The Hay Festival has agreed to continue to fund part of Hay-on-Wye Library’s operating costs offering a “short-term fix for a long-term problem".
The festival's organisers have agreed to help the library following a county council review of 11 branch libraries according to the BBC. Powys council said budget cuts meant it now had until the end of December to agree the future of the library in the town, made famous worldwide by the annual literary festival.
After news of its support broke, a Hay Festival spokesperson said a “good local library should not be a luxury”.
“Good libraries are not just buildings filled with shelves of books. They are doorways to the past and to the future, to wonder and joy, and lives lived in other shoes," the spokesperson said. “A good local library should not be a luxury. It is a right. It is essential that communities of all shapes and sizes have access to them.”
The spokesperson added that the funding offered only a brief respite to a wider problem: “That Hay-on-Wye’s library faces closure is alarming. If the ‘town of books’ is at risk, what hope does anywhere else have? The festival's financial support is a short-term fix for a long-term problem, which we will continue to seek solutions to within our community.”
In February last year Powys Council agreed a three-year budget which included savings of around £27m, leading to a consultation on library savings to which almost 650 residents responded. The council’s plans to slash money for the library was slammed by authors including Joanne Harris and Kathy Lette as “blasphemous” and “disastrously short sighted”. The town's residents were initially given until 31st October 2016 to outline to the council a "viable" plan of how they intended to raise the money needed each year to run their library. According to the Hereford Times, festival organisers contributed around £7,000 of the overall £37,500 running costs needed to keep the library open.
The Hay Festival has also announced that for the first time this year, every primary and secondary school in Wales will have free online access to the event, due to an initiative in partnership with the Welsh Government. The Schools Programme events will be broadcast to every school in Wales. Educational packs have been sent to all the country’s state schools to support learning around the festival.
Aine Venables, the festival's education manager, said the iniatitive would be “transformative”. She said: “Giving schools the chance to hear some of the best writers of today is central to our work. This year, following higher than ever demand for our Schools Programme, and thanks to the support of the Welsh Government, we are thrilled to live-stream our events to schools across the country. Reading, and engaging with writers, can be transformative for young people – it is wonderful to share the Hay Festival experience digitally.”
Welsh cabinet secretary for education, Kirsty Williams, said: “It’s fantastic that more schoolchildren than ever before are able to experience the buzz surrounding Hay Festival."
The event celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. It runs from 25th May to 4th June.