Hay Festival Digital earned more than 210,000 event streams in its opening weekend as book lovers from more than 63 countries tuned in to hear from writers and performers in intimate events beamed from living rooms, kitchen tables, studies, and sheds.
Highlights from the opening, available to view on Hay Player (hayfestival.org/hayplayer), included:
- Key-note lectures from novelist Elif Shafak, Welsh poet Mererid Hopwood, journalist Afua Hirsch, and former CMO Sally Davies;
- An exclusive preview of Stephen Fry’s upcoming Troy, an exclusive film presentation from Ali Smith, a conversation with Maggie O’Farrell, and a star-studded Wordsworth250 gala;
- #GreenHay climate conversations with campaigner and diplomat Christiana Figueres, teen activist Dara McAnulty, and a trio of Trans.MISSION II events;
- Conversations around social justice and activism with Gloria Steinem, Adam Rutherford and Nobel Prize-winning economist Esther Duflo, and a fresh look at history from Rutger Bregman, Greg Jenner, Yan Lan andPhilippe Sands;
- An evening performance from dancer Fernando Montaño, a live drawing of Troy with classicist Natalie Haynes and illustrator Chris Riddell, and An Evening with an Immigrant with Inua Ellams, who was awarded this year’s Hay Festival Medal for Poetry.
Running with a full programme until Sunday 31 May, Hay Festival Digital sees more than 100 award-winning writers, global policy makers, historians, pioneers and innovators take part under the theme of #ImagineTheWorld.
Conversations still to come include events with novelists Hilary Mantel, Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle, Ingrid Persaud, David Mitchell, Polly Samson and Jessie Burton; science and health experts Devi Sridhar, Daniel Davis and James Peebles; activist Lydia Cacho; Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman; historians Simon Schama, and Hallie Rubenhold and Greg Jenner; US diplomat Samantha Power and congresswoman Ilhan Omar; philosophers Roman Krznaric, Paul Dolan and AC Grayling; comedian Sandi Toksvig; an evening of Shakespeare with Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West; and more.
Live sessions are being streamed via Crowdcast, offering registered users the opportunity to interactive with fellow audience members and pose their questions to speakers, with an overflow option now running on YouTube due to the overwhelming opening demand.
Festivalgoers can explore the remainder of the programme and register to take part at hayfestival.org.
Hay Festival Digital is supported by principal sponsor Baillie Gifford and principal global partner the Welsh Government, while the Programme for Schools is also sponsored by the Welsh Government.
Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, said: “It’s been an astonishing and exhilarating weekend. The writers and artists have created extraordinarily rich and thrilling new work. We couldn’t ever have imagined how audiences in 63 countries would respond with such warmth to the intimacy of being in writer’s houses, nor how powerfully the stories would land in this strangest of times. This new, global Hay crowd is reinventing the festival, and offering tantalising opportunities for the future. I am amazed by the sheer brilliance and ingenuity of my colleagues who are making this play. It’s a joyful adventure.”
The new Festival is part of a global series of digital initiatives under the #ImagineTheWorld banner to connect, inspire and entertain book lovers and home educators throughout the year. These include a newly launched Hay Festival Podcast, a monthly book club, and release of the free Programme for Schools archive, while Hay Player continues to offer full digital access to the full Hay Festival archive of video and audio.
The digital Festival follows the cancellation of this year’s event in Hay-on-Wye due to the Coronavirus / Covid-19 outbreak, which was followed by the launch of an ongoing fundraising campaign to secure the Festival’s future at hayfestival.org/wales/support-us.
Explore the full programme of upcoming events here.