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The C&TH Guide to Hay Festival

The line-up includes Ian McEwan, Jacqueline Wilson, Stephen Fry, Dolly Alderton and heaps more talent...

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Your curated guide to the world’s most varied literature festival, Hay Festival. These are our highlights, the top talks to attend at this unique meeting of great minds…

We loved collaborating with Hay Festival on our talk ‘What Makes a Good Brand’ which saw 343 attendees turn up and enjoy the discussion hosted by Ed Vaizey and with Jean-Christophe, Annoushka Ducas, Edeline Lee and Geordie Willis. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can listen to it via!

The C&TH Guide to Hay Festival

Hay Festival

The jewel in the UK’s literary festivals’ crown, Hay has been the go-to festival for book-lovers for over 31 years now. Cooked up by Peter Florence and friends three decades ago, when tickets were sold from a caravan under the clock tower and talks happened in the British Legion, the annual event has come a long way since then with speakers to date including Bill Clinton, Stephen Fry, Ian Rankin and Jacqueline Wilson to name a few. Throw in some of the best views and walking countryside in Britain and you’ve got a country-lover’s weekend made in heaven.

“Hay Festival is a space to think, and to think again, and to put the great issues of the day in a context of global history. 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. Minds change. 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. Let’s talk. Let’s listen.” – Peter Florence, Director of Hay Festival

This year’s festival will run from 23 May – 2 June in Hay-on-Wye, Wales.

The Best Literary Festivals of 2019

Our Top Picks

With a star-studded line-up announced back in March, we curate a selection of the top talks to attend at this year’s festival. Make sure you book early to avoid disappointment as the big-name events will sell out quickly.

Hay Festival

Natalie Fee, Lucy Siegle and Paula Owen talk to Martin Wright

Food and Plastics: Myths and Facts

Thursday 23 May, 1pm, Starlight Stage

Plastic pollution only really came to the forefront of the psyches of the British public last year. Now, the pressure is being put on supermarkets who are still not listening and taking action. In this talk, author, campaigner and founder of City to Sea Natalie Fee, journalist and author Lucy Siegle and founder of Green Gumption Paula Owen talk to environment journalist Martin Wright on the subject of plastic pollution, what it is, and how we can stop it. Tickets £8, book here.

Helen Fulton, Geraint Evans, Gillian Clarke and Jon Gower

The Cambridge History of Welsh Literature

Friday 24 May, 4pm, Starlight Stage

Welsh poetry is one of the oldest, most traditional forms of literarure. Delve into its history with the editors of the new Cambridge history and poet Gillian Clarke and historian Jon Gower. Tickets £8, book here.

The Man Booker International Prize Winner in conversation with Bettany Hughes

The Man Booker International Prize 2019

Saturday 25 May, 11.30am, Hay Festival Foundation Stage

The winner, who’ll be announced on 21 May, will join chair of the jury Bettany Hughes in conversation. The authors longlisted for the award and their translators are: Can Xue and Annelise Finnegan Wasmoen, Hwang Sok-yong and Sora Kim-Russell, Alia Trabucco Zeran and Sophie Hughes, Mazen Maarouf and Jonathan Wright, Tommy Wieringa and Sam Garrett, Hubert Mingarelli and Sam TaylorMarion Poschmann and Jen Calleja, Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Anne McLean, Samanta Schweblin and Megan McDowell,  Olga Tokarczuk and Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Sara Stridsberg and Deborah Bragan-Turner. Tickets £8, book here.

Ed Vaizey, Jean-Christophe Chopin, Annoushka Ducas, Edeline Lee, Geordie Willis

What Makes a Good Brand?

Sunday 26 May, 10am, Starlight Stage

C&TH is once again partnering with Hay to put on a talk revolving around the burning question on every entrepeneur’s minds; what makes a good brand and how can I build it? Our panelists cover a broad range of business sectors from politics to fashion, jewellery to cars. Ed Vaizey, Jean-Christophe Chopin, Annoushka Ducas, Edeline Lee and Geordie Willis will look at what makes a good brand, explore how brand building has changed over the years and how they themselves have found success. Tickets £8, book here.

Missed the talk? Listen to it here!

Hay Festival

Linda Geddes

Chasing the Sun: The New Science of Sunlight and How it Shapes our Bodies and Minds

Monday 27 May, 11.30am, Oxfam Moot

From sleep to mental health, the power of the sun is integral to life. New scientific research even suggests that each human’s sun exposure can affect their risks of developing certain illnesses. Explore it all in this talk with journalist and author Linda Geddes. Tickets £8, book here.

Reimagined Fairytales with Jessie Burton

The Restless Girls

Tuesday 28 May, 11.30am, Llwyfan Cymru, Wales Stage

Bestselling author Jessie Burton discusses her book The Restless Girls, a modern, fierce adaptation of Brothers Grimm’s The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Great for parents who want to teach their children that fairytales no longer require princes to save the day. Tickets £8, book here.

Jonathan Copley

Ask an Ocean Explorer

Wednesday 29 May, 1pm, Oxfam Moot

Ever wondered what really goes on in the deep blue? Expert marine biologist Jonathan Copley will answer questions and share how the seas are so connected to our everyday lives, and delve into the history of ocean exploration and his own personal journey within it. Tickets from £4, book here.

Francis Green, David Kynaston, Rajvi Glasbrook Griffiths and Alex Beard talk to Rosie Boycott

An English Education?

Thursday 30 May, 10am, Oxfam Moot

Delve into the nasty, unfair and unjust worlds of classism, priviledge and social mobility with Francis Green and David Kynaston, authors of Engines of Privilege: Britain’s Private School Problem. Joined by a head teacher and two other authors, this raw and honest talk will look at what education should look like and how this is possible. Tickets £8, book here.

Hay Festival

Jessica French

What a Waste

Friday 31 May, 1pm, Starlight Stage

Jessica French, author, conservationist and vet, talks about why our world is drowning in plastic and how every single individual can make small changes to help aid this fatal problem. Helpful and inspiring, each attendee will leave with useful tips to make a difference. For those six years and older. Tickets £8, book here.

Bernardine Evaristo talks to Margaret Busby

Fictions: Polyphony

Saturday 1 June, 10am, Hay Festival Foundation Stage

Join Bernardine Evaristo, author of ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ as she discusses the stories of the characters she created so well in the book. Focussing on 12 characters, predominantly black British women, the novel is dynamic and relatable. Tickets £8, book here.

Morgan Seag, Ragnhild Freng Dale and Chandrika Nath with Melody Clark

Cambridge Series 15: Female Voices on Climate Change

Sunday 2 June, 10am, Hay Festival Foundation Stage

In this panel discussion, scientists, anthropologists, directors and professors discuss whether having more women involved in the conversation about climate change makes a difference, and how to get the public involved in this conversation. Tickets £8, book here.

Find the full programme at and keep up to date with next year’s news!

Good Reads: The C&TH Reading List