Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye 2024 closes with a message of hope after “11 days of different…”

Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye 2024 closed Sunday 2 June with a message of hope after more than 700 events brought thousands of writers and readers together over 11 days. 

Event highlights can be enjoyed on Hay Festival Anytime now at hayfestival.org/anytime for an annual subscription of £20 per year. 

Held in the booktown of Hay-on-Wye on the edge of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, this year’s programme launched the best new fiction and non-fiction books, while offering insights and debate around significant global issues, world class comedy and music, and a vibrant programme of pop-up events, workshops, and activities for all ages. 

With footfall up six per cent on 2023 and ticket sales up eight per cent, many first-time festival goers travelled from all over the world to experience the Festival site and events.

Headline artists included authors Amor Towles, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Colm Tóibín, David Mitchell, Jeff Kinney, Jhumpa Lahiri, David Nicholls, Elif Shafak, Holly Jackson, Alex Wharton, Jacqueline Wilson, Manon Steffan Ros, and Marian Keyes; historians Alice Roberts, Greg Jenner and Tom Holland; politicians Theresa May, Julia Gillard and Rory Stewart; musicians Bonnie Tyler, Geri Halliwell-Horner, James Blunt, Jools Holland, Jasmine Jethwa, Robert Macfarlane and Johnny Flynn; journalists James O’Brien, Caitlin Moran and Elizabeth Day; footballer and broadcaster Gary Lineker; actors Dame Judi Dench, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry and Toby Jones; artist Es Devlin; poets Hanan Issa, Simon Armitage, Jackie Kay, Lemn Sissay, Hollie McNish, Michael Rosen and Joseph Coelho; comedians Jon Richardson, Julian Clary, Ruby Wax and Sara Pascoe; Nobel Prize-winning activist Maria Ressa; and many more… 

Nearly 20,000 free tickets were issued to schools (primary and secondary) taking part in the programme in person, while more than 8,500 pupils took part digitally. 

Free content was made available across the UK and further afield as libraries took part in streaming free events via The British Library and the Living Knowledge Network; BBC shows came live from the site; and the @hayfestival TikTok channel earned millions of views over the 11 days. 

Hay Festival Global CEO Julie Finch said: 

“At a time of intense polarity, the past 11 days have showed us all how essential festivals are in bringing people together. On stage and off, we have crossed borders to navigate some of the biggest issues of our times with nuance and expertise. Our increased footfall shows that demand for these spaces has never been higher and we thank all our artists, partners, sponsors, Members, patrons and benefactors for making it happen. As we look ahead to another 12 months of Hay Festival Global activities around the world, we step forward with renewed hope and energy for the future.”

Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye 2024 bestsellers


1. RORY STEWART – Politics on the Edge

2. BETTANY HUGHES – Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

3. COLM TOIBIN – Long Island

4. JAMES O'BRIEN – How they Broke Britain

5. GEORGE MONBIOT – Invisible Doctrine

6. ANNE ENRIGHT – The Wren, The Wren

7. HUGH FEARNELY-WHITTINGSTALL – How To Eat 30 Plants a Week

8. TIM SPECTOR – Food for Life

9. WES STREETING – One Boy, Two Bills and a Fry Up

10. JULIA GILLARD – Women and Leadership

11. JAMES BLUNT – Loosely Based on a Made Up Story

12. SARA PASCOE – Weirdo

13. ELIZABETH DAY – Friendaholic

14. CLIVE MYRIE – Everything is Everything

15. CAROLINE LUCAS – Another England

16. CAITLIN MORAN – What About Men?

17. DAVID NICHOLLS – You Are Here

18. HAMZA YASSIN – Be a Birder


20. LEMN SISSAY – Let the Light Pour In



1. JEFF KINNEY – No Brainer

2. HOLLY JACKSON – Reappearance of rachel price


4. M G LEONARD – Feather

5. LAURA BATES – Sisters of Sword and Shadow

6. RANGER HAMZA – Ranger Hamza's Eco Quest

7. KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE – In The Shadow of the Wolf Queen

8. JACQUELINE WILSON – The Girl Who Wasn't There

9. KATHERINE RUNDELL – Impossible Creatures

10. JEFF KINNEY – Diper Overlode

New projects woven across the Festival included The Platform for new creatives, the daily News Review analysis of the latest events, the first-ever Hay Festival Sports Day, and Hay Festival Green, prompting innovative solutions to the climate crisis.

Hay Festival Medals were awarded to a quintet of changemakers, including Laura Bates, Gary Lineker, Judi Dench, Lemn Sissay and Huw Stephens.

Late nights at the Festival were given over to great music, comedy and entertainment, while a host of free pop-up activities and performances around the site kept audiences entertained between sessions. 

Events took place across eight stages in the redesigned free-to-enter Festival site at Dairy Meadows – which also offered a range of spaces for audiences to explore and enjoy, including the Bookshop, Wild Garden, Make & Take Tent, a host of exhibitors and market stalls, cafés and restaurants, and the new Family Garden where young readers kick-started their creative journeys – as well as in and around Hay-on-Wye, including performances at St Mary’s Church. 

Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye 2024 was supported by lead sponsors the Welsh Government, Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales, lead media partner the BBC and digital media partner TikTok.


Visit hayfestival.org/hay-on-wye to view detailed listings. 


Exclusive conversations celebrated the winners of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize and International Booker Prize; plus the shortlists of the Wales Book of the Year 2024 and Women’s Prizes for Fiction and Non-Fiction. Meanwhile, The Bookseller presented The Nibbies Salon, as novelist Katherine Rundell and her team shared insights from the publishing journey, and a new Climate Fiction Prize was launched live on stage. 

Past Booker Prize-winners presented their latest offerings including Anne Enright (The Wren, The Wren), Richard Flanagan(Question 7), Howard Jacobson (What Will Survive of Us) and Paul Lynch (Prophet Song), while Marlon James marked 10 years of A Brief History of Seven Killings

There was more new fiction from Marian Keyes (My Favourite Mistake), Hisham Matar (My Friends), David Nicholls (You Are Here), Coco Mellors (Blue Sisters), Amor Towles (Table for Two), Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ (A Spell of Good Things),Chigozie Obioma (The Road to the Country), Colm Tóibín (Long Island), Jeanette Winterson (Night Side of the River: Ghost Stories), John Boyne (The Elements), Rose Tremain (Absolutely and Forever), Lionel Shriver (Mania), Jasper Fforde (Red Side Story); Sandra Newman (Julia), Kevin Barry (The Heart in Winter), Ingrid Persaud (The Lost Love Songs of Boysie Singh), Francis Spufford (Cahokia Jazz)Naomi Alderman (The Future), Hari Kunzru (Blue Ruin), Andrew O’Hagan (Caledonia Road), Sunjeev Sahota (The Spoiled Heart), Moses McKenzie (Fast by the Horns), Téa Obreht (The Morningside), Sarah Perry (Enlightenment), Jhumpa Lahiri (Roman Stories), Sophie Buchaillard (Assimilation), Francesca Reece (Glass Houses), Sara Pascoe (Weirdo), Daisy Goodwin (Diva), Benjamín Labatut (The Maniac), Sarah Bernstein(Study for Obedience) and Eley Williams (Moderate to Poor, Occasionally Good). 

New fiction in translation took centre-stage in conversations with Sara Mesa (Un Amor), Adania Shibli (Minor Detail), Giuliano da Empoli (The Wizard of the Kremlin), Jean-Baptiste del Amo (The Son of Man), Munir Hachemi (Living Things) and Andrey Kurkov (The Silver Bone); WritersMosaic presented a focus on Latinx Writers in the UK as editor Oscar Guardiola-Rivera talked to Gaby SambucettiJuan Toledo and Erna von der Walde for a moving journey through the new Latinx literary landscape; and Mexican writer Aura García-Junco and British-Palestinian author Isabella Hammad talked to translator Daniel Hahn about writing on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Crime fiction and thrillers led the billing in conversations with Anthony Horowitz (Close to Death), Judy Murray (The Wild Card), Lisa Jewell (None of This is True), Alex Michaelides (The Fury) and Reverend Richard Coles (Murder at the Monastery), while there was historical fiction with Alison Weir (Mary I: Queen of Sorrows), Ken Follett (The Armour of Light), and Kate Mosse (The Ghost Ship).

In a special event co-curated with The Queen’s Reading Room, Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho wasjoined by fellow authors Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Cressida Cowell as they delved into the history of children’s literature; writers Priscilla Morris and Elif Shafak talked to Lord Paul Boateng, Vice Patron of charity Book Aid International, about what is lost when libraries are targeted or when people are displaced and access to libraries is taken away; MP Chris Bryantjoined historian Wendy Moore and writer and transgender activist Alana Portero in a celebration of books centred on queer people; and there were previews of new work coming later in the year, including Jodi Picoult with By Any Other Name and Stephen Fry with his next set of Greek retellings.

Literary history and anniversary celebrations took to the stage as Anna Funder (Wifedom) explored the work of George Orwelll; a one-off performance marked the centenary of Kafka’s death, with music by organist James McVinnie; authors Okojie, David Olusoga, Mendez and Colm Tóibín talked about James Baldwin’s impact, 100 years after his birth and David Mitchell marked 20 years of Cloud Atlas.


On each day of the Festival a spotlight was dedicated to the best debut fiction, showcasing a selection of future award-winners alongside established authors, sponsored by the Hawthornden Foundation: 

Kaliane Bradley (The Ministry of Time) talked to Francis Spufford

Holly Gramazio (The Husbands) talked to Naomi Alderman

Gemma June Howell (The Crazy Truth) talked to Rachel Trezise

Sarah Marsh (A Sign of Her Own) talked to Suzannah Lipscomb

Andrew McMillan (Pity) talked to Jackie Kay

Nathan Newman (How to Leave the House) talked to Jack Edwards

Leo Vardiashvili (Hard by a Great Forest) talked to Viv Groskop

Vanessa Walters (The Lagos Wife) talked to Alex Wheatle

Rose Wilding (Speak of the Devil) talked to Jeanette Winterson

Fiona Williams (The House of Broken Bricks) talked to Ingrid Persaud


Thought leaders delivered headline think pieces throughout the Festival, tackling some of the biggest questions of our times, including philosopher Michael J Sandel with the Hay Festival Members Lecture on ethics, democracy and markets; the theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli delivered the annual Pugwash Lecture; and Channel 4 News’ Matt Frei delivered the Christopher Hitchens Lecture, asking: can America be saved? 


