Sunday, 31 May 2009

Before embarking on our mini road trip to Hay, we were told that the weather in Hay was lovely and it had only rained 1 day. Even so, I decided to pack for every eventuality. So in went the jumpers, big woolly socks, scarves, a hat, gloves, sunglasses and last but not least the wellies. The drive down was lovely and once we finally reached Hay (the very, very scenic route - all I have is 2 words, sat nav - or is it one?), the sun was out and there was no mud in sight. After getting drenched through last year, I was amazed and very, very pleased that I wouldn't be looking like a drowned rat.

When we arrived, it was all a-go. The show had already started recording but due to a power cut, we were in time for part 2 which had the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and Cornelia Funke, the author of Inkhart.

I then attended lots of sessions. When China Rules The World with Martin Jacques was interesting as he talked about the power shift between America and China and he theorizes that in the future, China will be the leading nation and not America or Russia. I found this particularly interesting being a Belgian born Chinese person brought up in the west as although I am Chinese through and through, I actually don't know as much about China or the culture as I should do. The best one session was Dara O'Briain who brought his stand-up routine to Hay. It was hilarious and now I love him even more. He brought the house down and I'll be trying to get tickets for his next tour!

The weather was great on Saturday too. No wellies in sight! I love Hay in the sun. The first session of the day was called The Language of Design with Deyan Sudjic. The session was really fascinating and showed us that design impacts upon every part of our lives and defines us culturally and personally. Our next session was with Marina Hyde and Mark Borkowski which discussed the topic of celebrity and how they are used as ambassadors rather than experts to highlight issues such as peace in the Middle East.

We then sat in the truck for the recording of Hay-On-Sky and it was very interesting to see how it works from that end rather than sitting and watching it in the studio. There are so many TV screens in there and buttons, I'd get confused about which ones to press but the experts in the gallery were great and it showed us how much work is involved and how each person's role fits in. The guests were fantastic too: Immodesty Blaize, David Simon (creator of The Wire) and Sarah Waters, a great mix of people.

I then attended a session on the study of the Battle of Normandy, one with Arthur Smith and finally Alan Bennett. This is what I love about Hay. You get to go to such a variety of sessions. I didn't get to go to Jeremy Paxman which I would have loved to have done but maybe next time.

This morning, another sunny day in Hay, I went to see Andrew Davies talk about his adaptation of Little Dorrit. I love his adaptations of Jane Austen and although I didn't manage to watch all episodes of Little Dorrit (I'll be getting the DVD though), I really enjoyed this session. I love a bit of costume drama! He was then asked what his favourite piece of work was and he said that A Very Peculiar Practice was the one that meant the most to him as it was his own creation. Well, it just so happens that Sky Arts 1 has both series and A Very Polish Practice playing in our drama slot which we duly told him when we got our book signed by him. He seemed to be very pleased with this fact and told us how disappointing it was that the BBC never repeated the shows and he wanted a copy of the second series as this isn't on sale in the shops. That was very nice and he said he'd heard really good things about Sky Arts which is always good to hear.

I'm now off to see Simon Schama which should be an excellent session so I will now be signing off.... Maybe I could get one of those really nice ice creams too.....

Tracy, Sky Arts Scheduler

Friday, 29 May 2009

Wrong kind of electric

Today has not been such a great day for the team. The Hay-on-Sky recording was interrupted and badly delayed by power cuts, and for a brief moment we had to consider not making the programme at all. After some ingenious work from the technical guys, we did manage to record the programme, but it was shot in front of a half-empty audience. In three years of broadcasting from the field, this was the first time we'd suffered from technical difficulties this badly. A long day's work still becons for the technical team to find out what caused the electricity problems.

Most of the team are going to see Jo Brand and Dara O'Brien tonight, but if that's not going to lift everyone's spirits, then tomorrow's wrap party will. The invitation, beautifully made by Gemma the graphics genius, suggests there'll be wellie throwing. Having been successful in no sport whatsoever in my life, I can't trust in any natural talent and I've done my research. How to hold the boot and how to throw it - it's all been examined. A few practice runs later, I should be unbeatable. Or at least not the worst.

