The current pandemic is forcing events and festivals to cancel in order to keep people safe and socially distanced, so many of these events are moving themselves online and going digital. Hay Festival, one of the UK’s best-known literary festivals is one of many literary events to join the trend and create a virtual version of their usual festival.
The 33rd Hay Festival Literary event would have been held in Powys, however, due to current lockdown restrictions, the festival will be free to all and will be broadcast online from 18th to 31st May. Hay-on-Wye would usually be welcoming thousands of visitors to their internationally-renowned festival this month but instead they will be welcoming them online in a two-week long digital festival.
The stars gracing own screens for the digital Hay Festival include; Benedict Cumberbatch, Helena Bonham Carter and Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. Authors Hilary Mantel, Roddy Doyle, Ali Smith and Sandi Toksvig are among many writers who will be previewing their new work. While Hay Festival president Stephen Fry will join Tom Hollander, Toby Jones, Helen McCrory, Jonathan Pryce, Vanessa Redgrave, and Benedict Cumberbatch to celebrate the life of William Wordsworth.
Alongside these fiction and literary names, the topics of this year’s Hay Festival will include world affairs, global health and, of course, the Covid-19 pandemic. The speakers will include, the former chief medical officer Sally Davies and health expert Devi Sridhar, who previously delivered a talk at Hay two years ago discussing the possibility of a global pandemic. Nobel Prize-winning physicist James Peebles and teenage activist Dara McAnulty will host talks on science and climate change. While Pulitzer prize-winning author and former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power will present a talk on world affairs.
What’s more, there will also be a series of broadcasts for school-children from 18th to 22nd May featuring Children’s Laureate and author of the How to Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell.
Welsh Minister for International Relations Eluned Morgan said of the digital Hay Festival, “Wales’ summer events will of course be greatly missed this year, but we are delighted to support the Hay Festival’s innovative programme [which] will also secure further opportunities to reach a wider target audience.”