Our 2023 Festival took place 25 May - 4 June. The programme is listed below.
Most of the events are now available in our online archive Hay Player – please see individual listings for more details.
Alexander McCall Smith’s much loved character Precious Ramotswe first came to life on the pages of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency 25 years ago. Join us as we celebrate this global success. The author gives us insights into his writing career and a glimpse of the many series that have been published in the intervening years, including 44 Scotland Street series and a new novel in the Detective Varg series, The Discreet Charm of the Big Bad Wolf.
Challenge your assumptions about the origins of everything from farming to democracy with archaeologist David Wengrow. The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, a collaboration between Wengrow and the late anthropologist David Graeber, brings together the latest scholarship and archaeological evidence to tell a new story about the last 30,000 years, from the egalitarian early cities in Mexico and Mesopotamia to part-time kings and queens in Ice Age Europe. Ambitious and wide-ranging, Wengrow and Graeber’s work overturns everything you know about human behaviour. Wengrow talks to Georgina Godwin, journalist and Books Editor for Monocle 24.
As nurses and ambulance workers have gone on strike to demand better pay, conditions and protection for patients, the future of the NHS has once again come to the forefront of national concern. Join Professors Sally Moyle and Sandra Nicholson for a discussion on how, in the face of unfilled vacancies and a retention drain, we secure the future of the NHS workforce. Moyle is pro-vice chancellor for health and science at the University of Worcester, and a nurse and experienced workforce planner. Nicholson is a GP and founding dean of the Three Counties Medical School and chair of the Association for the Study of Medical Education.
The author and broadcaster presents a powerful, career-spanning collection of his journalism on race, racism and Black life and death from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States. For three decades, Younge has had a ringside seat at the most significant events and personalities to impact the Black diaspora and recounts these in Dispatches From the Diaspora: accompanying Nelson Mandela on his first election campaign, joining revellers on the southside of Chicago during Obama’s victory and entering New Orleans days after hurricane Katrina. We see him with Maya Angelou in her limousine, discussing politics with Stormzy on his couch and witnessing Archbishop Desmond Tutu almost fall asleep mid-interview. He discusses how much change is possible and the power of systems to thwart those aspirations with author and educator Jeffrey Boakye.
Captivated by castles? Delighted by drawbridges? Then don’t miss Hay resident Mary Morgan and local historian Elizabeth Bingham’s talk on the violent histories of castles in and around Hay-on-Wye. The pair, who return to the Festival following last year’s popular talk on local churches, talk about Hay Castle and everything from partially ruined mottes and baileys to stone fortresses under constant threat from the Welsh, describing how some castles have adapted to a new phase in the 21st century.
Writer and comedian Josie Long takes us on a trip through her frank and funny debut story collection, Because I Don't Know What you Mean and What you Don’t, in conversation with classicist and comedian Natalie Haynes. With a cast of characters ranging from friends setting up a business to help relieve the wealthy of their guilt, to a cul-de-sac WhatsApp group with eggs to spare, these tales of the unexpected are comical, refreshing and often deeply relatable. Long won the Best Newcomer award at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been nominated three times for Best Show. She is a regular on BBC Radio 4 and the co-presenter of Book Shambles with Robin Ince.
Everyday Sexism Project founder Laura Bates discusses empowerment and a new system for an integrated and respectful society with her panel of guests. Author Winnie M Li exposes the abuse in the film industry in her latest book, Complicit. Sadaf Saaz is a poet, writer and women’s rights activist and Mandu Reid is the Leader of the Women's Equality Party.
Bates is a Hay Festival 2023 Thinker in Residence, questioning norms, finding new perspectives and challenging us to action. Her most recent book is Fix the System, Not the Women.
Stand-up comedian, activist and presenter David Baddiel isn’t afraid of a big question, and his latest book – The God Desire – asks one of the biggest: does God exist? Despite a lifetime of fantasising about the existence of God, Baddiel has concluded that it’s that very desire that proves God’s non-existence. With openness and vulnerability, Baddiel – whose career also includes writing novels for adults and children – contributes to one of the most ancient of debates with his trademark wit, honesty and humour.
Join actor Callum Scott Howells (It’s a Sin, Cabaret) and writer and director Luke Collins (Cappuccino, Swiped) as they present a screening of On the Black Hill, adapted from Bruce Chatwin’s 1982 novel, which tells the story of identical twin brothers who grow up on a farm in rural Wales and never leave home. Howells, nominated for a Bafta for his performance in It’s a Sin, and Collins, an award winner for his cinematography across two BBC short films, discuss Chatwin’s moving ability to explore the larger questions of the human experience and why the novel remains a classic piece of writing for the rural borderlands of Wales and England. Chaired by poet Owen Sheers. The discussion will last for around 45 minutes, followed by the one-hour film screening.
