The Hay Festival has been cancelled owing to the coronavirus outbreak with organisers saying it is now in “immediate financial jeopardy” and has 10 days to raise emergency funds.
Director Peter Florence said last week the festival would still go ahead. However, following the government's new public health guidelines, there was little choice but to cancel the event.
Refunds for tickets are being made available but, with 70% of income derived from tickets and sales, the cancellation comes at the time of “maximum exposure” for the organistion, which had committed to large infrastructure costs, it said.
A £150,000 GoFundMe page has now been set up to help support the event's immediate future. Organisers said this would provide an emergency fund, contributing to a larger fundraising target. By 9.30am on 20th March, less than 24 hours after the appeal was launched, over £39,000 had been raised with one anonymous donor pledging £2,500.
Florence said: “We regret deeply that our annual gathering of readers and writers and friends won’t take place in May, as it has for 33 years. As we face these coming weeks of uncertainty and isolation we will work hard to carry forward our spirit of togetherness, and to share stories and ideas. “
Other ways to support the organisation are available on the festival website. Donors will be recognised as official “Haymakers” and credited on a commemorative board displayed at every festival edition to follow.
Florence said: “As an organisation we now face a stark reality. We have 10 days to raise the funds we need to support us in the coming months and secure Hay Festival 2021 and a time when we can again celebrate together and tell stories of these times. Whatever you can spare will make a big difference. Every donation adds up. Thank you, Haymakers, for listening in our hour of need.”
The 33rd edition of the spring Festival was due to take place from 21st to 31st May and featuring writers and including Stephen Fry, Hilary Mantel, Ali Smith, Afua Hirsch and Jung Chang.
The festival's other global events are currently unaffected.