Set on the edge of the majestic Brecon Beacons National Park, the annual Hay Festival might be the only event where you can find yourself reclining on deckchairs to the strains of live folk music one moment, and enthralled by gripping talks from leading writers, environmentalists, and Nobel Prize winners the next. Now in its 36th year, the literary festival is back at Hay Castle for 2023, once again drawing the greatest minds from science, politics, literature and more. Here’s everything to expect from the Hay Festival 2023, across over 500 events and 11 days.
Guide To The Hay Festival 2023
What Is Hay Festival?
Hay Festival is an annual literary festival and festival of ideas, drawing readers and writers together to inspire, examine and entertain. Situated on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, expect to hear from world renowned and early career writers across fiction and non-fiction alongside policy makers, pioneers and innovators exploring global issues and big ideas across eight stages. There are also school days and family events and, come nightfall, the festival makes way for music, comedy and entertainment.
‘This Hay Festival edition is a beacon, an international symbol of hope for the collective, creative imagination and a better future,’ says Hay Festival CEO Julie Finch. ‘Our latest programme offers “11 days of different” in the Brecon Beacons National Park, creating a space where great minds won’t always think alike, and where imaginations are free to roam. During the day, our conversations will grapple and engage with the world around us, seeking solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our times while inspiring the next generation of world-changers. And in the evening we’ll laugh, dance and exchange stories in a place like nowhere else. Join us.’
When Is Hay Festival 2023?
This year, the Hay Festival will take place from 25 May–4 June 2023.
What’s On At Hay Festival 2023?
With music from the likes of The Proclaimers, Levellers, New York Brass Band and DJ Max Galactic and comedy from Dara Ó Briain, Natalie Haynes and Tom Allen – as well as a special panel of Palestinian comedians, called PalCom – days at Hay Festival 2023 will be filled with events, including…
Expect to hear from the likes of:
- Oleksandra Matviichuk, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner, on the global fight for democracy
- Simon Armitage (Never Good With Horses) looking back on his career
- Journalist Lyse Doucet with historians David Olusoga and Sarah Churchwell on politics and hope
- Susie Dent sharing An Emotional Dictionary
- Broadcaster James Naughtie on his third novel, The Spy Across the Water
- Journalist Jeremy Bowen on The Making of the Modern Middle East – back by popular demand.
Thinkers in Residence
Laura Bates, Will Gompertz, David Olusoga, Charlotte Williams and Jack Edwards draw on artists and innovators to explore the world’s largest issues today, creating new platforms to grow ideas.
Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year
Marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, anthologist Allie Esiri returns to Hay Festival to celebrate Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year, with an all-star cast including Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Goodman-Hill, Jessica Raine, Tony Robinson, Simon Schama, Jordan Stephens and Samuel West.
A schedule of free events – including live show recordings and workshops – from across the BBC includes:
- Greg Jenner unearths the history of Folklore and Magic in Medieval Ireland with comedian Catherine Bohart and historian Dr Gillian Kenny in You’re Dead to Me
- Andy Zaltzman and guests find the funny in the week with a recording of The News Quiz
- Jon Ronson discusses Things Fell Apart with special guest Dolly Alderton
- The cast of The Archers perform a script-in-hand preview of that evening’s episode for the first time ever
- Danny Robins joined by writer and comedian David Baddiel for Uncanny
- The team behind the I’m Not A Monster podcast share an inside look at The Shamima Begum Story
- BBC Culture celebrating the world’s greatest children’s books
- BBC Academy offering creative workshops for hundreds of young people with sessions themed around comedy and music
- BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester Introducing… bringing local talent to the Festival for an evening of performances.
‘We are delighted to be expanding our work with the BBC this year,’ says Hay Festival CEO Julie Finch, ‘welcoming Festival favourites from BBC Radio 4, Radio 3, Radio Wales and Radio Hereford & Worcester alongside new programming with 5 Live and BBC Academy, opening access to Festival inspiration further. Join us on site or from afar; everyone is welcome.’
Ukraine’s largest literary festival comes to Wales, co-curating events throughout the Festival to spotlight great Ukrainian storytelling and the state of Ukraine today.
Open Books, Open Minds
A star-studded line-up of authors discuss their latest works, including:
- Margaret Atwood (Old Babes in the Wood)
- Barbara Kingsolver (Demon Copperhead)
- Eleanor Catton (Birnam Wood)
- Max Porter (Shy)
- Caleb Azumah Nelson (Small Worlds)
- Sebastian Barry (Old God’s Time)
- Jojo Moyes (Someone Else’s Shoes)
- Ben Okri (Tiger Work)
- Three writers from the fifth iteration of Granta magazine’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’
- Novelists Margaret Atwood, Elif Shafak and Douglas Stuart join forces to mark the launch of Salman Rushdie’s Victory City
- And brothers Richard Osman (The Bullet that Missed) and Mat Osman (The Ghost Theatre) in conversation.
Live Recording of Dua Lipa’s Service 95
Music icon Dua Lipa will be joined by Booker Prize-winner Douglas Stuart for a special live recording of her podcast, Service95. Dua will be joined by Booker Prize Foundation director Gaby Wood about her own love of books.
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Five Years Of #Merky Books
Stormzy will celebrate five years of his #Merky Books imprint in a special event.
This new series pioneers the use of civic space and engagement in exploring dynamic solutions to regenerate the planet, with the support of Hive Energy. Hosted by sustainability entrepreneur Andy Middleton, topics to be covered include energy, health, food, mobility, water, fashion, biodiversity and housing.
Hay Pride presents a spotlight on LGBTQI+ storytelling with Travis Alabanza (None of the Above), star of BBC’s RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Cheddar Gorgeous, and Booker Prize-winner Douglas Stuart.
Literature Across Frontiers
Two writers from Quebec, Canada (Louis Hamelin and Juliana Léveillé-Trudel) will be joined by two writers from Wales (Siân Melangell Dafydd and Llŷr Gwyn Lewis) to discuss their work in the context of the ecosystems they write in, natural and cultural.
Hay on Earth Forum
This year’s rendition of the annual Hay on Earth Forum explores food production and climate change, including a range of activities aimed at mitigating the Festival’s own environmental impacts.
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How To Get Tickets
Guests do not need a ticket to enter the festival site, but you do need to book individual tickets for each event you would like to attend. Hay Festival recommends: ‘To avoid disappointment, it is best to book some events in advance, but there may also be availability for some events during the festival itself, so you can add to your schedule at the box office when you arrive.’
Though many events are free – including the BBC Marquee broadcasts – a number of Hay Festival events are ticketed, so do check before you arrive.
hayfestival.com / 01497 822 629
Featured image by Sam Hardwick.