Our 2021 Digital Festival took place 26 May - 6th June, the programme is below.
Most of the events are now available in our online archive Hay Player - please see individual listings for more details.
Born into a family of poets and storytellers in the Hebrides, Colin MacIntyre is an acclaimed multi award-winning musician, author and playwright, who releases under the moniker Mull Historical Society. MacIntyre’s album In My Mind There’s a Room is a collaboration with his favourite authors, including Sebastian Barry, Ian Rankin, Nick Hornby, Jacqueline Wilson, Alan Warner, Jackie Kay and Val McDermid. He recorded it in his charismatic poet-come-bank manager grandfather’s front room of 45 years, and asked authors to provide lyrics on significant rooms to them. MacIntyre, whose novel When the Needle Drops is published later this year, performs tracks from the album and his back catalogue, with readings and discussion on the creative process involved.
N’famady Kouyaté is a young, energetic master musician who plays modern interpretations of traditional West African Mandingue songs. His primary instrument is the balafon – the traditional wooden xylophone, sacred to West African culture and his family heritage of the griot/djeli. This 40-minute performance shows Kouyaté mash-ups of traditional Guinean songs with new Welsh lyrics, and modern and traditional instrumentation.
Got a dilemma about love, relationships, social media, friendship, family or sex? Chances are Dolly Alderton (Everything I Know About Love, Dear Dolly) has provided a solution to it – and many other issues – in the years she’s been running her Dear Dolly agony aunt column in The Sunday Times Style. In conversation with Strictly Come Dancing professional Mabuse, Alderton discusses some of her favourite columns, and shares her wisdom on life, love and more.
Take a step behind the most famous door in the UK with Whips, Cleo Watson’s tale of intrigue and scandal. When Bobby Cliveden decides to campaign against the closure of her local mental health unit, she ends up in the heart of the UK’s bustling political centre, and discovers a secret, soft-skilled machinery behind so much political change at the very highest level of government: women. Watson, who worked on President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 and served in 10 Downing Street as Theresa May’s political adviser then Boris Johnson’s co-deputy chief of staff, talks to ITV News’ political editor Robert Peston (author of The Whistleblower) about writing fiction based on reality, satirising politics and her unique insight into government.
The Poetry Pharmacy has a prescription whatever your poetic need or desire, from verses to soothe your soul and brighten your day to poems that offer comfort in times of trouble. William Sieghart, creator and editor of The Poetry Pharmacy, is joined by Karen Bryson (Zack Snyder's Justice League, White Wall), Denise Gough (Colette, Andor), Natascha McElhone (The Truman Show, Solaris) and Dominic West (The Crown, Tomb Raider) for an evening of connection and inspiration.
Chaired by journalist, broadcaster and author Kavita Puri.
Dara Ó Briain was ready for a break after 180 performances of his last tour, across 20 countries and two years. That was in March 2020 and he now, of course, regrets saying that and will never wish for it again. His new show So…Where Were We? largely ignores the pandemic, and contains his usual mix of stories, one-liners, audience messing and tripping over his words by talking too quickly because he's so giddy to be back in front of a crowd.
Six-member ska ensemble Zhadan and the Dogs is a band that defines the musical scene of Eastern Ukraine. Their two-decade long career includes two acclaimed studio albums. Join them for a night of dance, good music and songs that will make you think and feel.
Experts Paul Johnson and Simon Johnson talk to economist Faiza Shaheen about holding government to account, why elites often benefit from our financial and technological systems, and how we can ensure a fairer world for all. Paul Johnson is director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the author of Follow the Money: How Much Does Britain Cost?, an examination of the way the state raises and spends £1 trillion of our money every year. Simon Johnson is the Ronald A. Kurtz professor of entrepreneurship in the Sloan School at MIT and was previously chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. He is the co-author, with Daron Acemoglu, of Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity.
