Hay Festival Winter Weekend returns with an ambitious programme for its first ticketed, in-person events in the UK for two years, bringing writers and readers together November with a line-upto inspire, examine and entertain.

Over five days, more than 80 acclaimed writers and performers will take part, launching the best new fiction and non-fiction, interrogating some of the biggest issues of our time, and spreading joy with conversations, candle-lit storytelling, comedy, music, and family workshops.

In-person events take place in a new Festival site in the centre of Hay-on-Wye against the stunning backdrop of the Brecon Beacons. Comprised of the Wales Stage – Llwyfan Cymru located on the Cae Mawr field (at the base of the town’s Oxford Road Car Park) and the Baillie Gifford stage in the neighbouring Hay Primary School, the new site also includes the Festival bookshop, hosting regular in-person signings, along with a food and drink court and exhibitors.

Events will also take place around the town more widely, in the Parish Hall, St Mary’s Church and the Cheese Market, while the book town’s independent shops, cafés and markets open their doors with a warm welcome to Festivalgoers.

A vibrant online programme of live streamed sessions and digital exclusives will amplify the in-person events further, embracing the Festival’s new global audience at hayfestival.org/winter-weekend with closed captioning offered for all digital events.

Hay Festival international director Cristina Fuentes la Roche said: “We’re back for our first in-person events in the UK in two years with Hay Festival Winter Weekend 2021, a Festival of inspiration and optimism to entertain curious minds of all ages. With an ambitious programme filling an innovative new site, it marks both a return to celebrate and a fresh start. Join us in a safe space to imagine the world anew and share the closing days of 2021with music, laughter and friends.”

The Festival kicks off with a free Programme for Schools, on November 24 and 25, offering young people the chance to see their favourite writers, get creative and celebrate the joys of reading for pleasure, featuring events with Onjali Q Raúf (The Lion Above the Door), Emma Carroll (The Week at World’s End), Sally Nicholls (The Silent Stars Go By), Nicola Davies (The Song that Sings Us), Rob Biddulph (Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City), and rap-poet Karl Nova.

As mainstage events get underway, great novelists take centre-stage: Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Moss, Sarah Hall, JR THorp, Elizabeth Day, Christopher Meredith among them, and music rings out on the opening night as Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason discusses her memoir House of Music with performances by two of her multi-talented children, and later in the week Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie talks Tenement Kid and John Illsley talks My Life in Dire Straits.

Inspiring creatives and household names share their life stories as actor Miriam Margolyes presents her memoir This Much Is True; local Oscar-winning writer, director and actress Emerald Fennell discusses her latest work; adventurer Bear Grylls talks Never Give Up;


Anita Rani

Anita Rani


Anita Rani talks The Right Sort of Girl; John Barnes talks racism in sport and broadcasters Fi Glover and Jane Garvey present Did I say That out Loud?: Notes on the Chuff of Life.


Miriam Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes


The past is reimagined as Neil Oliver talks to journalist Oliver Bullough about The Story of the World in 100 Moments and Simon Jenkins discusses Europe’s 100 Greatest Cathedrals while broadcaster Jules Hudson talks to local historian Peter Ford about his new book, Matilda: Lady of Hay.

Social affairs are drawn into focus as a Saturday morning panel of Festival guests review the weekend papers, reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to 2022; meanwhile writer Jessica Nordell talks The End of Bias alongside writer and academic Emma Dabiri with What White People can do Next, and journalist Hannah Jane Parkinson presents her new book, The Joy of Small Things.

There’s laughter, too: Saturday night is given over to comedy with Phil Wang, while later in the weekend Josh Widdecombe talks Watching Neighbours Twice a Day...How ’90s TV (Almost) Prepared me for Life.


Phil Wang

Phil Wang


Extra sparkle comes from the town’s Market Square as a special guest turns on the town’s Christmas lights on Friday, November 26, in what has become an annual Winter Weekend highlight. And once again, the Festival will draw on public nominations to crown the Hay Festival Book of the Year.

For full programme details, visit hayfestival.org