Dublin poet and playwright Stephen James Smith presents an evening of vibrant spoken word. Smith’s poetry videos have amassed over 2.5 million views, and his short film My Ireland, a companion to a poem of the same name he wrote as a commission for St Patrick’s Festival, was screened at the London Film Festival.
Father Richard Williams’ film nights are renowned. Parish priest in Hay since 2001, he trained as a professional musician at Trinity College of Music, London, studying piano, organ and composition. In the late Georgian-Gothic setting of St Mary’s Church, Hay, he is performing a live accompaniment on the Bevington organ to the classic 1920 German silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, directed by Robert Wiene and written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer.
At a fairground, Dr Caligari has a somnambulist, Cesare, who can predict the future. When a young man visits him and asks how long he will live, the answer is until dawn…
Levellers bring their folk-rock energy to the Festival with an acoustic show featuring additional musicians performing reworkings of some of their finest compositions from We the Collective and recently released second volume Together All the Way.
Welsh comedian Kiri Pritchard-McLean hosts our Friday night comedy club featuring the wonderfully offbeat Toussaint Douglass, Edinburgh award-winner Sam Campbell and “furiously funny” (Guardian) Jen Brister. Brought to you by Little Wander, the team behind the Machynlleth Comedy Festival.
Start your day with a morning yoga class designed to reinvigorate your energy and spirit. Enjoy a grounding, energising, alignment‐based yoga practice, using the breath and sound to rediscover and rejuvenate the body and mind. Beginners and experienced students are most welcome. Yoga mats and props are provided.
Please contact Kanga Wellbeing on firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions relating to these classes. As capacity is limited, we recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
Kanga Wellbeing will also be onsite throughout the Festival offering wellbeing and a wide range of holistic massage therapies. Therapies will be held in cosy lotus belle tents with heaters and fans. For more information or to book, please visit www.kangaevents.com/hay-
Bring your best ideas to this solutions-focused workshop session. Facilitated by sustainability entrepreneur Andy Middleton, Chief Exploration Officer at the TYF Group, and joined by Juliet Davenport, Founder and former CEO of Good Energy, and Simon Sharpe, Director of Economics for the UN Climate Champions and author of Five Times Faster, we’ll look at the key issue of energy. We’ll discuss the scale of the issue and a range of solutions, how to action them, how they might impact on their lives and how to manage the change.
The war in Ukraine has created an unexpected energy shock. But it has also hastened a dramatic redesign in how energy is generated and consumed. New giant investments in wind, solar, hydro, nuclear and ocean power have been impressive. But there are ominous signs that the corporate commitment to move away from fossil fuels is weakening because of the big money still being made by oil and gas producers. The battle to decarbonise our energy is not even nearly won. How do we balance energy generation, energy security and energy poverty, at speed and scale?
This workshop is part of our Hay Festival Planet Assembly, a daily, inclusive conversation over ten days involving lay people, scientists, commentators and experts. We want to empower everyone to be accelerators and multipliers for the dramatic policy transformations that are needed immediately to tackle the acute climate and biodiversity emergencies.
It’s all too easy to think of Agatha Christie as a very proper Edwardian lady of leisure, until you discover she loved fast cars and went surfing in Hawaii, as well as of course writing some of the most enduring and best-loved British murder mysteries. Historian and television presenter Lucy Worsley, joint chief curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, presents a new side of Christie in Agatha Christie – A Very Elusive Woman, her account of the writer’s life, based on personal letters and papers that have rarely been seen. Join Worsley to discover the writer who, despite the obstacles of class and gender, became an astonishingly successful working woman.
Aged 60, Mark Ellison has written his first book, How to Build Impossible Things, the result of 40 years as a carpenter – the best in New York, by some accounts. From building a staircase that the famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava called ‘a masterpiece’ to being profiled in the New Yorker, Ellison is a celebrity in his world. He has worked in the most beautiful homes you’ve never seen, specialising in rarefied, lavish projects for the most demanding of clients including the late David Bowie and Robin Williams. But as a native of the old steel town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his path was an unexpected one. Learn about his early life, his most challenging and fulfilling work, and perhaps pick up a tip or two for constructing your own bit of furniture.
Guides from the Brecon Beacons National Park will lead a gentle walk through the beautiful surrounds of Hay-on-Wye, joined by writer and broadcaster Horatio Clare, author of The Light in the Dark.
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.