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Hay 2017

A photograph of one of the lawn areas of the Hay Festival, in which there is a tent, a big Hay logo, and several people reading

Every spring the Hay Festival commandeers the town of Hay-On-Wye, the ‘town of books’. For 11 days from late May to early June, the festival site is abuzz with people.

It’s very inclusive. Many residents of the town get involved – I would assume all the residents like books; you’d be completely out of luck if you didn’t. Likely many join the festival itself but what is particularly great is the way the home-owners along the road running between the town and the festival site make use of their properties; front lawns and driveways become pop-up cafes and clothes shops, people sell breakfast and fish and chips cooked outside.

And the festival is incredibly diverse. People of all backgrounds, ages, colours, religions, fashion styles and, something I noticed particularly this year, abilities. In a world where disability is still ‘other’, Hay is a wonderful outlier and equaliser, and for the past two years now, at least, there have been absolutely spot-on talks about autism and acceptance.

A photograph of the rows of fiction books in the Oxfam tent

Some of those who set up shop at the festival this year were the Quakers, the Woodland Trust, a cable tidy company, a furniture maker, a dessert group, and a university. The usual Oxfam bookshop is in a fairly large tent, at least when compared to the other shops, and then the main Hay festival bookshop is set up at the back of the site, devoting its place to the books of the current festival’s authors. And of course there are comedy sets and concerts, this year including Andy Parsons, Reginald D Hunter, Amy McDonald, and Amanda Palmer.

There are plenty of places to eat on site and then there are all the places in town. The town is decked out in bunting, effectively joining it to the festival. The main attractions here are the bookshops – there are many – and the overall beauty of the place. Sadly Hay Castle is currently closed but you can walk around it, and Barbara Erskine’s book on the place is a suitable substitute.

This year it felt as though more time had been given to political sessions, understandably. Due to recent events in the UK, there was a fair police presence and extra security in general. The camaraderie at Hay increased.

Something the festival has been promoting this year is the latest international festival in Aarhus, Denmark. I mentioned it last year as I’d got talking to people involved in it, but this will be its first time running. Aarhus will be a children’s literature festival and a couple of anthologies of short stories were released early in the 11 days. I’m working on a post about the books and the related events and information and will share it once it’s finished.

A photograph of one of the lawns at the Hay Festival

The last things I should mention here are the Hay, Brecon and Talgrath Sanctuary for Refugees which had a place at the festival, and the festival’s funding of the town’s library. Hay Festival has effectively taken on the responsibility for the library remaining open. Library hours have been cut but it’s still there.

Have you ever been to a festival, whether literary or otherwise?



June 5, 2017, 4:48 pm

This sounds like a wonderful place to visit! I haven’t been to a book festival, but I have once been to the Cowes festival on the Isle of Wight and Goodwood: Festival of Speed :-)

Jenny @ Reading the End

June 6, 2017, 1:15 am

That looks amaaaaaaaazing! Look at all those books!



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