Leading poets shared new work and old favourites: the UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage presented his latest collections, Blossomise, as well as Hansel & Gretel with illustrator Clive Hicks-JenkinsLemn Sissay performed Let the Light Pour InHollie McNish offered Lobster: And Other Things I'm Learning to Love; and Jackie Kay shared May Day; while lexicographer Susie Dent and the philosopher Rebecca Roache discussed words and their power to surprise.  

In a unique walking event curated with the Black British Book Festival, poet, playwright and rapper Ashleigh Nugent, Creative Director of RiseUp, a Manchester-based organisation that empowers individuals to better their circumstances, prospects and wellbeing, invited audiences to write lines inspired by nature, while two of Australia’s leading First Nations poets, Jazz Money and Ellen van Neerven, showcased their exceptional work in an event curated by Adelaide Writers' Week.

There were dynamic performances as creator and editor of The Poetry Pharmacy William Sieghart was joined by special guests including Lisa Dwan (TopBoyBlackshore), Indira Varma (Game of Thrones, Luther) and Dominic West (BrassicThe Wire) for an event of connection, imagination and inspiration; writers Joseph Coelho, Mererid Hopwood and Roy McFarlane led a celebration of the life and work of Benjamin Zephaniah; and Literary Death Match brought together four established and emerging writers to compete in an edge-of-your-seat read-off critiqued by celebrity judges. 


Journalists, commentators and world leaders took stock in the daily News Review live on stage each morning of the Festival with guests including Co-executive Director of Greenpeace UK Areeba HamidEveryday Sexism founder Laura Bates, MP Wes Streeting, Lady Brenda Hale, actor Doon Mackichan, politics professor David Runciman, comedian Marcus Brigstocke, the British Antarctic Survey’s physician Gavin Francis, former Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening, science journalist Layal Liverpool, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, neuroscientist Hannah Critchlow, geographer Danny Dorling, philosopher AC Grayling, historian David Olusoga, Reverend Richard Coles, and Professor Suzannah Lipscomb

In a year when more voters than ever in history will head to the polls, as at least 64 countries hold their elections, activists, policy makers and politicians took stock of democracy as Nobel Prize-winning activist Maria Ressa talked How to Stand Up to a Dictator: The Fight for Our Future; The Guardian’s political sketch writer John Crace presented Depraved New World; public policy journalist Peter Foster joined LBC host James O’Brien to discuss the architects, disasters and myths of Brexit; barrister Michael Mansfield KC explored “people power”; Roula Khalaf, editor of the Financial Times, spoke to writers Aditi Mittal, Elif Shafak and Lola Shoneyin about the vital role of the media, of culture and of the participation of women in this critical year for the future of democracy; journalists Tom Burgis and Carole Cadwalladr explored how lawsuits are being used to prevent the truth being exposed; Centre for Welsh Politics and Society Co-director Anwen Elias and the Aberystwyth University Dialogue Centre Principal Lead Jennifer Wolowich shared their new project for democracy; human geographer Danny Dorling and philosopher AC Grayling talked compassion in politics; former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Michael Heseltine talked to Michael d’Ancona in a thought-provoking discussion of the state of the nation; and overlaps in the upcoming UK and US elections were explored by historian Sarah Churchwell and journalist Matt Frei.

Personal stories from inside politics offered lessons for the future as former UK Prime Minister Theresa May discussed The Abuse of Power: Confronting Injustice in Public Life; the UK’s first and only Green Party MP Caroline Lucas explored Another England; and former Conservative Cabinet minister and co-presenter of The Rest is Politics podcast Rory Stewart offered an insider's account of ten extraordinary years in Parliament with Politics on the Edge.

The state of UK institutions was explored as two former secretaries of state Justine Greening and Charles Clarke explored a manifesto for education; actor Toby Jones joined journalist Nick Wallis to discuss the Post Office scandal, one of the most widespread and significant miscarriages of justice in UK legal history; Earl Charles Spencer shared his poignant memoir recounting his traumatic experiences of the boarding school system; and biographer Robert Hardman shared insights into the monarchy today. 

The future of Europe was debated as journalist Misha Glenny asked former EU Vice-President, Baroness Catherine Ashton, political scientist Ivan Krastev and Polish politician Rafał Trzaskowski whether Europe can reassert itself as a global power.  

