I’ve just read an article in today’s Western Mail titled “Queen of Hay” about Elizabeth Haycox, an American from Oregon, who has been a contributor to the rejuvenation of the bookshop that sparked the developments leading to the Hay Festival. Richard Booth has been known as the “King of Hay” for decades since he opened the first secondhand bookshop in this Powys town, 50 years ago.
I made my first pilgrimage to Hay in the early 1980s. By then, the town was well-established as a haven for the hunter of secondhand books. I took away so many there was no room in the boot (trunk) of the car and the bumps on the way back to Cardiff were accompanied by thuds.
The Festival begins in the last week of May – coinciding with the Urdd Eisteddfod (see my blog for Seduced by History, A Living Tradition, for more about this) and, this year, giving literary and music lovers a choice to spend their soggy May Bank Holiday in Powys or Abertawe.
Elizabeth Haycox was given the title by Steve Dubé (himself a Canadian) for her role in the regeneration of the Booth’s bookshop in the style of café/bookshops appearing in San Francisco’s independent bookshops in the 1970s and finding their way to the likes of chain book retailers thirty years later. Haycox is expanding Booth’s original premises into the building next door, more room for tables and mugs of tea.
All of that aside, despite the good news for Hay and the Festival with the promise of a cinema and the restoration of Hay Castle, I say hooray for Haycox for this one statement in particular: “…But I won’t be the Queen of Hay. Americans don’t take titles…” Thank you, Elizabeth, for restoring my faith.
A pity no one reminded Ian MacGregor of that before he destroyed the mining industry.