Surprise Hay Festival 2023 early-bird events revealed

Hay Festival has today announced 32 early-bird events for its 36th spring edition, taking place 25 May-4 June 2023 in the world’s first booktown, Hay-on-Wye in Wales.

Early-bird event tickets are on sale now to Friends of Hay Festival at and go on general release at 12 noon on Friday 16 December. 

Previewing a bold new programme full of fresh perspectives on a world in flux, events feature internationally acclaimed novelists with new work including Margaret Atwood on her short story collection Old Babes in the WoodEleanor Catton on Birnam Wood; former Hay Festival international fellow Fflur Dafydd with The Library SuicidesCaleb Azumah Nelson on Small Worlds; and Alexander McCall Smith celebrating 25 years of his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series; while Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Dua Lipa presents a live recording of her new podcast, At Your Service.

The UK today is drawn into focus with the burning questions of equity, sustainability and democracy debated in events with columnist Marina Hyde on What Just Happened?; historian Simon Schama on Return of the Tribes; travel writer Isabella Tree on The Book of Wilding; philosopher A. C. Grayling talks philosophy and life; and broadcaster Jon Snow on The State of Us.

The Institute of Human Science in Vienna and Hay Festival present the first of a series of debates about the future of Europe as journalist Misha Glenny discusses the rise of autocracy with historian Orlando Figes (The Story of Russia), Turkish novelist and political thinker Ece Temelkuran, and Hungarian politician, expert in foreign policy Zsuzsanna Szelényi (Tainted Democracy). 

Our past is reimagined as Peter Frankopan talks The Earth Transformed: An Untold HistoryCaroline Dodds Pennock talks to David Olusoga about On Savage Shores: How Indigenous Americans Discovered EuropeIrene Vallejo offers Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient WorldAndrea Wulf presents Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of Self in an event that forms part of the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award series; and journalist Jeremy Bowen offers The Making of the Modern Middle East.

Science and new technologies come to the fore as writer Sally Adee talks We Are Electric: The New Science of Our Body’s Electrome, while physicist Peter Coveney joins journalist and Science Museum director Roger Highfield to discuss Virtual You: How Building Your Digital Twin Will Revolutionize Medicine and Change Your Life.

An expanded HAYDAYS programme for children and families sees actor, writer and Rizzle Kicks member Jordan Stephens join illustrator Beth Suzanna to share their new book, The Missing Piece. Children’s Laureate Wales 2021-23 Connor Allen presents Miracles. Space scientist and TV presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock leads a tour of the galaxy with Am I Made of Stardust? and Julia Donaldson invites audiences into her world of imagination and creativity, while Horrible Histories hero Greg Jenner talks You Are History

Music, comedy and the spoken word shake the main stages with performances from Scottish rock duo The Proclaimers, poet Laureate Simon Armitage talks Never Good with Horses; while Allie Esiri leads an all-star cast with a special Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year gala. Meanwhile, the joy of food and growing your own is explored in conversations with Rukmini Iyer (India Express) and Sarah Raven (A Year Full of Veg); and broadcaster, journalist and author Sir Michael Parkinson shares his sports writing in My Sporting Life: Memories, moments and declarations.

Hay Festival CEO Julie Finch said: “We are delighted to share this preview of next spring’s Hay Festival programme, offering a promise of our intent and some early delights as we build a line-up of writers and performers to inspire, examine and entertain. Hay Festival is for everyone and next spring’s offer of a broad and inclusive line-up, an expanded families offer, and even more free activities in and around the Festival village will underscore that further to reach the widest possible audiences. Alongside this, we will be expanding our education and outreach offer to bring Festival content to our widest audiences yet. Tell your friends and we’ll see you there.”

Dua Lipa said: “I have wanted to explore the bookshops of Hay and experience the literary atmosphere of the Hay Festival for such a long time. So I’m thrilled that I will be there next year to share stories on stage and off with some of my favourite authors, and to soak up the inspiration alongside my fellow book lovers. I can’t wait to see you there!”

Hay Festival 2023 is supported by lead sponsors Visit Wales and Baillie Gifford. 

The full Hay Festival 2023 programme will be revealed in early spring, featuring more than 600 writers, global policy makers, pioneers and innovators in conversations, performances and debates, while HAYDAYS events for families give young readers the opportunity to meet their heroes and get creative. 

Events will take place at the free-to-enter Festival village on Dairy Meadows, presenting a range of pop-ups to explore, including the Festival Bookshop, Wild Garden, Make and Take Tent, a host of exhibitors and market stalls, cafés and restaurants, plus events in venues in and around Hay-on-Wye. 

Two free Programme for Schools days open proceedings on Thursday 26 May (KS2) and Friday 27 May (KS3 and 4), blending live performance, workshops and storytelling in specially curated sessions, while a range of education initiatives – the Beacons Project, Hay Academy and Hay Festival Scribblers Tours – will engage thousands.

Partnerships with Adult Learning Wales, University of South Wales, The Empathy Lab, Head4Arts and The Family Place will make this one of the most accessible Festival editions yet with targeted projects to attract harder-to-reach communities, while a plethora of new sustainability measures will help to tackle the environmental impacts of running a festival. 

A curated selection of Festival sessions will be streamed live online throughout the 2023 event, with digital passes on sale in May, continuing the Festival’s commitment to digital accessibility. 

Winners of the Hay Festival Medals 2023 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 Margaret Atwood, Ali Smith, George Monbiot, John le Carré, Laura Marling and Ahdaf Soueif.

While the countdown to Hay Festival in Wales is just beginning, Festival events further afield are already in full swing. In January, Hay Festival Cartagena gets underway and in February, Hay Festival Scribblers Tour takes writers direct to schools across Wales in free events.

Explore the programme here.