Desert Island Picks with Andrew Williams

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Written by Finola O'Sullivan

Andrew is a familiar face in Hay. Whether overseeing the restoration and regeneration of Hay Castle, working hard in his business Eighteen Rabbit with his wife Louise, or playing bass in local Indie-Rock band Inclines, we all recognise Andrew! We chat to Andrew about his life in Hay, his Hay Hotspots and his Desert Island Picks. Read on to see how our chat unfolds! 

Andrew and Louise moved to Hay in 2012 from London after discovering a love for this “great, vibrant town” through his work’s events management project to boost the Guardian and Observer’s presence at Hay Festival. 

In the seven years he has been here, and ‘always one to keep busy’, Andrew has been involved in countless projects in the community including chairing the Hay Chamber of Commerce and starting his own business. “We had a vague idea of a shop we wanted to run, around fair trade and ethical consumption and that’s what we did!” And thus, Eighteen Rabbit was born. Named after a patron of the arts in Mayan society after a visit to Copan in 2005, Eighteen Rabbit Fair Trade began in 2012 where fairly traded arts, crafts and gifts are sold with a focus on style and design.  

Andrew’s new role as Office Manager for Hay Castle Trust involves overseeing the development of Hay Castle which is set to ‘revolutionise Hay’ and is the ‘biggest thing to happen to the town in 30 years.’ Although he wasn’t job hunting, this was an opportunity not to miss and a position where you ‘never quite know what is going to happen next’ and we can really sense his passion for this project as he tells us more. 

Hay Castle is set to become a groundbreaking arts, culture and learning space with a focus on being accessible and inclusive to all. The top floor will welcome ‘world-class touring exhibitions’ in a high spec gallery space, a perfect addition to Hay’s existing art scene. 

As the literary history of Hay is a fundamental element of the town’s culture, Hay Castle Trust are ‘trying to make sure everything has some sort of connection to books and literature’, such as ‘specially written short stories by local authors for the public to listen to.’ In addition, ‘there will be an archive and reading room and permanent exhibitions explaining the history of the castle with a particular focus on Richard Booth, the King of Hay who put the town on the map.’ 

With the community at its core, the whole of the middle floor is going to be a Clore Duffield learning space which is ‘very prestigious’ as ‘there are only two others in Wales who they have given their name to.’ It will become a dedicated space for learning, including evening classes for adults, an area for kids groups, school visits and endless opportunities for locals and visitors to Hay.   

With a huge love for music, Andrew DJs at live music nights in and around Hay with Louise and plays bass and sings backing vocals in local band Inclines who thrive on the support of the community and play original material at live gigs. 

“It’s great having that camaraderie with the rest of the band. We are hoping to do some more recordings soon and get some more tracks out there.” 

Andrew is a keen supporter of Hay and has listed a few of his Hay Hotspots but overall says “you cannot go wrong in Hay, it is first class in terms of quality and service!” Andrew can often be found tucked away at The Salad Project enjoying Mexican Wednesdays or enjoying a morning coffee at The Sandwich Cellar. If you don’t know anything about Hay, or want to get your head around how the mechanics of how a small town really works, Andrew suggests Under the Tump by Oliver Balch as a ‘tremendous place to start.’ 

“Ollie lives and lived in Clyro and he wrote this really fascinating book about finding your place in a community and whether you’re ever going to be considered as a local or whether you’re always an incomer and he was good enough to write about us setting up Eighteen Rabbit in the book.” 

And this being Desert Island Picks, we just HAD to know three things Andrew would take on a desert island.  

“Ideally a record player as long as I could take a lot of records with me, a notebook because the process of observing your surroundings and being able to articulate what you’re seeing is really important even if it was a relatively small desert island, and probably cheating a little bit but I’d want to have some of my amazing friends from Hay come with me and I don’t think the desert island would be complete without those people there!” 

Inclines’ new song ‘Rich Kid’ is available to stream on Spotify, Eighteen Rabbit can be found on Lion Street in the centre of Hay and Hay Castle will open its doors in Summer 2020.