Sari, Editor-in-field

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Desmond Tutu ahead of team BBQ

We have all fallen in love with Desmond Tutu. The great man dropped by the Hay-on-Sky studio for an interview with Mariella Frostrup and charmed us all. Not only does he have the most infections giggle, he also confessed a great love for showbusiness and bid fairwell to us all warmly as he left the studio. Had his schedule allowed, we could've kept him in the studio for much longer.

The sunshine has come out today again so I've been able to abandon my big, offending boots. Annalisa spent the day shedding blood ... sorry, shearing sheep and only harmed one in the process. Strangely, the sheep in the surrounding hills have spent today nearer to our backstage area than ever before, perhaps trying to avoid Annalisa who was up on the hills.

The team is heading for a barbeque tonight, prepared for us by Channel Manager John and Executive Producer Laura. Our chef Ed, the only one actually qualified to cook to large crowds, is joining the party but not cooking. Methinks there is a lot wrong with this picture. He's a chef. He can cook. John claims he has a cooking qualification from school and therefore should cook the meats. Laura is self-taught and in charge of salads. So much can go wrong here.

Should there be no blog or programming coming to you from the Hay Festival in the next few days, send some help. Sky Arts may have food poisoned themselves somewhere in the hills of Hay-on-Wye.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Shoe update

Update on Welly News: they aren't very good. As I climbed on the set at the end of today's Hay-on-Sky recording, I tripped on the boots which are approximately the size of Sweden. Thankfully I didn't fall over, but it wasn't exactly my most graceful moment in the life of editor-in-field.

This has reminded me of my first trip to the theatre. I was about 4 years old and mother, who had misjudged our materialistic tendencies, had bought my sister and I new dresses for the occasion. We were beyond ecstatic in the weeks leading up to theatre visit and mother was proud she'd raised two daughters who appreciated culture from a very early age.

When Theatre Day finally arrived, we got to put our dresses on and... fell asleep. The excitement about the dresses was simply too much to take. We went to the theatre, with both my sister and I sleeping through the performance, and mother resisted the temptation -a strong temptation, as she often points out- to give us away for being materialistic and not artistic.

This is how this boot situation has felt too. I bought them, excitedly waited to wear them for weeks and now that I've put them on, the fun is gone. I have a deep love for all things material, but perhaps love of art would give me a longer buzz. Or at least not ill-fitting boots.


Went to see Hugh Masakela last night and think I developed a bit of a crush on the old man! Hugh, who walked on stage looking a little fragile, got the audience dancing three songs in and suddenly his one hour gig turned into a two hour feast of musical genius. The show was also recorded by the Sky Arts cameras for broadcast in the next week, but how the concert can be squeezed into an hour is a different thing. Bizarrely, two people around us also fell asleep mid-concert, which made me wonder - how draining can a literary festival be?

The Sky Arts crew have been here for eight days. In that time, I've not made it to my bed (or anyone else's for that matter) even once until well past midnight. It seems every dinner comes equipped with colossal amounts of wine which, just to be polite, we have drank. Lots of work, lots of food, lots of wine and lots of late nights maketh the literary festival a rather draining experience. But for a visitor to come here, pay ... I can't find the pound sign on this keyboard with US settings!!... pay 23 quid to see Hugh Masakela and then sleep through the rather loud experience I don't quite understand. This is Hay, not the Love Parade!

My main point of joy today is the rain - not because it's cold and quite horrible outside, but because I can use my wellies and my new waterproof coat! Had my traumatising visits to camping shops and purchases of rainproof products I won't know what to do with upon return to suburbia been for nothing, I may have shed a little tear. Where else if not at Hay will I ever need to use a coat that can be folded into a rucksack?!

Sari, editor-in-brand-new-wellies

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Bank Holiday Monday morning and off to Hay. Remarkably civilised journey - train deserted and able to stretch out, do e-mails, read the paper and screen a load of Arts Council films. Get to Hereford and take the scenic route (i.e. bus). Saved a fortune in terms of Taxi fare which is good. Arrive on site just as the music for the Hay-on-Sky show starts from the studio. Not so good. So, sit in the press portacabin to watch the show on a monitor instead. Show's entertaining and goes well.

