24th May to 3rd June


An event famously described by Bill Clinton as “The Woodstock of the mind”

This year I will join the throng of Hay-goers heading for Britain’s most famous book festival, which takes place annually in the attractive Welsh book-town of Hay-on-Wye, located on the border of Powys and Herefordshire. I have obtained tickets to watch several events (see below) but intend during my visit to prowl the multitudinous book shops and main festival site seeking out newsworthy literary gossip and photo opportunities.

My master plan is to post regular reports on this blog, which will appear bearing the highly original title: ‘Hay Happenings’. If, however, I am unable to do so for any reason, I will bore you with every last detail upon my return.

Please follow Book Jotter if you wish to be notified of these dispatches as they appear. I apologise in advance if I do not respond promptly to your comments and queries as my internet access will be sporadic.

Daily ‘Hay Happenings

>> Follow Live at Hay with the BBC >>

Helen Pankhurst: Deeds Not Words
Friday 25th May (2.30pm) – Venue: Llwyfan Cymru (Wales Stage)
This year the UK is marking the centenary of women in Britain first getting the vote. Women’s rights campaigner and granddaughter of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst looks at the way women’s lives have changed over the past one-hundred years, offering a powerful and positive argument for the way forward.

The Man Booker Winner in Conversation with Gaby Wood: The 2018 Man Booker International Prize
Saturday 26th May (10am) – Venue: Llwyfan Cymru (Wales Stage)
On the shortlist for this year’s international fiction prize was: Virginie Despentes, Han Kang, László Krasznahorkai, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Ahmed Saadawi and Olga Tokarczuk. The winner, announced on 22nd May, was Olga Tokarczuk from Poland with her novel, Flights.

Roddy Doyle talks to Stephanie Merritt: Fictions: Smile
Saturday 26th May (5.30pm) – Venue: Oxfam Moot
According to the official programme: “The new novel [Smile] from the Booker Prize-winning author of Paddy Clark Ha! Ha! Ha! has all the features for which Roddy Doyle has become famous: the razor-sharp dialogue, the humour, the superb evocation of adolescence, but this is a novel unlike any he has written before. When you finish the last page you will have been challenged to re-evaluate everything you think you remember so clearly.”

Ian McEwan talks to Stig Abell: The Deborah Rogers Foundation Conversation
Sunday 27 May (2.30pm) – Venue: Tata Tent
Ian McEwan talks to Stig Abell about his writing and reading, and the translation of his books into film. The movie of On Chesil Beach was released on 18th May. Towards the end of this event McEwan will introduce the winner of the 2018 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award.

Kathy Burke talks to John Mitchinson: In Conversation
Sunday 27 May (7pm) – Venue: Baillie Gifford Stage
Kathy Burke reads from her book 24 Stories, an anthology of stories written on themes of community and hope, by a mix of the UK’s best established writers and previously unpublished authors inspired by the Grenfell Tower disaster. She is joined by Nina Stibbe, author of Love, Nina and Man at the Helm and a contributor to the anthology.

Fiona Sampson: In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein
Monday 28th May (10am) – Venue: Tata Tent
Fiona Sampson discusses her new biography, In Search of Mary Shelley. The official programme introduces this event with the words: “Mary Shelley was brought up by her father in a house filled with radical thinkers, poets, philosophers and writers of the day. Aged 16, she eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, embarking on a relationship that was lived on the move across Britain and Europe, as she coped with debt, infidelity and the deaths of three children, before early widowhood changed her life for ever. Most astonishingly, it was while she was still a teenager that Mary composed her canonical novel Frankenstein, which was published exactly 200 years ago. In this fascinating dialogue with the past, Sampson sifts through letters, diaries and records to find the real woman behind the story.”

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
Monday 28th May (4pm) – Venue: Tata Tent
The Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor and environmental activist , Margaret Atwood, discusses her 1985 dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale with Peter Florence.

Rose Tremain Talks to Peter Florence: Rosie: Scenes from a Vanished Life
Tuesday 29th May (2.30pm) – Venue: Baillie Gifford Stage
The official programme says: “The novelist introduces her exquisitely written childhood memoir. Rose Tremain grew up in post-war London, a city of grey austerity, still partly in ruins, where both food and affection were fiercely rationed. The girl known then as Rosie and her sister Jo spent their days longing for their grandparents’ farm, buried deep in the Hampshire countryside, a green paradise of feasts and freedom, where they could at last roam and dream. But when Rosie is ten years old, everything changes. She and Jo lose their father, their London house, their school, their friends and – most agonisingly of all – their beloved Nanny, Vera, the only adult to have shown them real love and affection. But slowly the teenage Rosie escapes from the cold world of the 1950s into a place of inspiration and mischief, of loving friendships and dedicated teachers, where a young writer is suddenly ready to be born.”

