As the world’s most famous literary event, the Hay Festival is one of Britain’s strongest cultural exports.
Hay Festival was founded in 1987 around a kitchen table as a not-for-profit organisation and to date it has programmed 125 festivals globally, attracting more than 4.5 million people to events in 30 locations.
Inspired by its picturesque home in ‘the town of books’, the formula is deceptively simple. Readers and writers are brought together to share stories and ideas.
But it’s the unique marriage of exacting conversation and entertainment, along with a carefully curated line-up of emerging and established stars, that have put it firmly on the cultural map of every country it operates in.
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 Arthur Miller, Maya Angelou, Bill Clinton, Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Edward Said, Alice Walker, Hugh Masekela, Jimmy Carter, Seamus Heaney, Zadie Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch (pictured left) Tom Stoppard, Martin Amis, Paul McCartney, Desmond Tutu, Jane Fonda and Al Gore.
Hay Festival’s mission is clear. In a volatile world of anger and corrupted language, it champions empathy and curiosity.
Stories and truths are told, ideas are shared, and everyone is encouraged to imagine the world from other perspectives and with renewed and audacious hope.
In a digital age, increasingly characterised by abbreviated content and algorithmic recommendation, the festivals promote discovery through the long form, offering a platform for informed conversation and the chance for inspiration to take hold. There is nothing more powerful than sitting around a table, or a picnic rug, and being together face to face.
Outreach programmes take the festival events out into local communities, supported by the Hay Festival Foundation. In Wales, the festival opens with two schools days in which tens of thousands of primary and secondary pupils enjoy events for free, while the Scribblers Tour takes writers direct to pupils all over Wales year-round. Hay Joven and Hay Communitario offer free programming for young people across Latin America.
This year the festival’s growth has continued. New outposts have been established in Santiago, Chile and Dallas, USA. Next year, Croatia is on the horizon alongside established events in Cartagena, Colombia (31 January to 3 February 2019); Querétaro, Mexico (September 2019); Segovia, Spain (September 2019) and Arequipa, Peru (8-11 November 2018).
But Wales, scheduled for 23 May to 2 June 2019, remains at the festival’s heart. Over 270,000 tickets were sold for the event in 2018 with attendees travelling from
over 40 countries to experience the magic in person.
‘A Sundance for bibliophiles,’ said the New York Times; ‘the Woodstock of the mind,’ said Bill Clinton. But to most, it’s simply ‘Hay’, an inspiring week of wonders not to be missed.
HAY FESTIVAL THE DRILL HALL, 25 LION STREET, HAY-ON-WYE, HR3 5AD
01497 822 629