Hay vs Edinburgh
24th June 2005
Thank you for recognising my reluctance to compare the size of the Hay and Edinburgh literary festivals (Cultural tourist, July), but I must leap to the defence of the Guardian. Hay shifted 130,000-odd tickets this May. Edinburgh estimates 100,000 tickets for 2004. The figure of 207,000 visitors you quote measures the number of times a counter on the front gate of Charlotte Square’s tented city is triggered. As it counts entrances and exits, and most people arrive several times, you need to adjust your analysis. And then perhaps you can recognise the real point: that the most popular literary gatherings in Britain are in Scotland and Wales, not in England. I think, incidentally, that both these events are considerably bigger than our sister gatherings at Toronto, Parati, Mantua and Adelaide.
Less than 10 per cent of the Hay audience have London postcodes. Ninety per cent of the media attendees, however, do come from London. Perhaps that’s why the metrocentricity you describe seems so strong.
Director, Hay festival