It is that time of year again. Time for a trip to join the literati in the town of books. Hay-on-Why-the-hell-not?!
Hay Festival has plenty to offer punters in 2011. Much to entertain and even more to expand your mind with, for the ‘Woodstock of the Mind’ is no longer just about books. Among the headline guests will be Nobel Laureates VS Naipaul, JMG le Clezio, Paul Nurse and Mohammed ElBaradei. There will be music, too, thanks to performances from Afro Celt Sound System, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ojos de Brujo, Penguin Cafe, Cerys Matthews and Bob Geldolf. Children are well catered for with Hay Fever, a festival for tots, teens and inbetweens (www.hayfeverblog.net) including storytelling, workshops and carnival extravaganzas and run concurrently with the main festival.
There will be laughs thanks to comedians Mark Watson, Paul Merton, and Jo Brand. There are historians Eric Hobsbawm, Michael Wood, Bettany Hughes and Niall Ferguson, broadcasters Chris Evans, Jenni Murray, Kevin McCloud and Evan Davis, actors Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Fiennes, Rob Lowe, Gillian Anderson and Simon Russell Beale, and DON’T PANIC, there will also be plenty of writers including John Carey, Paul Theroux, Linda Grant, Malorie Blackman, Deborah Kay Davies, Michael Morpurgo, Niall Griffiths and Jacqueline Wilson. Sky Arts also returns with its acclaimed series of The Book Show. Mariella Frostrup will beinterviewing the biggest and best names at the festival.
The Greenprint Forum is the festival’s sustainability project and forms part of the programme of managing and mitigating their environmental impact and has been running for five years. You can join in and contribute to the sessions and the debate athayfestival.org/greenprint. Of the more unusual events The Passion fever has hit Hay, and Nicholas Lowton, Rhoda Lewis, Peter Florence and friends will undertake a 96-hour reading of the King James Authorised Version of the Bible that will run in two 4-hour sessions daily in parish churches on either side of the border. Full listings will be online at www.hayfestival.org/bible.
In town, Hay-on-Wye has yet more to offer. The Bus Stop Cinema run by Swansea’sElysium Gallery will be showing short films in the Salem Chapel on 4 June and will be well worth a visit. Hay Poetry Jamboree celebrates its third birthday in Oriel Contemporary Arts (Salem Chapel) with another magnificent line-up of some of the best and most exciting poets on the contemporary scene, amongst them Allen Fisher, Carol Watts, Ralph Hawkins, Maggie O’Sullivan, Sean Bonney and Kelvin Corcoran. The Jamboree runs from 2 – 4 June and all daytime events are free. Entrance to evening events cost £5 (£3 concs).
How The Light Gets In, the philosophy and music festival at Hay-on-Wye, is back and they’ve recently released their full programme. From rigorous debates and incisive solo talks to cutting-edge DJ sessions and a different themed party every night, this year’s festival promises to be a cerebral and imaginative start to the summer season and is my favourite innovative, enlightening and fun part of Hay. Look out for the evening after parties including The Saturday Shindig, the Shooting Star Partyand their legendarySunday Special, as well as gigs from Camille O’Sullivan, Richard Strange, Lulu & The Lampshadesand the delightful Peggy Sue. See www.howthelightgetsin.org for more details.
While in town indulge in local beer, cheer and many many bookshops. I recommend the open air Honesty Bookshop in the Castle Grounds for alfresco browsing and Richard Booth’s rambling bookshop on Lion Street, which is packed with over 500,000 volumes, sourced from around the world and is managed by specialist department heads.
This year’s Hay Festival runs from 26 May to 5 June. View the full Hay Festival programme at www.hayfestival.com