Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Wednesday, 2 June 2010 14:49 UK
Hay phenomenon honoured by new guide book
Books in a shop at Hay-on-Wye
The Hay-on-Wye book trade started when Richard Booth opened a book shop in the town in 1961

The writer of a cultural and historical guide to Hay-on-Wye has called on other communities in Britain to follow the blueprint set by the Mid Wales town.

Hay-on-Wye is the world's first book town and since 1988 has been the venue for a literary festival which attracts more than 80,000 visitors each year.

But Robin Saikia, author of the Blue Guide to Hay claims other towns could benefit from a similar vision.

The guide is the first in the series to feature a small town.

Many towns could be stimulated economically by the introduction of the arts on a commercial basis
Robin Saikia

The Blue Guides were established in 1918 and provide cultural and historical information about cities and countries worldwide.

Mr Sakia said: "This is the first time a small town like Hay has had a complete Blue Guide to itself - a landmark in publishing and great for the town and the festival.


"Hay is a fascinating place, full of eccentrics of international calibre - and as an arts and book centre it is an incredible phenomenon."

Mr Saikia spent several weeks in the border town researching the guide and interviewed Richard Booth, who started the Hay book trade in 1961, and Peter Florence, who along with his father, Norman, devised the festival.

Robin Saikia
Robin Saikia is currently working on a book about Italian food

"Many towns could be stimulated economically by the introduction of the arts on a commercial basis," said Mr Saikia.

"There is a lot of publicly-funded art in towns across Britain but they are tame compared to what has happened in Hay, which was driven by private individuals.


"Peter Florence told me that culture is a natural condition of life for young people in this area and this has ensured the sustainability of what has happened in this area."

Mr Saikia added that although the book town blueprint set down by Hay-on-Wye has been taken up across Europe the number of book towns in Britain are few and far between.

"There are book towns in Sedbergh in England and Wigtown in Scotland but there could be many more," he said.

Mr Saikia's next book, The Venice Lido, is published by Blue Guides this summer. He is currently working on a book about Italian food.

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