Hay Festival 2020 schedule and full programme highlights – how to watch online and take part

Hay Festival normally takes place in Wales every year, but has moved online during the pandemic

Hay Festival

Hay Festival was due to take place this May but was cancelled, becoming another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.


The 10-day event normally takes place in Hay-on-Wye, Wales.

Luckily, the festival is still able to go ahead as it moved the talks and sessions online meaning you can watch along at home.

When is Hay Festival Digital being held?

It’s started! Hay Festival started on Monday, 18th May and runs a little longer than it normally does, ending on Sunday, 31st May.

From 22nd to 31st May, Hay Festival Digital takes place online with events featuring more than 100 award-winning writers, global policy makers, historians, pioneers and innovators, celebrating the best new fiction and non-fiction, and interrogating some of the biggest issues of our time.

Donations totalling £350,000 meant the Festival didn’t have to be cancelled – 70% of its budget normally comes from ticket sales.

Do I have to pay for Hay Festival?

Nope, it’s all free!

How can I watch Hay Festival online?

The full programme is over on Crowdcast, a platform used for talks online. You need to sign up, then find the event you want to attend.

Just click register and this takes you through to the sign up page.

Make sure you click ‘save my spot’ to take part. You need to fill in your email address or use your social media log in.

Helpfully, Hay Festival has provided a video showing you how to register.

Once you have your email confirming you have registered you’ll be asked if you want to add it to your calendar. You now have access to the events, polls, chat and Q&As.

You can also replay events if you miss them up to 24 hours after it ends.

Events are also available afterwards on Hay Player, the archive of the Festival’s events – though for this you need a subscription fee.

What talks are there?

Hay Festival has a wide variety of talks as well as readings and interviews. The Hay Festival Digital Programme outlines all the events, but there’s a few that stand out.

William Wordsworth’s Poetry, Friday, 22nd May 6:30pm 

Simon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Monty Don, Stephen Fry, Tom Hollander, Toby Jones, Helen McCrory, Jonathan Pryce and Vanessa Redgrave perform at a gala of Wordsworth’s poetry.

Esther Duflo, Sunday, 24th May at 6:30pm

2019 Nobel Prize-winning economist Esther Duflo shows how economics, when done right, can help us solve the thorniest social and political problems of our day, in conversation with Evan Davis.

Inua Ellams, Sunday, 24th May at 6:30pm

The multi-award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams introduces extracts from his celebrated autobiographical one-man show, An Evening with an Immigrant.

Meditation by Ali Smith. Monday, 25th May at 6:30pm

A meditation on continuance by Spring, Autumn and Winter author Ali Smith.

Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley talk to chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Monday, 25th May at 7.30pm.

Wolf Hall writer Hilary Mantel, Saturday 30th May, 2:30pm.

Wolf Hall writer Hilary Mantel speaks with Peter Florence about the final volume of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

Programme for Schools

Running throughout the Hays Festival authors including Cressida Cowell, Patrice Lawrence and Onjali Q Rauf will hold talks from 18th to 22nd May.


Hay Festival full schedule

You can find the full programme on the Hay Festival Digital schedule page.