Ruby Wax, Gelong Thubten, Ash Ranpura: How To Be Human
Tuesday 29th May (5.30pm) – Venue: Tata Tent
Comedian, writer and performer Ruby Wax, along with the monk Gelong Thubten and neuroscientist Ash Ranpura, has explored what it means to be human in an age preoccupied with state-of-the-art technology. She provides a “manual to upgrade our minds so that they don’t get left behind.” In this event Ruby, Ash and Thubten talk about brains, bodies and mindfulness.

Margaret Atwood and Gaby Wood: In Conversation
Tuesday 29th May (7pm – 8.30pm) – Venue: Tata Tent
In this extended session Margaret Atwood discusses her poetry, short stories and novels, which include the Booker Prize winning The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace, Cat’s Eye and her recent dystopian trilogy Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood and Maddaddam. Gaby Wood is director of the Man Booker Prize.

Categories: Features, Hay Festival

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

37 replies

  1. I’m so envious! I have been to Hay many times but never to the festival. I hope you have a wonderful time!

  2. I’ve been to Hay many times, but this year will be my first at the festival! And only for a little bit. Have a wonderful time!

  3. Sounds great. Have a great time!

  4. you must have been quick to snatch those Margaret Attwood tickets – I imagine they were sold out quickly

    • As soon as I got wind of Atwood attending the festival I became a Friend of Hay, which gave me priority booking. Initially she was only doing the thing with Peter Florence, then the second talk was announced a couple of weeks later so I grabbed early bird tickets for that one too. They sold out very quickly but I read somewhere just a couple of days ago that a second batch of tickets were being issued for some of the most popular events. You may find there are still some available.

      • That was smart thinking. I can’t see me getting there this year – we came back from holiday suffering with horrendous colds so am feeling a bit lacking in energy.

  5. I really want to go to Hay for at least once in my life.

  6. Yay to Hay and yay to Olga Tokarczuk! 🙂 I wonder how well the translation of her book works… And for Mary Shelley… I’m a bit envious, I must admit 😉 Hope you’ll have a great time, Paula, and I’m looking forward to your reports!

  7. Oooooh! Margaret Atwood! I would be a complete and utter wreck with excitement. Have fun! :))))

  8. Enjoy your time at the festival. It looks marvelous.

  9. Paula, I am so excited to follow your experience at Hay! Wow, what an experience it will be! I live in the US, but years ago, my grandfather’s family was traced back to Wales. I have traveled to England, but not to Wales- some day! And to know this book festival is there- wow! Anyway, I hope you have an amazing time. Soak it up! 😊

    • Thanks so much, Jennifer. Whereabouts in Wales did your grandfather’s family live? You should definitely visit if you ever return to the UK. 😊

      • You’re welcome, Paula! A family member wrote a small book about it and had it for a reunion of the family…I need to find the book because I’ve forgotten. Our family name is Powell. Once I find it, I will let you know! I hope you’ve had an amazing day in Hay!

  10. I’ve wanted to visit the Hay Festival for years and never been so will follow your posts and pretend that I’m there. Looking forward to reading them. Next year I hope to make it in person.

  11. Sounds breathtaking – in various respects! It will certainly be an intense experience. Enjoy! 🙂

  12. I cannot wait to read your updates on this festival! I have heard Margaret Atwood speak and I know you will enjoy her talk(s)! Cheers, MDC

  13. I am so very green with jealousy. Years ago I read a little book called “Sixpence House: lost in a town of books”. Ever since that time I’ve dreamed of going to Hay-On-Wye.

  14. I know of the Hay festival but I’ve never been – sounds like a fascinating line-up this year! Margaret Atwood would be one person I’d like to see having recently watched The Handmaid’s Tale. Enjoy, I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time! Will look forward to the updates 🙂
    Caz x

  15. So exciting, I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures!


  1. Winding Up the Week #20 – HAY SPECIAL! – Book Jotter
  2. Winding Up the Week #22 – Book Jotter
  3. Three Things… #1 – Book Jotter
  4. 2018 Reading Year in Review – Book Jotter
  5. THOUGHTS ON: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Book Jotter

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: