Programme for Schools at Hay Festival 2019 credit Sam Hardwick
Iconic Destinations

Hay Festival

Britain’s celebrated and ever-expanding literary phenomenon

Thirty-three years after it was conceived in Hay-on-Wye, the Welsh ‘town of books’, Hay Festival has grown into a global institution and one of Britain’s most successful cultural exports. In 2020 the world’s most famous literary brand is spreading its wings even further, adding Abu Dhabi and Rijeka in Croatia to its calendar of international events, alongside a new project to celebrate Europe’s greatest women writers and artists.


Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be the Festival’s first foray into the Middle East since 2009’s Beirut39. Taking place in February across the city, it pairs the Festival’s celebrated marriage of exacting conversation and entertainment with a line-up of emerging and established stars to leave its stamp indelibly on the UAE’s cultural map. Meanwhile, Hay Festival Europa28 in Rijeka, (2020 European Capital of Culture), takes place in June. Alongside talks, debates and performance, it will showcase the Festival’s Europa28 selection of women writers, artists and scientists participating in a new global project to reimagine the future of Europe.


These two new events add to a globetrotting line-up of returning festivals that include Medellín and Cartagena, Colombia (January to February); Querétaro, Mexico (September); Segovia, Spain (September) and Arequipa, Peru (November). But Wales (May) remains the jewel in the Festival’s crown, selling over 278,000 tickets in 2019 and with attendees travelling from over 40 countries to experience the magic.

In a volatile world of anger and corrupted language, the not-for-profit Festival champions empathy and curiosity

Hay Festival

Outreach programmes take events out into local communities, supported by the Hay Festival Foundation. In Wales, the Festival opens with two free days of programming for schools, while the Scribblers Tour directly takes writers to pupils across Wales year- round. Hay Joven and Hay Communitario offer free programming for young people across Latin America.


From Nobel Prize- winners and global policy makers to award-winning novelists and transcendent entertainers, speakers and performers at Festivals over the years have included Martin Amis, Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Bill Clinton, Jane Fonda, Nadine Gordimer, Al Gore, Seamus Heaney, Naomi Klein, Hugh Masekela, Paul McCartney, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Arundhati Roy, Edward Said, Zadie Smith , Tom Stoppard and Alice Walker.


Hay Festival represents the best of Britain’s openness, welcoming writers, thinkers, artists, performers and readers from all over the world to share ideas in a cultural moment that exceeds the sum of its parts. Its mission is clear: in a volatile world of anger and corrupted language, the not-for-profit Festival champions empathy and curiosity. Stories and truths are told and exchanged encouraging everyone to imagine the world from different perspectives and with renewed and audacious hope.

‘Empires fall, technology empowers and enslaves us, faiths are shaken, orthodoxies disrupted and still we come together and talk and sing and dance, break bread and tell stories,’ says director Peter Florence.

‘Government is fiendishly hard, democracy is vulnerable and living together, the Convivencia, is a precious dream. The good news is that our potential is limitless and friendship is our pleasure. Complexity is beautiful and rich. Minds change. Let’s talk. Let’s listen.’

Stacey Dooley at Hay Festival 2019 credit Philippa Harris