Margaret Atwood, David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson are amongst those headlining the Hay Festival, which is set to respond to the world's “urgent need of empathy”, according to organisers.
The festival, which runs from 24th May to 3rd June, will also partner with the Bradford Literature Festival for the first time, launching a pupil exchange programme alongside a series of specially curated events “celebrating the power of culture to help us understand the lives of others”.
The scheme will see 10 school pupils from Year 9 from Bradford attend Hay Festival in Wales for two nights in May, while 10 students of the same age from Powys and Herefordshire will attend Bradford Literature Festival in Yorkshire in June. The exchange aims to “expand and enrich both groups’ life experiences, encouraging engagement and empathy, and using culture as a powerful transformational tool”.
Seven events will be run in partnership with Bradford throughout the Hay programme, featuring authors such as Elif Shafak speaking on the philosophy of poet and theologian Rumi, and Brontës expert Michael Stewart discussing the sisters in relation to “bad men”.
The Hay programme for the 32st edition of the festival also features Jilly Cooper, Morpurgo, Judith Kerr, Germaine Greer, Marian Keyes, Rose McGowan and many more. Altogether more than 600 panelists will take part in 800 events featuring arts, sciences, current affairs as well as music, comedy and entertainment. The details were announced on Monday (26th March) with public booking opening on Thursday (29th March).
Hay’s organisers suggested the programme would respond to a tumultuous time which requires “serious thought and serious work”.
The festival’s director, Peter Florence, said the world is "facing alarming insecurities and crises".
"We need to approach the complexity of those challenges with all the hope and courage we can muster," he said. "We need to hear the wisest voices, not the loudest. And we need the gift that novelists and poets give – the ability to imagine the world from someone else’s point of view.
Florences believes "there has never been a time when we were in such urgent need of empathy".
Aine Venables, education manager at Hay, described the new partnership with Bradford as an “enriching” one.
“We’re delighted to partner Bradford Literature Festival to welcome more young people to experience Hay Festival and the wider rural experience of the Brecon Beacons National Park, the urban to rural exchange will be enriching for both groups,” she said.
Bradford Literature Festival director Syima Aslam in 2014 and last year it engaged with more than 50,000 people – she hopes this first partnership with Hay could be the beginning of a "groundbreaking, longer-term partnership" between the two organisations.
"Bradford Literature Festival was founded with the aim of giving our district’s children and young people opportunities not only to improve literacy and engagement with literature, but to offer access to the arts and culture more broadly," Aslam said, who believes this will "ultimately open the doors to new experiences that will inspire our young people for a lifetime".
She added: “The exchange between the students of Powys and Herefordshire, and Bradford, perfectly encapsulates the ambitious, enquiring spirit of BLF more broadly, and we hope that the return visit from Hay will have a similarly enriching effect on our young visitors in the summer.”
For more information, visit hayfestival.org.