Family shapes who we are and is one of the things we all have in common. In The World: A Family History, historian Simon Sebag Montefiore takes us through the story of humanity via the unit of the family. Starting with the footsteps of a family walking along a beach 950,000 years ago, he covers the families that have shaped our worlds, from the Medicis and Rothschilds to the Churchills, Kennedys, Kims and more. Simon Sebag Montefiore is in conversation with journalist and presenter Sangita Myska.
A novel of modern India, Santanu Bhattacharya’s debut One Small Voice invites us to spend two decades in the company of Shubhankar. Aged 10, he witnesses a terrible act of mob violence in which his family are complicit, and which changes the course of his life. Wrestling with the past, the expectations of his family and the seismic shifts taking place around him as the country enters the new millennium, Shubhankar one day makes a split-second decision that will change everything. Bhattacharya, who won the 2021 Mo Siewcharran Prize, is in conversation with novelist Max Porter (Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Shy).
Guides from the Brecon Beacons National Park will lead a gentle walk through the beautiful surrounds of Hay-on-Wye. You’ll be joined by a guest from the Festival programme.
Hay-on-Wye is based within 520 square miles of beautiful landscape that makes up Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. The National Park is driving change to bring about a sustainable future, meeting our needs within planetary boundaries. Their Hay Festival series of gentle walks will take you into the town’s local environment while offering the opportunity to learn more about the Park’s work and its treasured landscape.
Please wear appropriate footwear and outdoor gear.
Create your own Hay Castle knight with the Brothers McLeod! The Brothers McLeod are Myles and Greg, author and illustrator of the hilarious Knight Sir Louis series. Join them in the independent kingdom of ‘Hay-Wyre’ to help them create a brand new knight character based in Hay Castle in an event packed with drawing, comics and lots and lots of laughs.
This heart-warming family show, based on the much-loved novels by Tove Jansson, tells the story of a year in Moominvalley. Moomintroll wakes up in the middle of winter with a ‘something-wrong-feeling’. There’s no sign of his good friend Snufkin, or the note Snufkin left him. As winter turns to spring and Snufkin returns, the days lengthen into a lazy summer and ‘the sea brings them all the adventures they could wish for’.
An opportunity to get crafting! Activities differ every day, including everything from print-making to junk modelling with recycled materials. Get messy and creative: your imagination is the limit.
Book for the session and you can drop in at any point during the 2.5 hour duration. Accompanying adults: please stay in attendance at all times, but you do not require a ticket.
Join global superstar, pop icon and book lover Dua Lipa for a tour of the people, places and events that have shaped her life and the books that symbolise these moments, hosted by Booker Prize Foundation director Gaby Wood. Lipa discusses how books have been her constant companion and her lifeline, from her childhood in London and her school years in Kosovo to the long hours spent on a tour bus as a musician. Lipa hosts the podcast Dua Lipa: At Your Service and champions books and authors through her platform Service95.
Irene Vallejo presents an immersive journey through the history of books and libraries in the ancient world which has captivated millions of readers around the world. From the banks of the Nile and the battlefields of Alexander the Great, to the censorship of the humorists and the empowerment of women writers like Sappho, Vallejo enlivens the origins of the book. Its invention was as disruptive as the internet, and through these journeys into the past, Vallejo reflects on the dilemmas of our modern world and the challenges of the future. In conversation with Charlotte Higgins, the Guardian’s chief culture writer.
They go almost unnoticed if you visit a church, but church kneelers are essential, and have a long and storied history. Elizabeth Bingham, the leading authority on Anglican church kneelers, celebrates the design and craft of the cushions and delves into their history, from their beginnings at Winchester in the 1930s to their booming popularity after the Queen's coronation, to the present-day congregations who are keeping the tradition alive. She talks to novelist Kate Mosse.
As an interactive storyteller, you’ll be able to give your audience the power to decide the fate of your characters. Learn how to weave multiple strands of narrative into a single story to create truly immersive worlds. Then discover where you can share them.
Will you A: Come join the fun? B: Lie on the grass, in the sun? C: Be chased by a clown on the run? You decide!