Hay on Wye book festival goes on line - and it's free

Hay-on-Wye Festival is to book lovers and writers what Glastonbury is to pop and rock fans.

It has celebrity and kudos, glamour and gravitas as Hollywood’s finest rubs shoulders with Booker Prize winners.

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Literary heavyweights mix it with best-sellers - not that one means you cannot be the other - though a book snob may argue otherwise!

There is no need for despair, this year, as though the ‘real’ Hay is cancelled, Hay Festival Digital is going online, free to access.

The main programme runs from Friday May 22 to Sunday May 31 and features free live broadcasts and interactive events from more than 100 award-winning writers, global policy makers, historians, pioneers and innovators, celebrating the best new fiction and non-fiction, and interrogating some of the biggest issues of our time.

It will be hosted on the crowdcast platform to enable questions and comments.

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Donations totalling £350,000 have helped it go ahead in this digital format.

Director Peter Florence said: “It looked alarming, but festival-goers are generous and imaginative in their response to crisis.”

However the financial blow to the Powys town cannot be under-estimated. The festival brings an economic boost of about £28 million every year to an area made up mostly of smaller, independent businesses and traders.

This year’s programme is no less star-studded with Benedict Cumberbatch and Helena Bonham Carter all set to appear. Authors Hilary Mantel, Roddy Doyle, Ali Smith and Sandi Toksvig will be among the writers previewing their new work.

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Mr Florence highlighted the “most-extraordinary cast” set to celebrate the life of William Wordsworth, including festival president Stephen Fry, Tom Hollander and Jonathan Pryce.

Hay usually sells  275,000 tickets and there have been more than 200,000 digital registrations for this year’s event so far.

Across Wales, Covid-19 has put paid to numerous live events, with the Welsh Government calculating the direct economic impact on those it supports at about £33 million.

That may mean digital alternatives will be here to stay. “The model that we used to have, of flying in writers and thinkers and artists around the world, that’s that’s not going to come back anytime soon.

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“And we as producers, the artists as creators, and the audience as participants, will all adapt to whatever new reality is possible.”

Programme highlights:

Wordsworth 250: A Night In With The WordsworthsFriday May 22, 6.30pm - 7.25pmSimon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Monty Don, Lisa Dwan, Inua Ellams, Stephen Fry, Tom Hollander, Toby Jones, Helen McCrory, Jonathan Pryce and Vanessa RedgraveA gala performing of William’s poetry and Dorothy’s journals begins the 250th anniversary celebrations with a superstar cast reading work that will include Intimations of Immortality, Daffodils, lines composed both Upon Westminster Bridge and Above Tintern Abbey, The Prelude and We Are Seven.

Stephen Fry: TroyFriday May 22 at 9pmThe actor and author previews scenes from the third part of his Greek trilogy, which follows Mythos and Heroes. Q&A afterwards.

Maggie O’Farrell talks to Peter Florence about her latest book Hamnet, Saturday May 23 from 1pm - 1.45pmShortlisted for the Women’s Prize.On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

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Ali Smith: The Beginning Of The And, A Hay Festival ExclusiveMonday May 25 at 6.30pmA meditation on continuance, by prize-winning novelist Ali Smith, filmwork by Sarah Wood.

Tori Amos talks to Dylan Jones: Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story Of Hope, Change And CourageMonday May 25 at 9pmSince the release of her first, career-defining solo album Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos has been one of the music industry’s most enduring and ingenious artists.

Hannah Rothschild talks to Rosie Boycott: Fictions: House Of TrelawneyTuesday May 26 at 1pmThe new novel from the author of The Improbability of Love, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction, is a mischievous satire of English money and class.

Simon Schama: Return Of The Tribes. Nationalism In The Age Of Global DisasterWednesday May 27 at 4pmThe historian explores the isolations and protections of our current situation in a time of Coronavirus, and reflects on the clear and present dangers to society.Roddy Doyle talks to Peter Florence: Fictions: Love - A Preview

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Wednesday May 27 at 7.30pmA festival special preview of the new novel published later this year by the Booker-winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and the Barrytown Trilogy.

Jules Hudson: Escape To The CountryThursday May 28 at 2.30pmFor more than a decade, the BBC’s hit rural property series Escape to the Country has helped thousands of would-be country dwellers do just that. Now presenter Jules Hudson shares his experience of seeking out captivating country homes

Hilary Mantel talks to Peter Florence: The Mirror And The LightSaturday May 30 at 2.30pmThe novelist discusses the final volume of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Both Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies won the Booker Prize.You can hear Hilary Mantel discuss Bring Up the Bodies at Hay 2012 on Hay Player.

Allie Esiri, Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West: A Journey Through A Year Of Shakespeare (Or What You Will)Saturday May 30 at 5.30pmTake a journey through the year with Shakespeare, and join curator Allie Esiri and acclaimed actors for this illuminating celebration of the greatest writer in the English language

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Anne Enright talks to Peter Florence: Fictions: ActressSunday May 31 at 1pmCapturing the glamour of post-war America and the shabbiness of 1970s Dublin, Actress is an intensely moving, disturbing novel by Booker Prize-winner Anne Enright about mothers and daughters and the men in their lives.

Sandi Toksvig talks to Lennie Goodings: Between the StopsSunday May 31 at 5.30pmThe View of My Life from the Top of the Number 12 Bus: the long-awaited memoir from the star of QI and The Great British Bake Off.

Log on to https://www.hayfestival.com/wales/home and go to How to Register video to sign-up.

The events will remain on the crowdcast platform for 24 hours and will then be available on Hay Player.

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