Global affairs were brought into focus as three journalists covering the Israel-Palestinian war spoke about their work in the Gaza strip – Hind Hassan reports for VICE news (HBO), Dalia Hatuqa writes on Middle East politics for the Washington Postand Lindsey Hilsum is Channel 4 News’ International Editor; author of The Bookseller of Kabul Åsne Seierstad explored the fall and rise of the Taliban; academic Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost shared Celtic Palestine: Culture and Conflict; and a real ambassador and a fictional one met to discuss the world of diplomacy and international relations as Jane D Hartley joinedKeri Russell.  

Economics and its effect on global affairs was explored by Treasury Minister Liam Byrne (The Inequality of Wealth); Dharshini David (Environomics: How the Green Economy is Transforming Your World); and political economist Brett Christophers

South to South conversations, co-curated by Hay Festival teams in Mexico, Colombia and Peru with the support of the Open Society Foundations, spotlighted the shared issues – and solutions – facing the Global South. Three authors sharing a personal history of displacement and violence – Hisham Matar, Elif Shafak and Adania Shibli – talked to human rights lawyer Philippe Sands about writing outside of their birth countries; and activist Sylvia Vasquez-Lavado discussed her inspiring work against sexual violence with In the Shadow of the Mountain

A new partnership with Adelaide Writers' Week saw four events showcase ideas from Australia’s foremost writers and thinkers with Australian Financial Review’s International Editor James Curran, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; novelist Pip Williams discussed the power of words; journalists David Marr and Rachel Perkins on the killings of indigenous peoples, plus former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard talked women in politics.

And a trio of Hay Festival Thinkers in Residence hosted conversations on stage and off throughout the week questioning norms, finding new perspectives and challenging us to action: Ruby Wax explored mental health, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas explored our connections to nature, and Alex Wheatle reimagined what a festival can be.  


Hay Festival continued its global collaboration with Ukraine’s biggest book festival, Lviv BookForum, with the support of the Open Society Foundations, presenting two co-curated events throughout the Festival to promote great Ukrainian storytelling and explored the state of Ukraine today: a panel of writers – Sofia Cheliak, Sasha Dovzhyk and Olesya Khromeychuk – discussed what is currently happening in Ukraine, how to keep documenting the war and how to combat propaganda with journalist Peter Pomerantsev; and Putin Versus the West producer Norma Percy, former Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksii Réznikov and the director of the series Tim Stirzaker discussed their show.


The latest environmental science, sustainable policies and creative responses to the climate crisis were brought into focus in Hay Festival Green under this year’s theme of Mobilising for the Future, prompting a shared call to action.

Past Festival projects were revisited as broadcaster and author Kate Humble talked to three remarkable individuals who created leading climate projects, igniting hope and progress: Franny Armstrong’s 1010 Campaign, Garry Charnock’s creation of the first carbon neutral village and Ed Hawkins’ Climate Stripes illustrating temperature change – all inspired by events in previous years at Hay Festival. 

The latest climate science was explored in conversations with ecologist Carwyn Graves, climate scientist Michael Mann (Our Fragile Moment); chemical engineer Yasmin Ali, broadcaster Gwynne Dyer and Professor Sir David King, with a deep dive into the pivotal moments of the climate crisis; while writer and comedian Timandra Harkness, author of Technology is not the Problem, and Mark Stevenson, strategic advisor to governments, NGOs and corporates, mapped out AI solutions to the current climate crisis, with environmentalist Martin Wright.

Green economics came into focus in sessions with journalist George Monbiot (The Invisible Doctrine: The Secret History of Neoliberalism (& How it Came to Control Your Life); Dharshini David on Environomics: How the Green Economy is Transforming Your World; the Great British Sewing Bee judge Patrick Grant on Less: Stop Buying So Much RubbishLeo Murray and Andrew Simms (Badvertising: Polluting our Minds and Fuelling Climate Chaos); and two experts on green capitalism – Akshat Rathi and Hannah Ritchie – discussed its limits and potential

The politics of change was explored in conversation with former energy minister Chris Skidmore; doctor and aid worker Lynne Jones (Sorry for the Inconvenience but This is an Emergency), and lawyer and climate activist Farhana Yamin, a key architect of the Paris climate agreement, discussed the rise and methods of non-violent action for political change; while an expert panel discussed Wales’ global responsibility to tackle climate change and what we can do to reach net zero by 2035.

Our food and its impacts were brought to attention as Minette Batters, former president of the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales, the Knepp Estate’s Molly Biddel and economist Dieter Helm talked to the Director of Positive News UK Martin Wright about effective rewilding and a future strategy for food production; an expert panel of agriculture and environmental management experts – Ali Capper, Ian Maddock and David Throup – delved into the pressing issues surrounding the surge in flooding incidents; and food production experts Philip Lymbery and Ed Winters explored whether cultivated meat and veganism can beat climate change; and rewilder Derek Gow and ecologist Hugh Warwick discussed the rival demands of reintroducing extinct species and managing invasive ones. 

Our impact on the natural world was underscored as Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2023-winner John Valliant talkedFire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World, author Gareth E Rees shares Sunken Lands: A Journey through Flooded Kingdoms and Lost Worlds, and academic Fiona Stafford talks Time and Tide: The Long, Long Life of Landscape.

