Hay Festival, the biggest literary event of the year, has announced its activism-themed programme for 2020. Famously described by Bill Clinton as a ‘Woodstock of the mind’, the festival – now in its 33rd year – brings together writers and their readers to share ideas and take part in a series of inspiring talks, against the idyllic backdrop of Hay, a small Welsh town famous for its many secondhand bookshops.
From what we know of this year’s programme, it includes some incredible speakers. Iconic journalist and women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem will discuss her book of essays The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off! Thoughts on Life, Love, and Rebellion with Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates, while journalist Afua Hirschdelivers the 2020 Christopher Hitchens Lecture.
Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel will talk about The Mirror and the Light, the concluding novel in her bestselling series, while Ali Smith previews her novel, Summer. The historian Jung Chang, bestselling author of Wild Swans, Mao and Empress Dowager Cixi, will present Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, her brilliantly researched and evocative account of the lives of the Soong sisters, the three women who occupied unprecedented positions of political power and influence in early 20th century China.
Over 600 award-winning writers, global policy makers, pioneers and innovators are expected to appear at the late spring festival in events across 11 days, while HAYDAYS and #HAYYA programmes will give young readers the opportunity to meet their favourite writers and get creative alongside a variety of free activities and programmes supported by the Hay Festival Foundation.
In the new theatre space addition to the festival, Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour will perform nine nature-themed plays, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Tempest and special ‘audience choice’ slots. The plays were selected for their connection to the natural world, in a year when Hay Festival will be addressing the climate emergency head on.
The musical offerings are equally strong, with show-stopping performances from Malian duo Amadou & Mariam, joining with the Blind Boys of Alabama. New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding will bring her brand of shimmering, intense indie-folk to the Baillie Gifford Stage, while actors, writers and musicians come together in the all-star Hay Festival Foundation gala (the full cast list is released on the day).
21 – 31 My 2020
Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales
Early bird tickets are on sale from 12 December; visit hayfestival.com