Hay Festival Winter Weekend brings writers and readers together for a year-end wonderland of in-person events, 23–26 November.
Over four days, more than 70 acclaimed writers and performers take part in over 60 events, launching the best new fiction and non-fiction, offering creative solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our time, and spreading festive joy in conversations, candle-lit storytelling, comedy, music, and workshops. Now in its 24th year, events will take place in a new 350-seater marquee in the grounds of Hay Castle, tripling the event’s previous capacity. Additional events will also take place in the Castle’s Clore space, plus venues around town, including St Mary’s Church and The Poetry Bookshop. For audiences unable to attend in person, the Festival’s commitment to digital accessibility will also continue with selected sessions available to live-stream remotely with an Online Festival Pass. Hay Festival CEO Julie Finch said: “Ideas sparkle at Hay Festival Winter Weekend 2023 as we mark the season’s change with bold new visions for the future and a heady dose of entertainment and joy. With a new home in the centre of Hay-on-Wye in the grounds of Hay Castle, we have tripled the capacity of this year’s event, offering access to more Festivalgoers than ever, live and online. Join us!” More intimate than the spring edition, Hay Festival Winter Weekend sees the Welsh booktown’s independent shops, cafés and attractions offer a warm welcome to Festivalgoers within the stunning surrounds of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. Hay Castle executive director Tom True said: “Hay Castle is a beacon of arts, literature, and learning at the heart of our special town. We’re proud to work with Hay Festival Foundation and to host an expanded programme of exciting events at this historic site.” Hay Chamber of Commerce chair Josh Boyd Green said: “Hay Festival Winter Weekend is a wonderful event that brings people to Hay at a quiet time of year. It marks the start of the festive season in our booktown and is a real boon to our businesses. For me it is my favourite weekend of the year.”
Speakers include actors Stephen Fry and Hugh Bonneville; farmer Helen Rebanks; lexicographer Susie Dent and Sarah Ogilvie; historian David Olusoga; writers Sebastian Faulks, Louis de Bernières, Kim Sherwood, Ava Glass, Miranda Aldhouse-Green and Daniel Morden, poet Nii Ayikwei; politicians Chris Bryant, Rachel Reeves and Lisa Nandy; journalists James O'Brien, Jennifer Nadel, Afua Hirsch and Louise Minchin; geographers Tim Marshall and Danny Dorling; cyclist Lee Craigie; sailor Suzanne Heywood; scientist Adam Rutherford; Welsh former international rugby union referee Nigel Owens; Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates; biologist Lewis Dartnell; historian James Holland; wildlife cameraman and Strictly winner Hamza Yassin; broadcaster Kate Humble; mathematician Marcus du Sautoy; classicist Adam Nicolson; comedians Matt Lucas and Reginald D Hunter; food writer Grace Dent; wine writer Oz Clarke; the Booker Prize 2023 shortlist; and more…
The best new fiction takes centre-stage in the programme with the Booker Prize 2023 shortlist sharing their work in an exclusive event, including Sarah Bernstein (Study for Obedience), Jonathan Escoffery (If I Survive You), Paul Harding (This Other Eden), Paul Lynch (Prophet Song), Chetna Maroo (Western Lane), and Paul Murray (The Bee Sting), chaired by Gaby Wood. Hay Festival President Stephen Fry launches his new book Mythos: The Illustrated Story. Writers including Sebastian Faulks (The Seventh Son), Louis de Bernières (Light Over Liskeard), Kim Sherwood (Double or Nothing) and Ava Glass (The Traitor) launch new novels, while Miranda Aldhouse-Green joins Daniel Morden for an afternoon of Enchanted Wales: Myth and Magic in Welsh Storytelling and poet Nii Ayikwei Parkes performs from Azúcar. Inspiring life stories mark the changing seasons with hope as actor Hugh Bonneville presents his memoir Playing Under the Piano, farmer Helen Rebanks talks The Farmer's Wife, journalist Louise Minchin offers Fearless, cyclist Lee Craigie shares Other Ways to Win, sailor Suzanne Heywood talks Wavewalker and Welsh former international rugby union referee Nigel Owens discusses The Final Whistle. With the UK election on the horizon for 2024, Wales today and the role of Britain in the wider world comes into focus in conversations with politicians Chris Bryant (Code of Conduct), Rachel Reeves (The Women Who Made Modern Economics) and Lisa Nandy (All In); journalists James O'Brien (How They Broke Britain), Jennifer Nadel (How Compassion can Transform our Politics, Economy and Society), Gavin Esler (Britain Is Better Than This) and Afua Hirsch (Decolonising the Body); and geographers Tim Marshall (The Future of Geography) and Danny Dorling (Shattered Nation). Hay Festival 2023 Thinkers in Residence – curator Will Gompertz, Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates and historian David Olusoga – take stock of the role of festivals today and share their bold visions for the future, while biologist Lewis Dartnell offers Being Human: How our Biology Shaped World History and historian James Holland launches The Savage Storm: The Battle for Italy 1943. The natural world is explored and celebrated in conversations with gardener Naomi Slade (RHS The Winter Garden), wildlife cameraman Hamza Yassin (Be a Birder), and broadcaster Kate Humble (Where the Hearth Is), while classicist Adam Nicolson shares How to Be: Life Lessons From the Early Greeks. There’s much seasonal joy and laughter to be enjoyed with lexicographers Susie Dent (Roots of Happiness) and Sarah Ogilvie (The Dictionary People), comedian Matt Lucas (The Boy Who Slept Through Christmas), food writer Grace Dent (Comfort Eating), chef Gelf Anderson (River Cottage Great Roasts), wine writer Oz Clarke (Oz Clarke's Story of Wine), a new set from comedian Reginald D Hunter, and music with Father Richard Williams offering an atmospheric performance of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. At Hay Castle, audiences can enjoy full-day writing workshops, drop-in crafting sessions for families, and a special panel discussion around their current Dark Skies exhibition. Extra sparkle to live events comes from the town’s Market Square as a special guest turns on the Christmas lights, Friday 24 November, in what has become an annual Winter Weekend highlight. After another transformative 12 months at Hay Festival HQ, CEO Julie Finch invites the public to share their visions for the Festival’s future in an open forum event to kick-off the weekend programme. Once again, the Festival will draw on public nominations to crown the Hay Festival Book of the Year following past wins for Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry, Deborah Levy’s Real Estate, Dara McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist, Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s Inventing Ourselves, and Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane’s The Lost Words.