Planet Assembly, a series of solutions-focused workshops at Hay Festival, returned to empower everyone to be pro-active in dramatic policy transformations that are needed immediately to tackle the acute climate and biodiversity emergencies. Hosted by sustainability entrepreneur Andy Middleton, and including members of the Festival audience sharing their projects and solutions, topics covered included energy, health, food, mobility, water, fashion, biodiversity and housing.


To mark this Olympic year, we presented our first ever Hay Festival Sports Day on Wednesday 29 May. Worlds collided as leading thinkers joined sports stars for a showcase of creative talent, an exploration of the Olympic spirit and interactive free activities all around the Festival site. 

One of football’s most successful players ever, Gary Lineker discussed his latest act as head of a podcasting empire, with hit shows including The Rest is Politics. With unrivalled experience of the world of sport, Lord Sebastian Coe discussed its past and future with journalist Matthew d’Ancona. We were joined by Gŵyl Cymru Festival for an event celebrating the special relationship between sport and culture in Wales.

Questions around the business of sport came to the fore as Hay Festival President Stephen Fry joined professional cricketers Azeem Rafiq and Claire Taylor to discuss the institutional inequalities in the game with scientist Adam Rutherford; sportswoman Rebecca Ajulu-Bushell shared These Heavy Black Bones; plus ecologist Madeleine Orr considered how climate change is changing sport. 

Scottish National Coach and mother of champions Judy Murray presented her debut thriller The Wild Card, a tale of intrigue on the tennis courts. Three inspirational cyclists, Lee CraigieRebecca Lowe and Kate Rawles, discussed their adventures at home and abroad, from cycling through the Middle East and the Andes to engaging marginalised young people. And the QI Elves and No Such Thing as a Fish podcasters James Harkin and Anna Ptaszynski tested the audience’s knowledge with their interactive sports quiz.


Leading travel and nature writers celebrated the natural world in conversations with naturalist Mark Cocker (One Midsummer’s Day), broadcaster Hamza Yassin (Be a Birder) and ecologist Chris Thorogood (Pathless Forest), biologist Merlin Sheldrake (Entangled Life) took us on a mind-altering journey into the spectacular world of fungi, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer shared Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants with farmer and author James Rebanks, and physicist Helen Czerski and marine biologist Helen Scales explore the hidden depths of the ocean. 

The quiet art of fishing was celebrated as founder of the Northern Fishing School Marina Gibson talked Cast, Catch and Release and comedian and broadcaster Paul Whitehouse talked Gone Fishing with his fellow fisherman and consultant on the series, John Bailey.

Meanwhile, off-site Wayfaring Walks saw writers, tree wardens and ecologists lead guided tours of the spectacular countryside with the Bannau Brycheingiog Natural Park team; and Farm Walks gave Festivalgoers a chance to get closer to local rural life.


Creatives, thinkers and activists shared their personal stories to inspire and challenge in conversations with Welsh superstar Bonnie Tyler (Straight from the Heart), actor Miriam Margolyes (Oh Miriam!), journalist Clive Myrie (Everything is Everything), comedian and screenwriter David Baddiel (My Family: The Memoir), trader Gary Stevenson (The Trading Game), MP Wes Streeting (One Boy, Two Bills and a Fry Up), comedian Viv Groskup (One Ukrainian Summer), singer-songwriter James Blunt (Loosely Based on a Made-Up Story), and sportswoman Rebecca Ajulu-Bushell (These Heavy Black Bones); while Polly Atkin talked about her book Some of Us Just Fall with Bethany Handley, a writer and disability activist from South Wales.

Conversations on women in the workplace included leadership coach Lucy Ryan with President of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge Dorothy Byrne on the discrimination faced by women over 50; broadcaster Elizabeth Day unpacked her Confessions of a Friendship Addict; Channel 4 broadcaster Cathy Newman shared The Ladder: Life Lessons from Women who Scaled the Heights & Dodged the SnakesCaitlin Moran asked What About Men?; WOW (Women of the World) founder Jude Kelly shared an evening of optimism, determination and laughter; and three acclaimed writers and researchers – Pragya Agarwal, Lucy Jones and Clover Stroud – discussed the far-reaching effects of maternity together with author and journalist Candice Brathwaite (Manifesto: Unlock the Life You Deserve), who also talked empowerment with consultant and coach Africa Brooke (The Third Perspective) and journalist Nichi Hodgson; psychology researcher Dr Peter Olusogachaired a panel on lifelong health and happiness with Dr Federica Amati (Every Body Should Know This), Dr Alex George(The Mind Manual), and ultra-athlete Josh Llewellyn-Jones; world-leading microbiome scientist and surgeon James Kinross showed how our microbiome impacts on exercise, sleep, diet and ageing; and Nobel Prize-winning biologist and former president of the Royal Society Venki Ramakrishnan talked Why We Die: The New Science of Ageing and the Quest for Immortality

Faith came to the fore as the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Marie-Elsa Bragg, a priest in the diocese of London and Duty Chaplain of Westminster Abbey, discussed faith, grief and how we can better relate to our world. Meanwhile, Festivalgoers were invited to start their days with a morning yoga class designed to reinvigorate and inspire. 


