How Hay-on-Wye are the Hay headliners? A study

A hillside enclave of sheep farmers and GQ editors, there’s nowhere quite like Hay-on-Wye, even before the great and the good of London’s Litteratti roll in to town for festival season.

The place and the people have a collective Hay-ness seemingly built on poor mobile phone signal, an advanced reading age and the unwavering certainty that oversized knitwear will never go out of fashion.*

With that in mind we assess the Hay credentials of this year’s musical headliners from Hay Festival and this weekend’s How the Light Gets In.


(*Do we need to mention that Hay's also one of the best and  most unique places in the world and we love it? Well it is and we do.)

British Sea Power

HTLGI, Sat 11.30pm

The Mercury-nominated Lancashire lads are known for anthemic tunes and playing in Morecambe Library. They are critical darlings, 6Music regulars and crowd-funded their last album.

BSP's Hay credentials:

- Their lead singer is called Jan Scott Wilkinson but insists on being referred to as known as Yan.

- This is one of their lyrics: Welcome everybody, we're not all that scary; I'm a big fan of the local library.

- This is the main photo on their Wikipedia.


Four Corduroy Trousers Out Of Five.

The Waterboys

Hay Festival, Thu 8pm

Scottish ‘Big Music’ pioneers, the Waterboys featured a part-time mandolin player and penned  one of history’s seminal pub covers.

Their Hay credentials:

- 80 percent of photos of lead singer Mike Scott feature him wearing a velour blazer and/or a cravat and wide brimmed hat combination.

- Scott was a literature graduate, and recorded poems by William Yeats – while their big hit, The Whole Of The Moon, was reportedly written about author CS Lewis.

- Mike Scott recently discovered Wikipedia and took to editing the band's page under a pseudonym. (But was apparently comfortable leaving in the description of their sound as "a mystical celebration of paganism... extolling the basic and primitive divinity that exists in everything". Cool.) 


Tres Hay.

Ibibio Sound Machine

Hay Festival Sat 9.45pm

West African funk and disco put through a London mixing desk, sprinkled with a bit of post-punk and fronted by the superstar that is Eno Williams.

Their Hay credentials:

The band features three white guys from London who are perfectly comfortable wearing traditional African clothing. In England.


Four Ironic Trilbies Out Of Ten.

Anna Calvi

HTLGI Sun 11.30pm

A pop-star who refused to sing in public until her mid-20s, Calvi is a prodigious musical talent and queer icon who’s had two albums nominated for Mercury Prizes, assuring Green Room bragging rights over BSP and Zero 7.

Her Hay credentials:

- Debut solo single was an Edith Piaf cover.

- Probably knows Brian Eno.

- In a review of her latest album, The Independent’s Helen Brown said: “Listening to her on headphones, you could pretend to be a character in a David Lynch movie” - arguably the most Hay-on-Wye director ever.


A 10,000-strong online petition to ban fracking. 


HTLGI, Fri 10.30pm

The famously-fifth Beatle and Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famer, Donovan was Mister 60s penning flower power classics Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow and is still gigging at *checks promo picture* 73. 



His Hay credentials:

- Enrolled at art school but  dropped out to “live out his beatnik aspirations by going on the road.”

- Also set WB Yeats to music. I guess that was a thing people did before they worked out how to rap.

- Talks in rejected Hay Festival promotional slogans: “I can't save the world, but if I can share some ideas, people might be able to save themselves.”


Ten campfire bongo solos out of ten

Zero 7 (dj set)

HTLGI, Sun midnight

Another Mercury-nominated How The Light Gets In headliner, Zero 7 were turn-of-the-Millennium favourites of Cooler Older Siblings Back From Uni For The Summer. They also soundtracked a scene in Garden State where a semi famous actor comes back to his small-town home and goes to a house party in an old mansion, which is basically a Friday night in Hay.

Their Hay credentials:

- Went to India for the first time last year. Likely found it a ‘transformative experience’.

- Basically introduced Sia and Jose Gonzalez to the world.

- Their spin-off ‘instrumental project’ is called Ingrid Eto. Ingrid is the eighth-most common name in Hay-on-Wye (unconfirmed).


Two years at SOAS out our four.

Ezra Furman

Hay Festival, Tue 9pm

Unabashedly the most must-see artist on a Hay stage this year – unless you’re Natalie Portman – Furman is an incredible live performer, who’s maybe best-described as The Modern Lovers singing long-lost Lou Reed songs in a skirt. His music also managed to steal entire scenes on the brilliant Netflix show Sex Education – and then he promptly and politely told fans to do one, if that’s all they knew him from.

His Hay credentials:

- He actually wrote a book. About Lou Reed’s Transformer. And he’s written a column for the Guardian.

- He also wrote this lyrics: “We had no idea of all the tote bags and meat hooks; Waiting out in the world”

- Plays the harmonica.


Four donations to the Guardian out of Five

King Charles

Hay Festival, Fri 9pm 

King Charles, a little like Anna Calvi, is one of those musicians who is almost over-qualified to be making two-minute-thirty pop songs in 2019. He also looks like a cross between Hozier and every Hay lad who’s just got back from a gap year.

His Hay credentials:

- He's a classically-trained cellist who dropped out of Durham University to tour with a band that supported Mumford & Sons.

- He was described by The Guardian’s Paul Lester as “pysch-inflected pastoral whimsy.”

- He posts pics like this on Insta.


9.5 self-published short novels and a year as a ceramicist in Bristol out of ten.