Hay Festival Digital Winter Weekend will bring writers and readers together 26-29 November 2020 in a free digital wonderland of prize winning literature, thoughtful conversation, candle-lit storytelling, comedy, music, and fun for all the family.

Now in its 21st year, the Festival will be streamed live from Hay-on-Wye, kicking off the holiday season from the town of books in all its festive glory with a star-studded line-up of speakers and performers.

Hay Festival spokesperson Christopher Bone said, “This has been an exceptionally challenging year and the support we have received has been humbling. Our free Digital Winter Weekend is in honour of this, a gift to our Haymakers without whom we wouldn’t be here. We invite you to join us by virtual candlelight to share stories, hopes and ideas, to laugh and to dance with us, and to reimagine the world alongside a galaxy of literary stars and inspiring thinkers.”

Dafydd Elis-Thomas MS, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, “The depth of this year’s programme is a true testament to Hay Festival’s global appeal and I know it will provide light, inspiration and optimism for the future to people across the world. As we approach the end of a year like no other, I once again applaud the continued resilience and endeavour of our friends across the rich cultural and artistic landscapes who are adapting to this challenging time in innovative ways to showcase Wales to global audiences.”

Programme Overview

Lee Child discusses The Reacher Guy
Lee Child discusses The Reacher Guy

Award-winning writers lead the programme with their latest works as the yet-to-be announced winners of this year’s Booker Prize and Baillie Gifford Prize take to the Festival stage, while new fiction comes under the Festival spotlight as Dawn French presents Because of You; Irenosen Okojie talks Nudibranch; Lee Child discusses The Reacher Guy; Joanne Harris presents Orfeia and Ten Things About Writing; Carys Bray talks When the Lights Go Out; Ruth Jones launches Us Three; William Boyd talks Trio; and John Banville talks about his new murder mystery, Snow.

Inspiring life stories come into focus as Arsène Wenger talks about his memoir, My Life in Red and White in a one-off event alongside global superstar and football fan Elton John who presents his own memoir, Me; pioneering Skunk Anansie frontwoman Skin talks It Takes Blood and Guts; new wave singer-songwriter Gary Numan talks to British GQ editor Dylan Jones about his memoir (R)evloution; journalist Bryony Gordon talks Glorious Rock Bottom; Candice Brathwaite offers her timely book on portrayals of motherhood I Am Not Your Baby Mother; rugby player James Haskell talks What a Flanker; while Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff and Elisabeth Fapuro present their essay collection Loud Black Girls.

Some of the biggest issues of 2020 are debated and discussed as journalists Jonathan Freedland, David Olusoga and Katya Adler digest the year’s major events with Guto Harri; Cambridge University draws together their leading health experts for a discussion of Covid-19 and what 2021 may hold; Noreena Hertz talks The Lonely Century: Coming Together in a World That’s Pulling Apart; Elizabeth Day talks Failosophy; and James O’Brien offers his tonic for a divided world, How Not to be Wrong.

Nature, landscape and legacy are the themes leading this year’s #GreenHay programming as artist Antony Gormley talks to Martin Gayford about Shaping the World: Sculpture from Pre-History to Now; Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris launch the follow-up to their bestselling The Lost Words with Nicola Davies, The Lost Spells; and nature writers Helen Macdonald and James Rebanks discuss their work.

Professor Benjamin Zephaniah Chair of Creative Writing Brunel University
Benjamin Zephaniah talks Wicked World!

The joy of reading takes centre-stage as Susie Dent talks to Festival President Stephen Fry about her new book, Word Perfect; and Stig Abell discusses the art of reading as he launches Things I Learned on the 6:28. Meanwhile, food lovers are invited to get stuck into Pen Vogler’s social and cultural history, Scoff.

The Festival begins with Scribblers Tour Cymraeg on Thursday 26 November as transition-year pupils (Years 6 and 7) are invited to get creative with the Welsh language by poet Aneirin Karadog, writer Mererid Hopwood and author Anni Llŷn. Plus, family fun continues into the weekend as Ed Vere talks How to be a Lion, Nick Sharratt presents Ketchup on your Reindeer, Benjamin Zephaniah talks Wicked World!, and David Olusoga talks Black Heroes.

Late-night entertainment sees award-winning writers John Lanchester, Kate Summerscale and Sarah Moss present an evening of ghost stories; comedian Marcus Brigstocke offers up a “State of Our Nations” comedy special with Fern Brady and Neil Delamere; and Hay-on-Wye’s DJ Max Galactic delivers his Kitchen Disco set.

How You Can Support the Hay Festival Digital Winter Weekend?
Kate Summerscale and Sarah Moss present an evening of ghost stories
Kate Summerscale (credit Fran Monks) will present an evening of ghost stories with Sarah Moss

While all sessions will be free to attend, the Festival will be welcoming donations to Hay Festival Foundation. In addition, the Festival’s online shop has been fully restocked with gifts for every book lover, including an exclusive limited-edition range of prints from an artwork generously donated by Jackie Morris in the spring. Explore more at hayfestival.org/shop.

The Festival will also once again draw on public nominations to crown the Hay Festival Book of the Year 2020 following previous wins for Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five in 2019, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s Inventing Ourselves in 2018 and The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane in 2017.

Hay Festival Digital Winter Weekend is supported by the Festival’s lead sponsors Visit Wales and Baillie Gifford and builds on the success of recent digital Hay Festival editions in the UK, Mexico, Peru and Croatia, following the year’s earlier iterations in Colombia and Spain.

Explore the full programme now and register for free at hayfestival.org/wwe