Page last updated at 05:44 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 06:44 UK

Hay's Peter Florence says 'it's about people not money'

Peter Florence (Pic Daniel Mordzinski)
Peter Florence says Wales needs a rock festival to 'rival Glastonbury'

Hay Festival director Peter Florence says the assembly government's plans to attract more events to Wales should focus on "people doing good things".

A 10-year strategy aims to encourage existing events such as the Faenol festival and attract more international big hitters like golf's Ryder Cup.

The annual literature festival in a Powys border town has been held up as an example of "organic" event success.

Mr Florence said: "It's not about money, it's about people."

The Hay Festival, held this year in Hay-on-Wye, Powys from 27 May to 6 June, is expected to draw more than 100,000 people.

Now in its 23rd year, the festival has a reputation for attracting the biggest names in literature, as well as political figures, cultural commentators, musicians and comedians.

You have go to be prepared for it to be risky, which is not normally something public money does well
Hay Festival director, Peter Florence

Previous guests have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2009, former Beatle Paul McCartney and ex-US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Clinton, who was the star of the show in 2001, famously described the festival as the "Woodstock of the mind".

The Welsh Assembly Government also sees the festival as a "signature" event, one that provides a "high quality experience for visitors" and is "distinctively Welsh in flavour".

Mr Florence said: "One thing we [at Hay Festival] have learned is that the best way to develop anything is: organically and within a community.

He said: "Wales is well placed to make things work, but it has be to driven by people on the ground. You can't impose that from the top."


"As far as major events go, we have a huge advantage in this country.

"The tradition of eisteddfodau and the demography of Wales means we're very used to big seasonal festivals. That would suggest Wales is well-placed to add more.

"Big events, as we know from the Faenol and Brecon Jazz, are economically expensive things to do. You have to integrate them into a year-round programme or marketing campaign."

He said the team behind the Hay Festival, which runs 10 events around the world, had a good idea what their programme would be in five or six years' time.

"Flexibility is the key to all these things," he said. "You could have to deal with foot-and-mouth disease or a war.

Hay Festival site
The Hay Festival is expected to attract more than 100,000 people

"What's needed is good financial management and good planning."

He cited the Ryder Cup tournament, held in Newport in October this year, as an example of individuals taking the lead.

The event was won for Wales in 2001 by Welsh-born billionaire Sir Terry Matthews, who fought off a number of rival bids from Scottish and English courses.

Mr Florence said: "These big projects tend, in my experience, only to work when they are being driven by people on the ground.

"The assembly government would do better to find people doing good things on the ground and empower them rather than go after big events.

"If we can support Welsh initiatives rather than 'create' Welsh initiatives, that's fantastic.

"You have go to be prepared for it to be risky, which is not normally something public money does well."

He said one gap in Wales' cultural calendar he had identified was a rock festival to rival Glastonbury, Leeds and Reading.

He said: "It seems an obvious thing to do."

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