Hay Festival has revealed plans for its 34th spring edition, bringing writers and readers together in hundreds of free interactive online broadcasts live from Hay-on-Wye to the world, 26 May-6 June.
While the full programme will not be announced until the end of April, the Festival is planning an inspiring array of conversations, debates, workshops and performances online, kicking off with the inaugural Hay Festival Opening Night Gala on Wednesday 26 May in which award-winning writers join performers from stage and screen for an evening of literary fun and inspiration.
Over the 11 days that follow, more than 200 acclaimed writers, global policy makers, historians, poets, pioneers and innovators will take part, launching the best new fiction and non-fiction. The Festival will interrogate some of the biggest issues of our time, from building a better world post-pandemic to tackling the compound crises of climate change, inequality, and challenges to truth and democracy.
Festival conversations will mark a series of key 2021 anniversaries and moments: one year on from the killing of George Floyd, a three-part Festival series will look at racism and the systemic changes we need to see in the UK and around the world; 300 years since Great Britain appointed its first prime minister, a series of panels explore leadership and democracy today; ahead of COP26, the Festival’s Hay-on-Earth programme will spotlight what’s at stake; 200 years since the death of John Keats, poets and performers will offer contemporary responses to his work; and the Festival shares the next generation of innovators changing the world in a series of conversations with debut writers.
Daily Festival lectures will offer thought leaders and experts space to dive deeper into their chosen subjects, including the Hay Festival Friends Lecture in honour of Festival supporters; annual sessions commemorating Aneurin Bevan, Christopher Hitchens, Raymond Williams and Anthea Bell; and the inaugural Jan Morris Lecture to commemorate the Festival favourite who died last year.
Winners of Hay Festival Medals 2021 will be celebrated. 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 Hilary Mantel, Inua Ellams, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood, John le Carré, Laura Marling and Ahdaf Soueif. Plus, Hay Festival Creative Wales International Fellow 2020-21, poet and writer Mererid Hopwood, will continue her global Festival journey, joining the Wales line-up to celebrate the Welsh language.
Each morning will begin with sessions for young people and families, while our Programme for Schools will once more be beamed to pupils across the UK offering primary and secondary pupils the chance to enjoy the Festival’s children’s and YA programming free anywhere, 27, 28 May.
Christopher Bone, publicity director at Hay Festival said: “The support for Hay Festival over the past year has been overwhelming, with our shared trust in writers and their stories carrying us all through. Our digital events have brought some of the most exciting writers and thinkers of our time to millions worldwide and we will continue to meet this need for conversation and connection, safely and responsibly, with an innovative spring programme to offer hope, inspiration and entertainment. While it won’t be possible to do this with the usual crowds of book lovers joining us in person, we will once more reimagine the world together online. Please join us.”
Hay Festival Wales 2021 is supported by the Festival’s lead sponsors Visit Wales and Baillie Gifford. While events are free to attend, donations to Hay Festival Foundation will be welcomed throughout at hayfestival.org/donate to secure the Festival for generations to come.
Michelle McLeod, Sponsorship Manager at Baillie Gifford said: “Hay Festival was propelled into the digital world at short notice last year and, although many of us long for the experience of live events, the digital festival will once again offer people from across the globe access to remarkable conversations with leading authors and thinkers that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to hear.”
While the countdown to Hay Festival Wales is just beginning, Festival events further afield are in full swing. Last month, Hay Festival Colombia saw more than 160 speakers and performers appear live online, including Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, Nobel Prize winner Esther Duflo, International Booker Prize winner Marieke Lucas, actor Javier Bardem, economist Thomas Piketty, novelists Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Isabel Allende, Perez Reverte, Emmanuel Carrère, Joel Dicker, Tiago Ferro, Ken Follett and Andre Aciman, graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, philosophers Peter Singer and Fernando Savater, nature writer Robert Macfarlane, travel writer Paul Theroux, Colombian scientist Brigitte Baptiste, historian Hallie Rubenhold, and lawyer Philippe Sands.
And Hay Festival Book of the Month continues to profile the best new fiction and non-fiction through a wide ranging digital promotion that includes a live monthly Q&A: on Tuesday 9 February, novelist Francis Spufford presents his latest Light Perpetual and next month one of the world's most influential economists Minouche Shafik presents What we owe Each Other: a new Social Contract on Tuesday 9 March. Readers can register for free at hayfestival.org/book-of-the-month
Find out more about the upcoming digital programme here.