Impacts of AI were explored from all angles: author and scholar Carl Miller speaks to Madhumita Murgia, the first artificial intelligence editor for the Financial Times, with academics David Runciman, Stuart Russell and Carissa Véliz; Professor of Politics at Cambridge University David Runciman talks The Handover: How We Gave Control of Our Lives to Corporations, States and AIsVerity Harding, a leading insider in technology and politics and director of the AI & Geopolitics Institute at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, talked to Dr Jonnie Penn, associate teaching professor of AI Ethics and Society at the University of Cambridge; while journalist Marianna Spring shared her journey through the world of misinformation. 

The space scientist, writer and broadcaster Maggie Aderin-Pocock offered a tour of the night sky; and astronaut Tim Peakeshared Space: The Human Story; while philosopher AC Grayling examined the questions and precedents to ask: what should be done to avoid competition in Space becoming conflict on Earth?

Leading universities shared their latest research in the Festival lectures with contributions from Aberystwyth University,University of Birmingham, University of CambridgeCardiff UniversitySwansea University and University of Worcester


Sweeping histories of humanity informed the present as SOAS president Zeinab Badawi on An African History of Africa: From the Dawn of Humanity to Independence; Oxford professor of globalisation and development Ian Goldin shared The Shortest History of Migration; Josephine Quinn on How the World Made the West, covering 4,000 years of global history; and social philosopher Roman Krznaric looked at one thousand years of history to helped us confront the challenges of the 21st century.

Colonialism and its impacts on the world were explored as journalist Sathnam Sanghera talked EmpireworldNandini Dasshared the fascinating history of Britain’s first ambassador to the Mughal Empire, Thomas Roe (Courting India); and Corinne Fowler brought rural life and colonial rule together, sharing the ways in which the British Empire transformed rural lives, offering opportunity and seeking exploitation. 

Historians shared lessons from key events as journalist Peter Apps looked at the history of NATO in its 75th year; David Van Reybrouck explored Indonesia’s struggle for independence (Revolusi); Luca Trenta talked The President’s Kill List: Assassination in US Foreign Policy Since 1945; military historian Max Hastings talked Operation Biting; 40 years on from one of the largest strikes in British history, academic Robert Gildea, journalist Amanda Powell and photographer Richard Williams reflected on its lasting impacts; historian of the mental afterlife of conflict Imogen Peck examined the civil wars that engulfed Britain in the mid-1600s and what we might learn from them today; and the editors of Yr Apêl/The Appeal 1923–24Mererid Hopwood and Jenny Mathers shared the remarkable story of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition. Meanwhile, Queer lives were centred by Dr Diarmuid Hester with Nothing Ever Just Disappears

The ancient world was explored with fresh eyes as Bettany Hughes talked The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; and Tom Holland shared Pax: War and Peace in Rome's Golden Age.

Archaeologists and curators looked at the past through objects in conversations with Alice Roberts on Crypt; Festival stars delved into a collection of 101 objects that make up the neglected history of women in a special gala event featuring Julia Gillard, Helena KennedyMiriam Margolyes and Aditi Mittal; while lawyer Philippe Sands joined writers Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Selva Almada to launch Explorers, Dreamers and Thieves, a new collaboration between Hay Festival and the Santo Domingo Centre of Excellence for Latin American Research at the British Museum, published by Charco Press in May 2024.

Local history came to the fore as Hay resident Mary Morgan and historian Elizabeth Bingham shared secrets of local monuments; and audiences were invited to get interactive with local archaeology in a guided tour of the Snodhill Castle site.


Late nights at Hay Festival were given over to great music, comedy and entertainment. 

Live sets from The FontanasJools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra; brass band Perhaps Contraption; award-winning musician and composer Nitin Sawhney; folk-tinged acoustic pop with rising star Jasmine Jethwa; DJ of the Year-winner Smokin Jo; saxophonist Marcus Joseph; genre-splicing supergroup LYR, whose members include Poet Laureate Simon Armitage; and a unique evening of music and storytelling from musician and actor Johnny Flynn with nature writer Robert Macfarlane, kept the Festival buzzing with activity until late.

Audiences were encouraged to get musical as choir director Juliet Russell taught a song in an hour; Welsh radio DJ Huw Stephens explored the best music from Wales; Belize-born composer Errollyn Wallen shared stories from her life; King of Rockfield, Kingsley Ward MBE, and studio manager Lisa Ward talked about the legendary studio location.

Classical fans had much to enjoy through the week as four BBC Radio 3 lunchtime recitals at St Mary’s Church marked the centenary of Gabriel Fauré’s death, featuring Leonore Piano Trio, Charles Owen and Lawrence Power; and the Will Barnes Jazz Quartet presented their debut album, Source of the SevernPlus, Hay Music presented a series of events including performances from Hereford Chamber Choir, pianists Clare Hammond and the Fidelio Trio; and there were performances on site from favourites Hay Community Choir and the Welsh National Opera.

