Thursday, April 18

Hay festival returns with its first in-person event for three years | Books

After two years online, the Hay festival has announced the full program for its first in-person spring literary festival since 2019.

This year the gathering that Bill Clinton once called “the Woodstock of the mind” will have more than 500 live events, welcoming Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah, Scotland’s prime minister Nicola Sturgeon and lockdown sensation Joe Wicks to its tents in the Welsh border town Hay- on-Wye.

Booker winners Damon Galgut and Bernardine Evaristo are among those in the lineup, along with Julian Barnes, Monica Ali and Deborah Levy.

And the author of A Poem for Every Day of the Year, Allie Esiri, is to present an afternoon of poetry with Inua Ellams, Stephen Fry, Damian Lewis and others.

Hay has also teamed up with Letters Live again, which runs events where remarkable letters from history are read by a diverse array of performers. Benedict Cumberbatch will be leading the all-star cast of readers to raise money for the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Now in its 35th year, this will be the first festival since Hay’s co-founder and former director Peter Florence resigned from his role after a bullying claim was upheld last year. He said at the time he was “incredibly proud” of what the festival had achieved during his years at the helm, and hoped it would continue to “go from strength to strength”.

The 11-day festival will take place from 26 May to 5 June, running across the specially extended Queen’s platinum jubilee bank holiday weekend. The occasion will be marked by a series of conversations on the theme “Women & Power”, with speakers including Sturgeon, Labor MP Jess Phillips and former president of the supreme court Lady Hale.

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Another series of talks labeled “Imagine…” will see writers and thinkers including Elif Shafak, Simon Schama and AC Grayling discuss global issues, focusing on four themes: democracy, equality, science and nature. Meanwhile the 10@10 series will showcase a different debut writer at 10am each day, and Guardian Live will be presenting a trio of events.

As well as ideas, there will be music from Corinne Bailey Rae, Kate Rusby and Danilo Pérez, and a platinum jubilee concert by Rebecca Evans, Leah-Marian Jones, Trystan Llŷr Griffiths and Bryn Terfel. Attendees will also be able to enjoy comedy from Bill Bailey, Nina Conti and Simon Amstell.

Hay festival international director Cristina Fuentes La Roche said: “It’s been 35 years since writers and readers started sharing their stories together in our festival tents and we have never needed these stories more urgently.”

She added: “During the day our conversations and debates will tackle some of the biggest issues of the moment, and in the evenings we’ll laugh and dance together again.”

Hay festival 2022 is supported by lead sponsors Baillie Gifford and Visit Wales. Tickets are on sale to Friends of Hay festival now, and public booking opens on 8 April. Digital passes, which will offer a curated selection of livestreamed events from the festival, will go on sale on 2 May.

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