Authors Protest as Nestle Backs Hay Festival

Article excerpt

By James Morrison

Plans for this year's Hay-on-Wye literature festival have been attended by fierce controversy over the involvement of the Nestle company as a sponsor for the first time.

Former luminaries of the festival, including author Will Self and comedians Rob Newman and Jeremy Hardy, are urging all "self- respecting writers" to boycott June's event.

The anger stems from concern over the tactics Nestle has allegedly used to promote powdered baby milk in the Third World. Campaigners claim it has endangered infants by undermining attempts to encourage breast- feeding.

The company is paying the organisers a high five-figure sum for the privilege of draping its name over a huge "Smarties geodrome" throughout a week- long children's festival at the gathering.

Their call to arms comes nine months after stars including Newman, Victoria Wood, Emma Thompson and Julie Christie endorsed a similar boycott of the prestigious Perrier Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Festival; Perrier is owned by Nestle.

Newman said: "By accepting this sponsorship, Hay have made themselves into something no self-respecting writer would want to go to."

Jeremy Hardy, a former Perrier winner and Hay veteran, said: "I would support a boycott and I think other people should do too. Increasingly, everything is sponsored by commercial organisations, most of which have ghastly motives. …