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.

Two buildings at night with fair lights and a light up Christmas bow
People walking down a path past trees

Winter in Hay-on-Wye, Mid Wales

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 book shop
A person standing outside of a book shop

Hay-on-Wye, Mid Wales

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 happened at Hay Festival Winter Festival 2022

In 2022, visitors to the five day festival found inspiration from a wide and varied range of 45 events -  including 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 welcomed 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 offered a contemporary response, while discussing her new role as National Poet of Wales.

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 were at the forefront of the 2022 festival and the line up included 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 were, 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 performing her own take on the Dylan Thomas classic, A Child's Christmas in WalesFather Richard performing Nosferatu; and Welsh harpist Anne Denholm playing a one-off festive set.

History, science and global affairs are also fundamental to any Hay event, this year included 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 had plenty to enjoy including author and illustrator Rob Biddulph on An Odd Dog Christmas. 

And, to add that final bit of Christmas sparkle, the Hay Festival Book of the Year was announced. 

A group of people singing and smiling
The outside of a frosty window

Hay-on-Wye, Mid Wales

How to get tickets

Tickets for the next event can be purchased from the Hay Festival website, where you can sign up to the newsletter to find out the latest information about what's on.

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).

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