Unmissable one-off events blended great literature and music, including creator Anais Mitchell and UK cast of the Tony and Grammy award-winning musical Hadestown who performed excerpts, shared stories and answered questions; pianist Clare Hammond and actor Tama Matheson performed Lord Byron’s Don Juan; a panel or writers including Jeffrey Boakye, George the Poet and Aleema Gray reflected on music as a political and shaping force, and on six centuries of African musical contribution to the UK and the world; and authors Dylan Jones and Tiffany Murray discussed their memoirs, both captivating accounts of unusual lives in late 20th-century Britain, in which celebrities pop up regularly.

Laughter came in the form of new comedy shows from Sara PascoeJon RonsonRuby WaxAngela BarnesAdam Kay,Josh BerryGarth MarenghiAhir Shah, Julian Clary and Marcus Brigstocke; comedy club nights featured Stuart GoldsmithAnia Magliano, Shaparak Khorsandi, Laura Lexx and Lou Sanders; a special live recording of Jon Richardson and the Futurenauts with Amy LaméBlindboy on Topographia Hibernica; a series of Robin Ince Book Clubs; and late night Marcel Lucont’s Cabaret Fantastique featuring Rob DeeringSara Twister and Jon Udry.  

Two titans of the comedy scene – Helen Lederer and Doon Mackichan – shared their experiences from stage and screen; stand-up Aditi Mittal joined comedy writer Joel Morris and actor Julian Rhind-Tutt in conversation with Viv Groskop on the limits of comedy; and writers Dom Joly and Danny Wallace took a look at conspiracy theories. 

There was drama and performance as Judi Dench shared Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent alongside actor and director Brendan O’Hea; meanwhile playwright and novelist Michael Frayn discussed the art of storytelling with his daughter, screenwriter and novelist Rebecca Frayn, in an event chaired by his grandson, producer and filmmaker Jack Harries

The Platform offered a new space for young, emerging artists to share their work with Hay Festival audiences. Spanning a diverse range of art forms, The Platform aimed to elevate and develop outstanding creative artists at the start of their careers. 

Free pop-up performances around the site showcased local talent as students from Hereford College of Arts shared their latest production, Midlands-born Got 2 Sing Choir performed and local group Hay Shantymen returned.  


A series of Festival sessions encouraged audiences to get creative, including writing masterclasses with novelists Ingrid Persaud and Clover Stroud; poetry writing with former Poet Laureate and the Birmingham & Midland Institute’s Poet in Residence Roy McFarlane; and singing with the Welsh National Opera.

Art as an act of storytelling came to the fore as artist and stage designer Es Devlin shares An Atlas of Es Devlin; photographer Billie Charity joins Miss Drag UK-winner Boo La Croux in conversation on the art of drag in the farming community, chaired by Herefordshire farmer Ben Andrews; journalist Ros Atkins shared The Art of the Explanation; and architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick talked Humanise.

The joy of gardening took centre stage as gardeners Sue Kent and Sarah Raven shared their top tips; community gardener and designer Tayshan Hayden-Smith and writer Alan Heeks discussed the importance of greenery of all kinds; writer Olivia Laing moved between real and imagined gardens to interrogate the sometimes shocking cost of making paradise on earth; and Chair of the National Trust René Olivieri presented a special event with farmer and broadcaster  Kate Humble, conservationist and wildlife presenter on BBC2’s Springwatch Megan McCubbin, , and actor, writer and comedian Paul Whitehouse, on how we rediscover the power of connection with nature. 


A new series of events brought the flavours off the page for audiences in demonstrations and tastings featuring Gelf Alderson (Cooking with the River Cottage Chef); Marie Mitchell (Kin: Caribbean Recipes for the Modern Kitchen); Jane Parkinson (Wine & Food); Julius Roberts (The Farm Table); Honey & Co’s Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich; and a tour and tasting of UK small-producer cheese, exploring its history and culture, drawing on Ned Palmer’s A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles

Food writers Taras Grescoe and Pen Vogler discussed the history and future of food, from ancient Egyptian sourdough and medieval inns to Regency roast goose and post-war strawberries; chef Anna Jones presented Easy Wins; and two experts on the ancient tradition of fermentation – Pao-Yu Liu and James Read – explored this essential feature of diets around the world.  

River Cottage author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (How to Eat 30 Plants a Week: 100 Recipes to Boost Your Health and Energy) joined scientist Tim Spector (Food for Life) for a conversation on gut health; while chef Sam Cooper, gardener Huw Richards and forensic scientist and author Peter Wohlleben helped audiences take the first steps in their journeys to become more self-sufficient. 


Festival media partners broadcasted live from the Festival site in the Marquee space, including free broadcasts of favourite shows from BBC Sounds, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Asian Network, BBC Radio Wales andBBC Radio 1Extra, plus podcasts The TLS, and more.  


There was more than ever for families to enjoy at Hay Festival as a newly expanded site included a dedicated family area, featuring creative hubs, event venues and a family garden full of free activities to engage young minds.  

