HAY Festival 2021 kicks off tonight (Wednesday, May 26) with a free opening gala – A Night of Hope – sharing inspiring works of literature, theatre and poetry from contributions including actors Jessica Raine, Stephen Fry, Charly Arrowsmith, Richard Eyre and Louise Brearley; comedians Sindhu Vee and Rob Brydon; writers Elif Shafak, Juno Dawson, Clemency Burton-Hill, Simon Schama, Rufus Mufasa, Hafsa Zayyan, Margaret Busby, poets Hollie McNish and Karl Nova; scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock; and host Natalie Haynes.

Running to Sunday, June 6, Hay Festival brings writers and readers together with a free digital programme, offering an inspiring array of conversations, debates, workshops, and performances.

More than 300 acclaimed writers, global policy makers, historians, poets, pioneers and innovators take part, launching the best new fiction and non-fiction and interrogating some of the biggest issues of our time.

Events will be broadcast live from temporary studios in Richard Booth’s Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, to hayfestival.org/wales.

While events won’t have live audiences in person, the booktown of Hay-on-Wye is still getting into the Festival spirit, with a free WiFi network running throughout the town centre to provide unlimited event streaming for visitors. 

All events will be closed captioned and available to watch free for 24 hours after the live broadcast. 

Heather Salisbury, Hay Festival artist manager, said: “The support for Hay Festival over the past year has been overwhelming, with our Haymakers, partners, funders and sponsors giving us an incredible opportunity to reinvent what a Festival can be.

“This spring we beam our programme to you from Richard Booth’s Bookshop in the heart of Hay-on-Wye, welcoming writers, readers, thinkers and dreamers together from around the world to join our digital party.

“We’ll meet this moment of challenge and change with inspiration and vision, and place our trust in the wisdom of writers to guide us through. Join us.” 

Festivalgoers can explore the programme and register free at hayfestival.org/wales