Hay Festival previews activism-themed 2020 programme

Hay Festival Wales has today announced eight 'earlybird' events for its 33rd edition, 21-31 May 2020, previewing a programme covering great works of fiction, activism and world music, along with the addition of a theatre space to feature nature-themed performances from Shakespeare’s Globe.
'Earlybird' events include two of the UK’s greatest writers as Hilary Mantel talks about the concluding novel in her Wolf Hall series, The Mirror and the Light, while Ali Smith previews her novel, Summer.

Activism takes centre-stage as U.S. journalist Gloria Steinem discusses The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off! Thoughts on Life, Love, and Rebellionwith Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates, while journalist Afua Hirsch delivers the 2020 Christopher Hitchens Lecture. 

Historian Jung Chang, bestselling author of Wild Swans, Mao and Empress Dowager Cixi, presents Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, her brilliantly researched and evocative account of the lives of the Soong sisters.

There’s music in the mix with show-stopping performances from Malian duo Amadou & Mariam joining with the Blind Boys of Alabama, and New Zealand folk singer songwriter Aldous Harding, along with an all-star Hay Festival Foundation gala.

Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour brings nine nature-themed performances to take place in a stunning new theatre space on site, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Tempest and special ‘audience choice’ slots. These plays have been selected as they explore our natural world in a year when Hay Festival will be addressing the climate emergency head on.

Tickets are on sale now to Friends of Hay Festival online or via 01497 822 629. Public booking opens on Thursday 10 December.

Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, said: “This is a taste of where we’re adventuring in May. It’s a delight to offer our Haymakers a promise of joy in the springtime – and we’ll make sure the tickets get to you for Christmas.”

Hay Festival is the world’s leading festival of ideas, bringing readers and writers together to share stories and ideas in sustainable events around the world. 

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.

The Festival village is free to enter, with ticketed events in 10 tented venues, plus a range of sites to explore, including the Festival Bookshop; the HAYDAYS courtyard; the Hay Festival Wild Garden; creative workshops in the Make and Take Tent, the Scribblers Hut, The Cube and the Mess Tent; market stalls, cafés and restaurants; and the Serious Reading Room.

While Festival events have long highlighted sustainability, both in discussion on stage and in the event’s production (find out more here), this year’s programme will be its greenest yet. Green Hay, the Festival’s sustainability programme, will start proceedings on Thursday 21 May with its annual Forum throwing a spotlight on the growing climate crisis and exploring sustainable solutions for rural communities, taking the theme Making Connections, exploring the links between the environment and how we live.

The Festival’s latest project with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) merging climate science with storytelling, Trans.MISSION II, culminates with the unveiling of the final piece of work from UK collaborators, writer Patrice Lawrence and drought expert Dr Sarah Ayling.

Hay Festival Europa28, a global Festival project bringing together 28 women writers, artists, scientists and entrepreneurs – one from each EU country – to deliver their visions for the future, will form a key strand of Festival programming as a selection of participants launch a timely anthology of their work. On 19 March, Hay Festival Europa28: Visions on the future of Europe, launches with a special London event featuring writers Kapka Kassabova, Hilary Cottam, Janne Teller, Ana Pessoa and more. Tickets are available here.

Winners of the Hay Festival Medals 2020 will be celebrated on stage. Awarded annually since Britain’s Olympic year (2012), and crafted locally by silversmith Christopher Hamilton, the Hay Festival Medals draw inspiration from the original Olympic medal given for poetry. Past winners include Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood, John le Carré, Laura Marling and Ahdaf Soueif.

Hay Festival Creative Wales International Fellow 2019-20, novelist Alys Conran will continue her global Hay Festival travels, joining the Wales line-up to present a series of interviews, lectures and workshops on indigenous languages. 

Meanwhile, following the success of last year’s series, readers will have more chance to explore the spectacular surrounds of the Brecon Beacons National Park in an enhanced programme of Wayfaring Walks with acclaimed travel and nature writers leading festivalgoers on literary walks.

The full Hay Festival 2020 programme will be announced in the spring.

While the countdown to Hay Festival Wales is just beginning, Festival events further afield are in full swing. Next month, Hay Festival Cartagena (30 January-2 February 2020), Hay Festival Medellín (29-31 January) and Hay Festival Jericó (25-26 January), get underway with appearances from speakers and performers including Nobel Prize-winners economist Joseph Stiglitz and former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos; novelists and writers Margaret Atwood, Etgar Keret, Muriel Barbery, Valeria Luiselli, Alberto Manguel, Javier Cercas, Marina Perezagua, Inua Ellams, Alys Conran, Paolo Giordano, Nicole Krauss, Leonardo Padura, and Marta Peirano; poet Ida Vitale; historian Bettany Hughes; director Fernando Trueba; musician Santiago Auserón; and more.

On 23 January, Sarah Churchwell appears in a Hay Festival Lecture at Bangor University in a special one-off event, discussing her book Behold, America: A History of 'America First'.

And in February 2020, Hay Festival Scribblers Tour takes writers direct to schools across Wales in free events featuring YA star Jenny Valentine, Welsh poet Aneirin Karadog, and authors Ali Sparkes, Brian Conaghan and Patrice Lawrence at the University of South Wales, Swansea University, Aberystwyth University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, and Wrexham Glyndwr University.