Hay Festival

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Hay Festival crowds reading between sessions

The Hay Festival of Literature & Arts is an annual literature festival held in Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales, for ten days from May to June. Devised by Norman, Rhoda and Peter Florence in 1988, the festival was described by Bill Clinton in 2001 as "The Woodstock of the mind".[1] Tony Benn said: "In my mind it's replaced Christmas".[2] Peter Florence continues to be director of the Festival.[3]

It has become a prominent festival in British culture, and sessions at the festival have been recorded for television and radio programmes such as The Readers' and Writers' Roadshow and The One Show. All the BBC's national radio channels apart from Radio One have been involved in broadcasting from the festival, and Sky Arts showed highlights of the festival from 2010 until 2013, handing over the main coverage to the BBC for the 2014 event.[3]


Sign at the entrance to the 2016 Hay Festival.

Hay-on-Wye was already well known for its many bookshops before the festival was launched. Richard Booth opened his first shop there in 1962, and by the 1970s Hay had gained the nickname "The Town of Books".[4] From its inception, the festival was held at a variety of venues around Hay, including the local Primary School, until 2005 when it moved to a unified location just south of the town.[5]

The Guardian was the main sponsor of the festival from 2002 to 2010, succeeding The Sunday Times. The Daily Telegraph and its associated brands in Telegraph Media Group had two terms as three-year sponsors, starting with the 2011 festival.[6] From 2017, the Tata Group and Baillie Gifford are among the principal sponsors, along with the BBC and many non-media companies such as the Arts Council of Wales and the British Council.[7]

The festival has expanded over the years to include musical performances and film previews. A children's festival, "Hay Fever", runs alongside the main festival. It has also expanded internationally and sister festivals take place in Aarhus, Arequipa, Nairobi, Dhaka, Zacatecas, The Maldives, Kerala at Thiruvananthapuram, Beirut, Belfast, Cartagena, the Alhambra Palace, Parc Prison in Bridgend and Segovia. In 2009 Hay Festival also took on the ailing Brecon Jazz Festival. It is run by a not-for-profit company, and entrance is free to everyone.[2]

The 2012 festival included writers Martin Amis, Jung Chang, Louis de Bernières, Mark Haddon, Mario Vargas Llosa, Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan, Michael Morpurgo, Ben Okri, Ian Rankin, Salman Rushdie, Owen Sheers, Jeanette Winterson, comedians Bill Bailey, Rob Brydon, Julian Clary, Jack Dee, Tim Minchin, politicians Peter Hain and Boris Johnson, scientists John D. Barrow, Martin Rees, Simon Singh, and general speakers Harry Belafonte, William Dalrymple, Stephen Fry, A. C. Grayling, Germaine Greer, Michael Ignatieff, and David Starkey.


The Hay Festival was one of 11 Welsh winners of The Queen's Awards for Enterprise for 2009.[8] The 2009 festival included writers Carol Ann Duffy, David Simon, Stephen Fry, David Nicholls, Jenny Valentine and Melvyn Bragg, scientists Martin Rees and Sabine Bahn, economists Anthony Giddens, Nicholas Stern, Howard Davies and Danny Quah, comedians Dylan Moran, Dara Ó Briain and Sandi Toksvig, and general speakers David Frost, Desmond Tutu, Rowan Williams and Rhodri Morgan.


Hay Festival 2016

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hide, Will (20 January 2007). "The world this week: find 'the Woodstock of the mind'". The Times. London. Retrieved 26 January 2007.
  2. ^ a b "20 facts about Hay-on-Wye and its famous festival". BBC News. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b "BBC to broadcast Hay Festival on radio, TV, and online". 1 May 2014. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  4. ^ Thomas, Huw (29 May 2014). "Hay-on-Wye: A town of books or festivals?". BBC News. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  5. ^ Staff writer (27 May 2005). "Stars gathering for Hay Festival". BBC News Online. Retrieved 25 January 2007.
  6. ^ Singh, Anita (29 October 2010). "Telegraph signs deal to sponsor the Hay Festival of literature". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  7. ^ "Global Partners". Hay Festival. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  8. ^ "Hay Festival wins business honour". BBC. 21 April 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°04′30″N 3°07′30″W / 52.075°N 3.125°W / 52.075; -3.125