The Hay-on-Wye Festival

By | Category: Travel rumblings

It’s that time of the year when a small town of about 1800 attracts the book readers of the world to itself. As Saturday’s “Western Mail” put it “It is now almost inconceivable that a leading world writer would not have heard of the book festival which annually transforms this Welsh town”
Attendance is already up 15% on this time last year and the festival has still a week to run.
Literary figures like Clive James, Jacqueline Wilson, Sarah Waters, Kate Summerscale and the new poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy will mingle with Tony Curtis, Heston Blumenthal and Alistair McGowan. Demonstrating that the festival has come a long way in the last 21 years, the literary and book loving festival comes of age this year and, again, has widened its approach to draw not only the committed book lovers. You’ve already missed Jane Birkin, Gillian Clarke, Frank Skinner and Gerald Scarfe.
Hay was the first big literary festival. Other towns and cities have copied but Hay is the doyen. Now it is large enough to get sponsored, by “The Guardian” and Sky Arts runs a programme, Hay-on-Sky, every night about it. The population of the town will swell to bursting which is good for tourism and the local economy. Many people make a holiday out of it and go off to the Brecon Beacons for a few days to recover by letting the eyes take over from the brain as they view the scenery. Without the festival and the two dozen odd bookshops that are the magnet for visitors, Hay would just be another small town. Not every town or village could be as successful as Hay in attracting visitors from around the world but every village and town can at least try to be as inventive. Not everyone has a Richard Booth who dreamed up the idea of a book town.
I can’t put it better than the comment column of the “Western Mail”,
“Wales should thank the visionaries who had the audacity to dream up the festival, but a salute of respect is also due to the residents of Hay-on-Wye who extend such a welcome to so many each year.”
To see what’s still on, go to

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