The Hay Festival in Wales will not go ahead as a physical event this year, and will instead roll interactive broadcasts in its 26th May to 6th June run.
The festival organisers are planning a series of conversations, debates, workshops and performances online, with over 200 guests, kicking off with the inaugural Hay Festival Opening Night Gala on Wednesday 26th May.
The full programme will be announced at the end of April, but the festival has outlined some of its plans. Festival conversations will mark a series of key 2021 anniversaries and moments: one year on from the killing of George Floyd, a three-part Festival series will look at racism and the systemic changes we need to see in the UK and around the world; 300 years since Great Britain appointed its first prime minister, a series of panels explore leadership and democracy today; ahead of COP26, the Festival’s Hay-on-Earth programme will spotlight what’s at stake; meanwhile 200 years since the death of John Keats, poets and performers will offer contemporary responses to his work; and the Festival will share the next generation of innovators changing the world in a series of conversations with debut writers.
Daily festival lectures will offer thought leaders and experts space to dive deeper into their chosen subjects, including the Hay Festival Friends Lecture in honour of Festival supporters; there will be annual sessions commemorating Aneurin Bevan, Christopher Hitchens, Raymond Williams and Anthea Bell; and the inaugural Jan Morris Lecture to commemorate the Festival favourite who died last year will be given.
Hay Festival Creative Wales International Fellow 2020-21, poet and writer Mererid Hopwood, will also be joining the Wales line-up to celebrate the Welsh language.
Each morning will begin with sessions for young people and families, while the Programme for Schools will be streamed to pupils across the UK.
Christopher Bone, festival publicity director, said: “The support for Hay Festival over the past year has been overwhelming, with our shared trust in writers and their stories carrying us all through. Our digital events have brought some of the most exciting writers and thinkers of our time to millions worldwide and we will continue to meet this need for conversation and connection, safely and responsibly, with an innovative spring programme to offer hope, inspiration and entertainment. While it won’t be possible to do this with the usual crowds of book lovers joining us in person, we will once more reimagine the world together online. Please join us.”
Hay Festival Wales 2021 is supported by the Festival’s lead sponsors Visit Wales and Baillie Gifford. While events are free to attend, donations to Hay Festival Foundation will be welcomed throughout at hayfestival.org/donate to secure the Festival for generations to come. Michelle McLeod, sponsorship manager at Baillie Gifford, said: “Hay Festival was propelled into the digital world at short notice last year and, although many of us long for the experience of live events, the digital festival will once again offer people from across the globe access to remarkable conversations with leading authors and thinkers that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to hear.”
Meanwhile co-founder and festival director Peter Florence remains suspended, as he has been since last autumn, the festival confirmed. Caroline Michel, chair of the festival board, reiterated that the organisation is "not liberty to offer any further comment on personnel issues until this matter is resolved."