I love autumn, but I always feel nostalgia for the summer, and a little stab of apprehension about the dark days ahead. It feels important to have something to look forward to. And it's hard to imagine a better way to spend a few dark winter days than at the Hay Festival Winter Weekend.
When it’s on
The Hay Winter Weekend Festival is a feast of conversations, storytelling, comedy, music, and family workshops, and is a smaller version of the larger Hay Festival which is held in spring.
The historic town with it's atmospheric market square is a hive of activity during the festival. On the Friday, the Hay Christmas lights are turned on, transforming the town into a winter wonderland brimming with festive cheer.
The 2022 event takes place at various venues throughout Hay-on-Wye, including Hay Castle, St Mary’s Church, the Poetry Bookshop and Richard Booth’s Bookshop, between Thursday 24 and Sunday 27 November.
What to do locally
A few years ago I was given a wonderful opportunity: I was accepted onto the Hay Writers At Work scheme, a workshop which nurtures and supports emerging writers. Here, at the festival, I started writing my first novel, and made friends and memories to last a lifetime. I got a bit lost too, in a good way. I went to events not only to see people I knew I loved, but others who I had never heard of, who talked about things I'd never thought of. All of which taught me something new.
The Hay Festival holds a special place in my heart. It's a place where the magical and unexpected happens."
Wander. Get a bit lost. Search for treasure, in the town as well as at the festival. This is a small town with a huge heart, with over twenty bookshops. There's the gorgeous Richard Booth's Bookshop with its rich-red wooden interior, or the labyrinthine Hay Cinema Bookshop, the largest in the UK, or shops that deal in specific genres such as the delightfully named Murder and Mayhem. Search for vintage clothes and vinyl, jewellery and trinkets. Stop for lunch or drinks in the The Old Electric Shop and browse its grotto of curiosities and delights.
A perfect day
The Hay Festival holds a special place in my heart, the place where my dreamed-of novel writing career became a reality. It's a place where the magical and unexpected happens. I remember Amanda Palmer coming to talk to us at Writers At Work. She was warm and generous – and then she said she wanted to sing. She put a call out for a ukulele, and to our surprise and delight a ukulele duly arrived. She sang for us, and then we all sang ‘Perfect Day’ together.
Which seems like the perfect song for this festival.
What to expect at Hay Festival Winter Festival 2022
In 2022, visitors to the five day festival will find inspiration from a wide and varied range of 45 events - there are topical panel discussions to spark curiosity, live performances to enrich the soul and interactive sessions to get the creativity flowing. Something to bring warmth and light to everyone this winter.
Taking place at independent venues throughout Hay-on-Wye, the festival will welcome more than 70 acclaimed writers and performers into the intimate settings of the town's shops, cafés and attractions.
50 years since Dylan Thomas released A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Hay Festival international fellow Hanan Issa will offer a contemporary response, while discussing her new role as National Poet of Wales.
Julie Finch, CEO, Hay Festival
Hay Festival Winter Weekend marks the season’s change and year’s end with a celebration of community, bold visions and hope."
Inspiring life stories and great storytellers are at the forefront of the 2022 festival and the line up includes brothers Manni and Reuben Coe sharing their memoir, brother.do.you.love.me, in conversation with actor Sally Phillips; classicist Natalie Haynes sharing Stone Blind; and Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vasquez talking Retrospective.
Poetry and music are, as ever, integral to the programme with Yomi Sode presenting Manorism; Olivia Harrison offering Came the Lightening: Twenty Poems for George; National Poet for Wales Hanan Issa performs her own take on the Dylan Thomas classic, A Child's Christmas in Wales; Father Richard performs Nosferatu; and Welsh harpist Anne Denholm plays a one-off festive set.
History, science and global affairs are also fundamental to any Hay event, this year including human rights lawyer Philippe Sands offering The Last Colony; writer Katherine Rundell offering The Golden Mole And Other Living Treasure; investigative reporters Luke Harding and Oliver Bullough talking Russia and Ukraine; and former Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable talking How to be a Politician: 2000 Years of Good (and Bad) Advice.
Families and young people also have plenty to enjoy including author and illustrator Rob Biddulph on An Odd Dog Christmas.
And, to add that final bit of Chritmas sparkle, the Hay Festival Book of the Year will be announced.
How to get tickets
Tickets can be purchased from the Hay Festival website, where you can sign up to the newsletter to find out the latest information about the event.
If you aren’t able to join in-person, you can watch from the comfort of your own home, as most events will also be streamed online on Hay Player (currently £15 per year subscription).