Hay Festival 2017

Veronica Lake, 1955

2017 marks the 30th year of Hay Festival, which has pulled in an impressive cast of speakers to celebrate its anniversary. Writers and actors, philosophers and artists, and a host of names working across the fields of science, technology, politics, art and academia will descend upon the small Welsh town on the Wye to take part in more than 800 events, and try and make sense of the sweeping changes reshaping the world around us. Scroll down to see a selection of our highlights:

30 Reformations

It has been 500 years since Martin Luther wrote his Ninety-five Theses and, in their honour, Hay’s organizers have gathered a host of thinkers to re-imagine the institutions and orthodoxies that govern our world. Stephen Fry will present his vision for the digital world, whilst Jeanette Winterson will posit an alternative view on marriage. The Financial Times‘s Gillian Tett will re-frame her audiences’ view on corporations, and lawyer Philippe Sands will challenge conventional notions of citizenship.

Hay 30

Hay has been nurturing literary talent for 30 years; and this year will be no different. The festival has selected 30 of the next generation of thinkers, who will lead a series of talks across the festival. Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project will speak alongside violinist Min Kym, writer Devi Sridhar, and co-founder of Pussy Riot Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.


As ever, an impressive series of literary stars will take to the stage over the course of the festival: Tony Parsons will speak, as will Rose Tremain and Ian Rankin. Following the controversial unveiling of Elena Ferrante’s identity, Ann Goldstein will discuss her translation of the Neapolitan novels, whilst Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk will appear in a rare interview. They will be accompanied by a range of rising stars, including Irish novelist Sally Rooney, Olivia Sudjic and Xan Brooks.


Unsurprisingly, politics will take centre-stage this year, with Brexit kicking off the proceedings. Multiple panels on the matter will run throughout the festival, with contributions from Gina Miller and Vanity Fair’s London editor Henry Porter. Britain’s divorce from the EU will be neatly accompanied by a focus on Donald Trump, and none other than Bernie Sanders will be there to weigh in on the issue. Speaking more broadly, journalists Matthew d’Ancona and Edward Luce will discuss current threats to global democracy. Moving to the Middle East, BBC correspondent Jeremy Bowen will speak about his career on the front line of conflict, whilst Charlie English will give his account of the librarians and archivists who joined forces to spirit manuscripts into hiding when al-Qaeda-linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012.

Stage and Screen

Ken Loach, whose latest film I, Daniel Blake won the Palme d’Or, will deliver The 2017 Raymond Williams Lecture, and Nicholas Hytner will give the inside scoop on his latest book, which charts his 12 years at the helm of the National Theatre. Charlotte Rampling will open up about a life lived on screen. Stephen Fry discusses the film version of his novel The Hippopotamus, and there will be two performances of the acclaimed show Letters Live, which sees a slew of celebrities reading letters of note written throughout history.

Art, Architecture and Music

Tracy Emin will talk an audience through her years spent immersed in art whilst Tristram Hunt, former politician turned Director of the V&A, will marry his two fields of expertise and discuss the role of culture and curation in a world pivoting wildly on its axis. Simon Jenkins will discuss England’s cathedrals, and fellow Guardian writer George Monbiot will flex his musical muscles alongside folk singer Ewan McLennan.

Tech and Science

The Science Museum’s Ben Russell will present their latest robotics exhibitions, whilst Beth Singler will dive deeper, and ask if robots feel pain. Cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken will explore the way in which our behaviour changes online, and Jonathan Montgomery will chair a talk on the big issue of the uses of confidential health data.Isobel Thompson

Hay Festival (May 25 – June 4); @hayfestival 

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Credit: Silver Screen Collection / Contributor

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