Hay Festival Wales closes after record year

Hay Festival 2019 closed Sunday 2 June after 600 award-winning writers, global policy makers, performers, pioneers and innovators joined readers from around the world in events across 11 days.

Sessions can be rediscovered online at bbc.co.uk/hayfestival and via the Festival’s audio and video subscription service, Hay Player, at hayfestival.org/hayplayer.

Speakers in the programme included Arundhati Roy, Ian McEwan, Jeanette Winterson, Steven Pinker, Jo Dunkley, Carole Cadwalladr, Linda Geddes, Paul Dolan, Caroline Criado Perez, Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig, Matt Haig, Jo Brand, Michelle Paver, Jacqueline Wilson, Maxine Peake, Max Porter, Amitav Ghosh, Siri Hustvedt, Leila Slimani, Eric Vuillard, Kit de Waal, Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, Simon Armitage, Mia Couto, Germaine Greer, Keir Starmer, David Olusoga, Serhii Plokhy, Joanna Lumley, Angela Gallop, David Lammy, Fintan O’Toole, Emily Maitlis, Dolly Alderton, Michael Pollan, Mary Robinson, Robert Macfarlane, Noel Fitzpatrick, Monty Don, Ezra Furman, Jo Whiley, Mary Beard, Fi Glover, Jane Garvey, Nick Robinson and Greg James.

278,000 tickets were sold to Hay Festival 2019 (up 5,000 on 2018) with attendees from over 40 countries, ranging from Argentina to China. Festival book sales were up 2.5% with top-sellers being Heroic Failure by Fintan O’Toole (adults) and Matt Millz by Harry Millz (children’s).

A new international Hay Festival project launched – Europa 28 – bringing together prominent female authors, thinkers, writers and scientists – one participant from each EU country, across genres and generations – to discuss their visions for the future of Europe, culminating at a new festival in the upcoming European Capital of Culture, Rijeka, Croatia, in June 2020.

Other major festival projects came to fruition, including the launch of Trans.MISSION II with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the release of the Festival’s #BooksToInspire selections, and the opening of submissions to the Hay Festival and Eccles Centre Writer’s Award.

Meanwhile, major global anniversaries were marked through the week, including Da Vinci 500, Rembrandt 350, Kindertransport 80 years on, Stonewall 50, and Tiananmen Square 30 years later; a range of milestones in the children’s book world: Elmer and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt at 30, The Gruffalo at 20, and 20 years of the Children’s Laureate; in addition, winners of The Bookseller’s YA Book Prize, New Welsh Writing Award, and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction were revealed.

The Festival’s education initiatives reached the widest audiences yet. The free Programme for Schools on Thursday 23 May and Friday 24 May was attended by 9,200 pupils with thousands more live-streaming online, while a series of projects encouraged wider accessibility, including the Beacons Project, free tickets for students in higher education, a student exchange with Bradford Literary Festival, a day for adoptive families run with The Family Place, and Hay Compass, a special space on site to learn and discover for 16-25-year-olds, with free access to inspiring speakers.

Events were streamed to libraries across the UK via The British Library’s Living Knowledge Network on Saturday 25 May, and writers reached a wider audience via the enhanced BBC partnership that saw live recordings for BBC Arts online, BBC Sounds, iPlayer, TV and radio shows on site, including BBC World, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 2, BBC Two’s Front Row Late, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio H&W and BBC Asian Network’s Big Debate.

Director of Hay Festival, Peter Florence, said: “It’s been 11 days full of hope – hope for connection, for kindness and for progress. There’s been a welcome generosity in the debates, a willingness to listen and to move forward together. And the stories have ranged across the world, and deep into our selves.”

Journalist Fintan O’Toole said: “I always think of these festivals as mini Utopias. They’re what you think life should be like, if we had ideal conditions.”

UK poet laureate Simon Armitage said: “Hay is a special community. It has very passionate, knowledgeable audiences – you don’t feel as if you need to do much explaining. It feels like people are on side with the idea of literature, reading, books and ideas.”

Comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig said: “I’ve been coming to Hay Festival for years and years and it feels like family more than anything else. There is that feeling of a literary oasis and I think that’s really important – the exchange of ideas not just on-stage but off-stage as well… It’s about new friendships and new ideas being forged.”

Author Onjali Q Rauf said: “The programme is always so immense and I love the diversity of topics. There is something for everyone. It’s two weeks of just enjoying books and it’s such a gorgeous place to come. We’re all here because we love books, and that’s all it takes.”

Writer and broadcaster Elizabeth Day said: “That’s the key with Hay Festival, it’s a community of writers and people who love writing and there’s nothing more special than feeling that you’re among your people.”

The 33rd Hay Festival Wales will take place 21-31 May 2020.

Hay Festival 2019 in numbers:

• 278,000 tickets sold (up 5,000) with attendees from over 40 countries
• 4,700 pupils attended the primary Programme for Schools day
• 4,500 pupils attended the secondary Programme for Schools day
• 131 schools live-streamed the Programme for Schools to 7,000 pupils
• 25 miles of fibre-optic cabling used on site
• 4,000 trees given away by the Woodland Trust
• Oxfam raised enough money to send 2,500 children to school
• £20,000 raised by Oxfam’s second-hand bookshop
• 1,500 metres of bunting used
• 2.5% increase in books sold at the Hay Festival Bookshop
• 45% reduction in plastic waste, 50% reduction in compostable coffee cup waste, and 25% reduction in general unrecyclable waste