Planet Hay cover

‘Planet Hay’ (May 2009)

‘Planet Hay’ was begun in May 2008. I was very fortunate, because right from the outset several enthusiastic and generous local people helped me put it together. The book was finished in February 2009 and printed in a run of a thousand copies by ‘Cambrian Printers’ in Aberystwyth. It was launched in May at ‘The Globe Arts Centre’ with the hundred or so people attending being entertained by local storyteller Rob Soldat, the poet Jan Price, the Arabian dancers ‘Boliau Llawen’ and the jazz singer Li Harding. The book is stocked by a few selected shops in the town and has also been sold by me in person at the Thursday outdoor market. By February 2011 about two hundred and fifty copies remain unsold.

An extract from ‘Elen the Terrible’ by Lesley Arrowsmith -

Some people may wonder what I’m doing as a woman dressed as a knight and are surprised when I tell them that Welsh women (unlike the English) actually fought on the battlefield alongside their men!
      I make as much of the costume as I can, just like your average medieval peasant. It’s a popular myth that the general population of this time were badly clothed – they weren’t. Linen and wool were relatively cheap and commonplace. A fleece or a bolt of cloth would often be given in payment rather than money and these would be made into garments at home. All wives could spin wool, weave cloth and dye garments with natural pigments, as part of their everyday domestic duties.

      Men and women both wore an “under tunic” which was very similar in design. It was made of linen and in the case of men, probably wouldn’t get taken off from one week to another. I wear this as part of my soldiers costume of course. On top of this are the “braies,” “hose” and “boots.” “Hose are individual leggings which are attached to the “braies” with tie on straps, so putting them on is a bit fiddly. They were fashionable at the time and superseded conventional trousers, which were simple to make, easy to get on and off and worn for hundreds of years beforehand. I often wonder why they went out of fashion and hose became popular? On go the boots (which take ages to lace up) and then the “tunic” which throws over the top. I wear the colours of Wales for Llewellyn the Great and Owain Glyndwr, to show who my master is – not that they are particularly visible, as they will get covered up by the rest of the costume. Before the mail, I put on the “Gambeson,” which is a padded woollen jacket designed to absorb blows when being hit. On the top of all this goes the “chain mail” which is a heck of a struggle to put on. Knights would have had a squire to dress them before battle. Apparently, William the Conqueror had his mail put on the wrong way around before the Battle of Hastings, which was considered a terribly bad omen. However he took no notice and to put heart into his men said “I make my own luck this day!”

Quotes for ‘Planet Hay’:

Bill Clinton, former American President
‘Dear Huw: Before more time passes, I want to thank you very much for sending me a copy of ‘Planet Hay.’ I appreciate your thoughtful gesture and I wish you the best.’

 Dame Judi Dench, Actress
“I love ‘Planet Hay’ – many congratulations Huw!”

 Peter Florence, Director of Hay Festival of Literature
“A fabulous book!”
Sir Arnold Wesker, Playwright, Poet & Author
“A handsome publication, great photos and nicely written!”

Father Richard Williams, Vicar of Hay & Llanigon
“People really do LOVE your book!”

Anne Field, Librarian: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
The copy of ‘Planet Hay’ you gave to the Archbishop serves as a happy reminder of his visit to the Hay Festival and will make a valuable addition to his library.’

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
“Many thanks for so kindly presenting me with a copy of your delightful book ‘Planet Hay’ - I shall enjoy reading it.”

Dr Manon Williams, Private Secretary to The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall
‘Planet Hay’ is absolutely fascinating and the wonderful photographs really make the history and daily life of the town come to life. I’m sure his Royal Highness will be delighted with it.’

Nell Gifford, Giffords Circus
‘Thanks for the wonderful inclusion in your book. All the pictures are great and the text funny and illuminating.’

Peter Wooldridge, Shropshire Review, July/August 2009
The book is a work of art, a labour of love that encapsulates the spirit of the place and the unique personality of the town, seen through the eyes of the people best placed to comment upon its richness and diversity. Very highly recommended.’

Richard Booth, King of Hay
“An excellent book – let’s meet for lunch!”

Barbara Erskine, Best selling novelist and author of ‘Lady of Hay’
I am enjoying your fabulous book very much. It is wonderfully evocative of everything I love about Hay, very attractively produced, has stunning photos and I see friends names in there as well! I shall treasure it.’

Candida Lycett Green , Writer
“A truly lovely book which has brought back many happy memories. As you might know my mother lived just outside the town for many years. I particularly liked the feature on Giffords Circus and am always there on the first night.”