Festival events on stage inspired the next generation of readers and writers with new fiction from Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Cressida Cowell (Which Way Round the Galaxy), Jacqueline Wilson (The Girl Who Wasn’t There), Geri Halliwell-Horner (Rosie Frost and the Falcon Queen), Lauren Child (Clarice Bean: Smile), Oliver Jeffers (Begin Again), Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre (Adventuremice: Mice on the Moon), Alice Roberts (Wolf Road), Stephen & Anita Mangan(The Day I Fell Down the Toilet), Sir Lenny Henry (Clash of the Superkids), Jim Smith aka Waldo Pancake (How to be a Genius Kid), Sue Hendra (Supertato: Eviltato vs Superpea), Zeb Soanes (Peter the Cat’s Little Book of Big Words), Louie Stowell (Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Ruling the World), Jonny Duddle (Gigantosaurus), Abi Elphinstone (Ember Spark and the Thunder of Dragons), Ken Wilson-Max (Aqua Boy), Katya Balen (Foxlight), Jeffrey Boakye (Kofi and the Secret Radio Station), Jenny Pearson (The Incredible Record Smashers), AF Steadman (Skandar and the Chaos Trials), Alex Willmore(Spyceratops), Julian Clary and David Roberts (The Bolds), Sophy Henn (Happy Hills: Giant Danger Kittens), Ed Vere (The Elephant and the Sea), Rob Biddulph (Peanut Jones), Hartigan Browne (Cluedle: The Case of the Dumpleton Diamond), Ben Garrod (A Dog in Africa), Steve Antony (Cat Nap & Rainbowsaurus), Frank Cottrell-Boyce (The Wonder Brothers),Dermot O’Leary (Wings of Glory), Ruchira Gupta (I Kick and I Fly), Robin Stevens (The Ministry of Unladylike Activity 2: The Body in the Blitz), Katherine Rundell (Impossible Creatures), Laura Dockrill and Lauren Child (Grey), and David Baddiel (The Parent Agency). 

Teen readers gained inspiration from YA writers including Laura Bates (Sisters of Sword and Shadow), Alex Norris (How to Love), Jessie Yendle (Let’s Talk), Holly Jackson (The Reappearance of Rachel Price), Benjamin Dean (How to Die Famous), Danielle Jawando (If My Words Had Wings) and Krystal Sutherland (The Invocations). 

There were lively performances as Marcel Lucont offers Les Enfants TerriblesMichael Morpurgo and special guests shared Tales from ShakespeareMichael Rosen presented a morning of poetry; Simon Mole and Gecko offered their Dino-show; Hereford College of Arts perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The MusicalMC Grammar took to the stage; Andy Stanton and Carrie Quinlan shared Ask the Nincompoops; UK Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho presented his latest work; Mama G performs The Magic Bookmark; National Poet of Wales Hanan Issa joined special guests to share And I Hear Dragons; and The Repair Shop Teddy Bear Ladies offered Bartie Bristle and Other Stories

The world around us came into focus in science and history events for young readers featuring Hamza Yassin (Eco Quest), Jean Menzies (Goddesses and Heroines), Adam Kay and Henry Paker (Kay’s Incredible Inventions), Peter Wohlleben (Be a Nature Explorer!), Ben Martynoga (Explodapedia: Rewild), Dr Amir Khan (Little Experts: How Families Are Made), Greg Jenner (Totally Chaotic History: Ancient Egypt), Maggie Aderin-Pocock (Am I Made of Stardust?), Shelina Janmohamed(Story of Now: Let’s Talk about the British Empire), Jeffrey Boakye (Musical World), Nikita Gill (Animal Tales From India), Adam Henson (Curious Questions From Adam’s Farm), Preet Chandi (The Explorer’s Guide to Going Wild: Find Adventure Anywhere) and Jess French (The Animal Body Book).  

Young Festivalgoers were encouraged to get creative in the Make & Take Tent throughout the Festival, while there were workshops and interactive events with dynamic creatives Nia Morais, Julian Sedgwick and Chie Kutsuwada, Casi Wyn,and Sarah Coyle. 


The schools programme opened the Festival, bringing together writers and young readers for a series of inspiring interactive activities and conversations in person and online, 23–24 May, with support from the Welsh Government and the Rothschild Foundation.  

KS2 events on Thursday 23 May included writers Maz Evans, Katie & Kevin Tsang, Connor Allen, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, MG Leonard, Kiran Millwood- Hargrave, Lee Newbery, Jeff Kinney, Matt Goodfellow, Adam Rutherford, Tọlá Okogwuand Children's Laureate Wales 2023-2025 Alex Wharton

KS3/4 events on Friday 24 May featured writers Alex Wheatle, Jenny Valentine, Sarah Crossan, Phil Earle, Aneirin Karadog, Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Nicola Garrard, AM Dassu, Anthony Horowitz, Daniel Morden, Frances Hardinge and Manon Steffan Ros. Plus, a live recording of BBC Radio 4’s Front Row will spotlighted the power of literature in front of an audience of pupils.  

For those who couldn’t access the free events in person, sessions were also streamed free online, with closed captioning available at hayfestival.org/schools, and available free after the event at hayfestival.org/anytime (formerly Hay Player).