Gala stars join Hay Festival 2021 programme

Hay Festival has today announced the cast lists for its two gala events, part of the free digital programme for its 34th spring edition, bringing writers and readers together for an inspiring array of conversations, debates, workshops and performances online, Wednesday 26 May to Sunday 6 June.

Festivalgoers can explore the programme and register for free now at

Over 12 days, Hay Festival sees more than 300 acclaimed writers, global policy makers, historians, poets, pioneers and innovators take part, launching the best new fiction and non-fiction. It 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.

Events begin at 8pm on Wednesday 26 May with the Hay Festival Opening Gala – A Night of Hope, hosted by classicist Natalie Haynes and set to feature readings of inspiring works of literature, theatre and poetry from The Duchess of Cornwall; actors Richard Eyre, Theresa Lola, Romola Garai, Jessica Raine, Charly Arrowsmith and Louise Brearley; comedians Sindhu Vee and Rob Brydon; writers Elif Shafak, Juno Dawson, Clemency Burton-Hill, Simon Schama, Rufus Mufasa, Hafsa Zayyan and Margaret Busby; poets Hollie McNish and Karl Nova; rapper Guvna B; scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock and more.

Then on Saturday 5 June at 9pm, the From Women to the World Gala sees another stellar cast share writing by influential women, drawing on work from two important new books, The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing edited by Hannah Dawson, and Elizabeth Filippouli’s From Women to the World: Letters for a new Century. Performers confirmed include actors Kate Winslet, Vanessa Redgrave, Juliet Stephenson, Suzette Llewellyn, Bishop Rose and Suzanne Packer, music star Skin, campaigner Hellen Lunkuse, and novelist Elif Shafak.

Heather Salisbury, Hay Festival artist manager, said: “We’re delighted to share this galaxy of stars from stage, screen and the wider world in our gala evenings of hope and inspiration. This spring we beam our programme to you from Richard Booth’s Bookshop in the heart of Hay-on-Wye, welcoming writers, readers, thinkers and dreamers together from around the world to join our digital party. Let’s meet this moment of challenge with hope. Join us.”

Hay Festival 2021 is supported by lead sponsors Visit Wales and Baillie Gifford, and by grant funding from Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund. While events are free to attend, donations to Hay Festival Foundation will be welcomed throughout at to support upcoming projects and secure the Festival for generations to come.

Signed books from Festival speakers are available to order now from the Festival bookshop at along with new lines of merchandise with proceeds supporting Hay Festival here and around the world.

Explore the full Festival programme and register for the free events here.