Running from the 25th May to 4th June, the Hay Festival is one of the biggest book events in the UK. The main festival takes place in Hay-on-Wye, a mere 15 miles down the road from Certainly Wood HQ, but we were surprised to learn that the organisation behind it has also created more than 120 similar festivals globally.
It was founded in 1987 around a kitchen table in Wales by Peter Florence, his father Norman and his mother Rhoda. A year later, the first Hay Festival took place in a back room of the British Legion Club and a tent in the garden of Kilverts Pub in Hay-on-Wye. Nevertheless, 2,200 people attended.
By 1989, American playwright Arthur Miller was the guest of honour – the first question put to him by the audience at the Festival was not about his celebrated works, but about his famous ex-lover, Marilyn Monroe.
Four years down the line, Bob Geldof, American singer and actress Lauren Bacall, Edna O’Brien, Tony Benn, Michael Palin, Brian Cox and Sue Townsend were the major headliners.
Since then, the list of appearances reads like a Who’s Who of Literature, Entertainment and Politics.
The main aim of any Hay Festival is to bring readers and writers together to share stories and ideas. The events create a unique blend of exacting conversations and entertainment, aimed at people of all ages and showcasing the latest thinking in the arts and sciences.
From Nobel Prize-winners and global policy makers, to award-winning novelists and popular entertainers; speakers and performers at the festivals over the years have included such illustrious names as Maya Angelou, Bill Clinton, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Hugh Masekela, Jimmy Carter, Seamus Heaney, Zadie Smith, Tom Stoppard, Paul McCartney, Desmond Tutu, Jane Fonda and Al Gore.
This year will be Hay Festival’s 30th anniversary and will feature over 500 speakers across 600 events in its 12-day run. Last year around 250k people attended.
It takes place in the dairy meadows just outside of Hay-on-Wye – “the town of books” – a picturesque market town nestled beneath the Black Mountains and close to the Brecon Beacons National Park.
There is no entry fee, but there are ticketed events within the ten tented venues. There’s plenty to see and do including the Hay Festival Bookshop, the HAYDAYS courtyard and a range of market stalls, cafes and restaurants. HAYDAYS includes talks from the best children’s and YA writers together with a range of fun activities that promote creativity and discovery in the ‘Make and Take’ and the ‘Mess Tent’.
There is a lot more to the Festival these days than just books. Music features heavily as does food and drink. You can enjoy yoga or take part in beer or wine tastings. Students and staff from Hereford College of Arts also have a vital role to play this year, running workshops covering animation, illustration, photography and textiles.
There are several restaurants as well as numerous stalls featuring the likes of the Woodland Trust, Greenpeace and RSPB. So if you’re looking for a great day out that also sparks the grey matter, the Hay Festival is just the ticket!
Find out more by visiting www.hayfestival.com