Hay Festival is a celebration of literature and arts that occurs every year nestled in the book town of Hay-On-Wye, a stone’s throw from my family home in Brecon.
Despite being vaguely aware of the cool acts going on there I have never bought tickets to see an event. Instead I opt for a mooch around the book and vintage stalls, grab a delicious snack from the Food Hall and enjoy a drink or two in the sun.
That changed this year, as I started it by reading a book that has refreshed my perspective on a LOT of my relationships. Namely, the one I have with my body, with my friends, with alcohol and growing up and feeling confident in my own skin.
When a friend (the same friend that lent me her copy in the first place) pointed out the author was doing a talk at Hay Festival, I didn’t think twice about getting tickets. The book in question is, of course, Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love. The book that seems to have become a beacon for the Millennial generation to relate to because of its honest and realistic portrayal of navigating adolescence and early adulthood.
This beautifully humble book allegedly sits on the Millennial shelf alongside that shade of pink we all apparently love so much (guilty), our obsession with Instagram (also guilty) and the remains of our avocado and smoked salmon brunch (you guessed it). But why do we love it so much?
Dolly touched on this in her conversation with Clemency Burton Hill – she’s been heralded a spokesperson for girls in their late teens and twenties. We want to relate to it because we’ll cling onto anything that makes us feel like we’re not alone, and there’s never been anything that comes so close before: a woman admitting she gets drunk and falls in love and has sex. Hardly a revelation (and boy did I relate to it) but she makes a good point that there just aren’t many books around that document 21st Century coming-of-age experiences so openly and vividly – and for that Dolly Alderton is a very brave woman.
Unlike many memoirs it doesn’t sidestep drunken mishaps, or dismiss sexual encounters as silly mistakes; instead these are the centrepiece of the story and Dolly’s dissection of each one, while hugely entertaining, is full of meaning and gives value to the lessons she has learnt along the way.
The incidents that upon first thought we may rather forget, but that actually have shaped us into who we are. Instead of labelling them ‘mistakes’ or trying to block out the fact they happened (let’s face it, there will always be that red-faced moment when I vaguely recall the shit I chatted when drunk), we can use our ‘bad’ decisions or hungover cringes as poignant reminders of growing into ourselves. And the more I seem to grow into myself, the less I seem to criticise myself for petty things – it’s life after all and we are constantly learning.
VEST TOP ASOS (old) | LINEN TROUSERS Boden (gifted) | MULES ASOS (old) | BAG vintage Jane Shilton | SUNGLASSES Zara (old) | EARRINGS Vintage
Somehow Dolly’s live words managed to inspire me even more than she already has through her various content platforms. I read her columns and listen to The High Low (a wonderful weekly current-affairs podcast co-hosted with Pandora Sykes, but I’m sure you already knew that) and yet the power of listening to someone in the flesh and the intense atmosphere that comes with it can influence us in the strongest ways.
I’ve always wanted to be an author – it’s been my one true passion since I could write. Other dreams have come and gone through the years (acting, teaching…) but writing novels remains my biggest, unwavering aspiration. Despite this, it’s something that I’ve left behind as I have less and less time, and I long for the hours of creativity that would pour from me as a little girl.
Recently, a large proportion of my thoughts revolve around getting back into writing and putting some of the ideas I have building up onto paper. It seems the harder I work at my day job, the more I get little inklings of plots cropping up, with increasingly less hours to expand on them.
The main advice I took from Dolly – in both her speech and when I managed to speak to her afterwards (totally fangirled and got my book signed) – is that no limits will prevent you from doing the thing you love. You can find time to let your talent take over in your spare time and use your day job as a propeller to accelerate the resources to practice and hone until hopefully “your dreams will follow.”
If that’s not enough to motivate me to find half an hour a day to jot down a chapter, I don’t know what is.
Here’s hoping I’ll be returning to Hay Festival with a book of my own someday.
ph. Megan Dolphin