The mecca for everyone with an interest in anything literary, or really, anything at all. The festival is based in the bohemian town of Hay-on-Wye, aka ‘The Town of Books’. Established in 1987, Hay-On-Wye Festival is still thriving, selling over 250,000 tickets every year. It has now expanded outside Hay itself - you can attend a Hay Festival in countries abroad including Spain, Peru, Denmark and Mexico.
The town is just north of the ‘Black Mountains’ and was originally just a small market town until 1962 when Richard Booth decided he had to save the local economy and set up a bookshop (which is one of the greatest in the town today). He set off to America – where many of the libraries were closing down - bringing with him the strongest men from Hay, who helped ship the forgotten books back to the small Welsh town. His bookshop was an immediate success, which led the other townsfolk to follow suit, and thus ‘The Town of Books’ was established.
2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the Hay Literary Festival. This coincided with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his theses to the door at Wittenberg. In celebration, international thinkers such as Stephen Fry and Elif Shafak proposed their reformation of institutions and authorities to re-imagine the world.
Letters Live will be returning for the fifth time in 2018, following sold out events in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. This year, the all-star performances name Benedict Cumberbatch as a reader. Each event celebrates an unforgettable way to celebrate the joy, pain, wisdom and humour of the most intimate literary form: the letter.
Philip Pullman, the novelist, discusses his essay collection Dæmon Voices and his novel La Belle Sauvage, winner of the 2018 British Book Awards.
Margaret Attwood is a Canadian author whose 1985 dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, has never been more relevant. With the second series of the acclaimed TV adaptation returning to British TV screens, she’ll be talking to Hay Festival director Peter Florence about the book and its legacy.
There will be a special festival bus service linking Hay-on-Wye with trains and coaches at Hereford's train and bus stations and Worcester Crowngate Bus Station runs for the duration of the Festival. There will also be regular shuttle bus services will be running between the Festival site and Hay town centre, and between the Festival site and local villages.
To arrive by rail, the nearest station is Hereford, twenty miles away. There is a regular, direct festival shuttle bus link between Hereford rail and bus stations and the festival site, which connects with train arrivals and departures.
You can also put on your wellies and walk; the Festival site is a short five-minute walk along Brecon Road into the centre of Hay. For the more adventurous, there is a wealth of challenging, enjoyable, breath-taking and health-inducing walks to be had around Hay.
Hay-on-Wye is cycle-friendly, you can hire bikes in town at Drover Cycles on Forest Road, where you will also find Drover's fully stocked bike shop and workshop open 7 days a week for repairs and servicing. A cycle park is available on the festival site with bike stands kindly provided by Drover Cycles.
Hay on Wye and the surrounding area has some superb B&Bs, hotels, cottages and campsites in some of the UK’s most glorious and spectacular countryside. Accommodation can be at a premium during the ten days of the Festival and many rooms are booked up a year in advance, so it’s always worth booking early. But, there are always beds to be found and there are some excellent campsites within walking distance of the festival site.
For more information about Hay festival, visit hayfestival.com.