Get my crew pass, my swanky Sky Arts wellies and am ready to go. But something's not quite right... yep, the sun's out and it's not raining. The previous two year's it's been like the Somme given the rain and mud and now it's sunny. Dump my bag in the Sky Arts house, bid farewell to four colleagues who've been here the weekend and, leaving wellies in the Sky Arts hut, don sunnies and set off to explore the festival before the filming of the final What the Dickens?

Before the recording there's a really cool 3D demo - unfortunately an audience member close by doesn't have the necessary (and coolly retro Ray Ban Wayfarer-style) 3D shades so I give her mine. Audience love the 3D reel.

The show's hilarious. Sandi Toksvig's hilarious as are the team captains Chris and the lovely Sue Perkins. Great Picasso gag at the end which Sandi seems to love more than anything - she even manages to get it into her interview the following day on Hay-on-Sky...

Evening session - the legend that is Tony Curtis... Saw him earlier in the year at the National Film Theatre for a Q+A following a screening of Some Like It Hot. He's 84 next week and built like a bull. Albeit a slightly fragile one. In a wheelchair. I know what I mean. Without his wig but wearing a white stetson he pulls himself forward with his feet to the front of the stage to revel in the applause from the full house. The next hour flies by as Francine Stock tries to get a word in and keep him on track. As you'd expect from someone who's made 155+ movies and had a 50 year career in Hollywood, the anecdotes fly thick and fast. Marilyn, obviously, is discussed and Tony puts to rest once and for story about him being quoted as saying kissing her was 'like kissing Hitler'. His full reply when asked 'what was it like kissing Marilyn?' was along the lines of 'like kissing Hitler, what d'you think?'...

There's time for his Cary Grant impression and, despite two power cuts, this living legend has the audience enthralled. Francine Stock may have regretted mentioning his conquests and, in particular, two stars who don't come off well in his new autobiography - Shelley Winters and Joan Collins. Stock asks if this is because they turned him down. 'They didn't turn me down, They weren't invited' is Tony's reply.

His anecdote about why he isn't a member of the Joan Collins fan club turns the air rather blue as he describes filming an ep of 'The Persuaders' with her and being forced to wait while she got herself ready despite the cameras being about to roll. Ms. Collins didn't take kindly to Curtis saying 'Joan will you stop being a c**t'. Collins then leaned out the window calling to the director 'He called me a c**t!!'. The audience crack up but Tony apologises for the language.

Later as I'm walking back to Hay I walk past a dad talking to his son who's about 10 or 11. I catch a snippet of their conversation as the dad say '...I guess he just didn't like working with Joan Collins...'

Then it's the wrap party for What the Dickens in the Three Tuns pub - low ceilings I discover on at least three occasions... ouch.

Tuesday - it's still sunny. What is going on here?

After breakfast off to the site bookshop to pick up some books for my son, then head into Hay to take some photos for the Hay website and the blogs. More books for Jake, a few cups of coffee and buy a giant promotional Lego figure for Jake. Forget that I've got to lug all this (and virgin Sky Arts wellies) back home. Doh! That said, my collection of promotional hessian bags is growing so maybe they'll be useful after all...

Monday, 25 May 2009

Sun damage

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far, inevitably leading to pale, studio-bound crew sitting in the sun and burning themselves. The worst casualty of Sunshine-gate was Freya, our Arts Sponsorship Assistant, who was in the sunshine for the whole day and ended up with very badly burnt arms. While we all tried to be sympathetic, concern over lack of tickets for the best party of last night, the Big Chill DJ bash, took over.

After damage control with Freya's arms was finished, we witnessed Annalisa's unlimited powers. With every taxi company in the tri-state area fully booked, she secured a 16-seater minibus for us at 10pm on a Sunday night in Hay. She is the undisputed Queen of Hay and surely will soon walk on water.

Today is the last day with three shows to record and the crew is looking forward to a slightly less frantic Hay experience from tomorrow onwards. Many of us are also looking forward to a good night's sleep - how rock 'n' roll of us!

Today's highlight will certainly be Stephen Fry who will chat to Mariella in Hay-on-Sky. The question is, will he Twitter about Sky Arts?

Sari, Editor-in-field