Jasmin Kirkbride reports as Hay celebrates its 30th birthday
This year sees Hay Festival celebrate its 30th anniversary, and it is doing so in style. The festival has chosen 30 young novelists, scientists, philosophers, performers and activists it finds "astonishing" to come and speak this year, as well as commissioning 30 Reformations, live events on subjects ranging from the internet and the EU to examinations and masculinity, with an anthology of contributions to follow.
While these events have perhaps made the 2017 festival seem more non-fiction heavy than in previous years, the fiction and children's events have been in full swing, the latter with stars including Judith Kerr, Jacqueline Wilson and Chris Riddell - who chose to undertake his final event as Children's Laureate here on site. Six thousand students attended the schools days held on the first Thursday and Friday of the festival.
The festival proper was this year opened by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, who cut a cake to commemorate the 30th anniversary celebrations, as well as presenting the first Hay Medal, for Storytelling, to Daniel Morden. The Duchess received a cherry sapling from the Woodland Trust, a gift marking the start of the Hay Festival Wood. This project is part of an education programme that will see tree plantings in schools across Wales and at Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The activity will culminate with a tree-themed Hay Winter Festival Winter Weekend, 24-26 November 2017, and is operated in partnership with the Woodland Trust and National Trust. Once again, the Woodland Trust has been handing out free saplings to members of the public.
Justin Albert, National Trust director for Wales and vice-president of Hay Festival, said: "This festival has always been about thinking differently and stimulating ideas - particularly through printed material. It's quite apt, therefore, that we are stimulating education, thought and conservation - by sustainably developing the raw material for books - through this wonderful initiative."
The bookshop has done a rip-roaring trade, with the Hay Festival Conversations: Thirty Conversations for Thirty Years performing notably well and topping the bestseller lists on 31 May.
Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, commented: "The writers featured in this collection are free-thinkers, people who imagine the world. The scientists and activists are instrumental in changing it. In an age of promises and reaction, of volatility and certainty, of identity and borders these people offer inquiry, thought and empathy; they tell truths, they embrace plurality and they range across time and space. They are all inspiring, enlightening and often very funny."
Also launched at the festival this year were the Aarhus 39 anthologies, published in partnership with Alma Books, a pan-European project with European Capital of Culture Aarhus 2017 showcasing 39 of the best children's and YA writers aged 39 and under from across Europe. The stories are themed around journeys, and edited by Daniel Hahn, comprising two books: Quest: Stories of journeys from around Europe from the Aarhus 39 (9-11) and Odyssey: Stories of journeys from around Europe from the Aarhus 39 (YA). The stories are coupled with specially commissioned illustrations from leading European illustrators including Axel Scheffer, Chris Riddell, Anna Hoglund, and Britta Teckentrup.
Cristina Fuentes La Roche, international director at Hay Festival, said: "In a world that feels increasingly divided, these borderless shared stories unite us in empathy - encouraging us to experience lives lived in other countries and cultures in a way that nothing else can. Aarhus 39 is the next step in this journey - these emerging writers showcase the strength of children's and YA literature today and we are thrilled to offer a new global platform for sharing their work."
Yesterday (1 June) Hay celebrated YA, with a host of authors giving talks and the announcement of this year's The Bookseller YA Book Prize winner taking place in a double-length event featuring the 10-strong shortlist. Winner Laurence Patrice (Orangeboy, Hodder Children's) and fellow shortlistees signed books at the bookshop afterwards.
Photo (Hay Festival): the Duchess of Cornwall and Peter Florence.