special surprise guest, Miss Belle Revue, a vision of glamour with piled up blonde hair, lots of (I suspect) rhinestones, and a Southern Belle accent. She said she was in Wales looking for a rich husband, such as that nice man in Ivor the Engine who owned a cute little goldmine!