Hay Festival Winter Weekend 2019 programme released

Hay Festival has today announced the full schedule of writers, thinkers and entertainers appearing at Hay Festival Winter Weekend, 28 November-1 December 2019, alongside a rich strand of family workshops, woodland walks, and town festivities to entertain all ages.

Now in its 20th year, Hay Festival Winter Weekend transforms 'the town of books', Hay-on-Wye, into a festival wonderland of ideas with literary conversation, candle-lit storytelling, comedy, music, and family workshops. Events take place in the charming town centre, with venues including the 500-seater Baillie Gifford Stage in the Cattle Market, The School Hall and St Mary’s Church.

The full programme is on sale to Friends of Hay Festival now at hayfestival.org or on 01497 822 629. Tickets go on general release at 9am Thursday 24 October.

Peter Florence, Director of Hay Festival, said: “Welcome to a weekend of stories about fathers and about mothers, about the state of the nation and the planet in crisis. We have storytellers and dreamers, visionaries and jesters. We examine faith, hope and charity, and the greatest of these is hope. Join us.”

An intimate, fireside version of the Festival’s summer edition, the town’s independent bookshops, cafés and markets welcome Festivalgoers within the stunning surrounds of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Added sparkle comes from the iconic Market Square as a special Festival guest turns on the town’s Christmas lights, Friday 29 November, in what is now an annual weekend highlight, while Hay Winter Food Festival takes place on Saturday and Hay Artisan Market on Sunday.

The Festival will draw on public nominations to crown the Hay Festival Book of the Year 2019, with nominations welcome at hayfestival.org/book-of-the-year. Previous winners of the title have included Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane’s The Lost Words and Sarah Jayne Blakemore’s Inventing Ourselves.


Great works of fiction are celebrated. Fresh from her Booker Prize 2019 win, Bernardine Evaristo talks about her polyphonic novel, Girl, Woman, Other, with chair of judges Peter Florence; and artist Jackie Morris launches the Welsh version of her masterpiece The Lost Words – Geiriau Diflanedig – with multi-award-winning poet Mererid Hopwood.

Moving real-life stories inspire as Laura Cumming presents her memoir On Chapel Sands, and journalist Afua Hirsch and illustrator Henny Beaumont discuss their bestselling children’s book about Judge Lady Hale, Equal to Everything: Judge Brenda and the Supreme Court. In addition, a panel of local booksellers and friends lead tributes to the late Richard Booth, the ‘King of Hay’.

Society comes under the microscope as Labour MP Jess Phillips talks Truth to Power: 7 Ways to Call Time on B.S.; UEA philosopher and Extinction Rebellion spokesman Rupert Read outlines the extent of the climate emergency and the current state of the worldwide protests; and BBC broadcaster Emma Barnett talks Period and the taboos around menstruation.

The past is reimagined as historian Tom Holland presents Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World; Max Hastings talks Chastise: The Dambusters Story 1943, Sarah Churchwell presents From Ivanhoe to Impeachment: We need to talk about America; while Mike Pitts talks Digging up Britain: Ten discoveries, a million years of history and Thomas Waters talks Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times.

BAFTA award-winning cameraman Lindsay McCrae presents My Penguin Year: Living with the Emperors after a year filming the most resilient creatures in nature for the BBC series Dynasties; while principal curator at the Science Museum, Tilly Blyth, launches the accompaniment to the landmark BBC Radio 4 series, The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter.

Living well takes centre stage as BBC broadcaster Cerys Matthews launches her new cookbook, Where the Wild Cooks Go: Recipes, Music, Poetry, Cocktails; meanwhile Nancy Lavin from Hay Castle Trust presents the latest developments around the iconic local building, offering a glimpse into the inner workings of a large scale heritage conservation project and some of the lessons learned along the way.

Hay-on-Wye gets into the festive spirit as Archbishop of York John Sentamu presents his latest book, Wake Up to Advent!, while Fiona Evans leads a series of choir rehearsals over the weekend to close the Festival with a Hay Messiah.

More music, comedy and theatre ensure the town keeps the party going late into the night. Comedian Jason Byrne launches his new show Ready But Wrecked, while Russell Kane presents his new book Son of a Silverback. Organist Father Richard Williams returns with a live accompaniment to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis; Sarah-Louise Young offers her An Evening Without Kate Bush cabaret; and UK ska collective Chainska Brassika performs.

After successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and Bristol Old Vic, Owen Sheers’ Unicorns Almost returns to Hay for a one-off show, followed by a Q&A with the playwright; meanwhile Mid Wales Opera presents their radical reworking of John Gay’s 1728, Mrs Peachum's Guide to Love and Marriage; and Allie Esiri, editor of Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year, curates a blockbuster series of performances as acclaimed actors celebrate Shakespeare’s work and times – scenes, soliloquies and sonnets.

Away from the main stages, workshops and fun activities keep all ages entertained, from dance and cookery to lantern making in Hay Public Library. Meanwhile, the Woodland Trust kicks off their Big Climate Fightback campaign, leading a series of Tree ID walks nearby for Festivalgoers and the latest series of plantings in the Festival’s #HayTrees project get underway.

Following on from the 32nd Hay Festival in Wales (23 May–2 June); Querétaro, Mexico (5–8 September); a special Hay Forum in Dallas TX, USA (6–7 September); Segovia, Spain (19–22 September); and Arequipa, Peru (7–10 November); Hay Festival Winter Weekend is the Festival’s final edition of 2019.

Explore the full Hay Festival Winter Weekend programme and book tickets here.