Hay Festival Winter Weekend marks season's change with bold visions and hope

Hay Festival Winter Weekend closed Sunday 27 November after festivalgoers enjoyed 52 full-capacity events in and around the booktown of Hay-on-Wye with 5,000 tickets sold and 511,000 content engagements online (and counting).

Launching the best new fiction and non-fiction, while engaging with some of the biggest issues of our time, the event spread festive joy with conversations, candle-lit storytelling, film screenings, comedy, music, workshops and the annual Christmas lights switch on.

Now in its 23rd year, in-person events took place in Hay Castle’s Great Hall and Clore Learning Space, alongside spaces throughout Hay-on-Wye, including St Mary’s Church, The Poetry Bookshop and Richard Booth’s Bookshop Cinema.

More than 70 writers and performers took part. Bestselling books over the weekend included:

  1. The Golden Mole by Katherine Rundell
  2. War Horse (40th anniversary edition) by Michael Morpurgo
  3. Closer to the Edge by Leo Houlding
  4. Invasion by Luke Harding
  5. Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie
  6. Do Not Call the Tortoise by Gareth Howell-Jones
  7. She’s In CTRL by Anne-Marie Imafidon
  8. Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes
  9. How to be a Politician by Vince Cable
  10. brother. do. you. love. me. by Manni and Reuben Coe

A selection of events were livestreamed to open access to Festival content globally over the weekend, generating 511,000 content engagements online (and counting).

Catch all the highlights from events on Hay Festival Anytime from tomorrow (Tuesday 29 November) at hayfestival.org/anytime.

Hay Festival CEO Julie Finch said: “We close this year’s Hay Festival Winter Weekend after four days of sold-out events to inspire, examine and entertain. We marked the season’s change and year’s end with a celebration of community and bold visions to carry us into 2023 with hope. Thanks to our community of writers, readers, performers and friends, this Festival was not just possible, but essential. Audiences supported our charity through attending in person and online. Culture and the arts are more important than ever and the success of this weekend’s gathering and the resulting conversations is another example of its impact and social value.”

Hay Festival Winter Weekend is supported by lead sponsors Visit Wales and Baillie Gifford.


Inspiring life stories led the programme as brothers Manni and Reuben Coe shared their memoir of hope, resilience and repair, brother.do.you.love.me; climber Leo Houlding presented his memoir Closer to the Edge: Climbing to the Ends of the Earth with the first Welsh woman to climb Mount Everest, Tori James; Stemettes founder Anne-Marie Imafidon discussed She's in CTRL: How Women Can Take Back TechSali Hughes presented Everything is Washable* and Other Life Lessons and bookseller Shaun Bythell discussed Remainders of the Day: More Diaries from The Bookshop, Wigtown.

Great storytellers took centre-stage with new work as classicist Natalie Haynes shared Stone Blind; Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez discussed RetrospectiveKamila Shamsie discussed Best of FriendsCharlotte Williams presented her autobiographical novel Sugar and Slate; and Carlos Fonseca presented his contribution to Untold Microcosms, a Hay Festival project that sees 10 Latin American writers create new work inspired by objects inside the British Museum’s stored collections.

Poetry wove its rhythms through the Festival as Olivia Harrison offered Came the Lightening: Twenty Poems for George; and 70 years since Dylan Thomas released A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Hay Festival international fellow Hanan Issa offered a contemporary response, while discussing her new role as National Poet of Wales.

Music rung out from St Mary’s Church all weekend as Father RichardWilliams opened the Festival with a performance of the 1922 horror classic Nosferatu; Welsh harpist Anne Denholm played a one-off festive set; and Hay Community Choir and Hay Shantymen performed. There was laughter, too, with stand-up from Mike Wozniak, comedian Richard Herring on his memoir Can I Have My Ball Back?, and a Festive Quiz to close the weekend’s events.

To commemorate the incredible life of former Hay Festival chair and filmmaker Revel Guest, a special screening of her film War Horse took place at Richard Booth’s Bookshop Cinema, introduced by children’s writer Michael Morpurgo, who discussed the work in a further conversation on stage.

The past was reimagined as human rights lawyer Philippe Sands offered The Last ColonyAlison Weir discussed Queens of the Age of Chivalry: England's Medieval Queens; one hundred years since the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, Garry J Shawpresented The Story of Tutankhamun: An Intimate Life of the Boy who Became King; Herefordshire historian Heather Hurley talked Horse-drawn Tramways of the Wye Valley; and the death of The Queen was marked in a special event as Robert Hardmanpresented Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II.

Hay-on-Earth events explored the latest in climate science and debate while celebrating the natural world around us. CEO of Compassion in World Farming Philip Lymbery presented Sixty Harvests Left, Baillie Gifford Prize-winner Katherine Rundelloffered The Golden Mole and Other Living TreasureAndrew Simms and Anita Roy talked Contagious Tales; and campaigner Guy Shrubsole presented The Lost Rainforests of Britain.

Global affairs were drawn into focus as a Sunday morning panel of Festival guests reviewed the weekend papers, reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to 2023; meanwhile investigative reporters Luke Harding and Oliver Bullough talked Russia and Ukraine; and former Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable presented How to be a Politician: 2000 Years of Good (and Bad) Advice.

Interactive events for families and young people through the weekend included author and illustrator Rob Biddulph on An Odd Dog Christmas, along with a series of workshops at Hay Castle.

Food writer Angela Clutton shared culinary insights and inspiration with Borough Market: The Knowledge, while the town’s cafes and restaurants opened late to offer seasonal delights.

Extra sparkle to live events came from the town’s Memorial Square as Michael Morpugo joined Hay Citizens of the Year Trish and Alan Kiddle to turn on the town’s Christmas lights, Friday 25 November, in what has become an annual Winter Weekend highlight.

And after a transformative 12 months at Hay Festival HQ in which new CEO Julie Finch was welcomed, the transition into a fully-fledged charity completed, and an ambitious expansion of education and outreach work across Wales and the wider world began, organisers invited the public to share their visions for the Festival’s future in an open forum event to open Hay Festival Winter Weekend.