Hay Festival booms online more than 60 nations tune in to book events

Hay Festival booms online as fans from more than 60 nations around the world tune in to events after it was axed amid coronavirus crisis

  • The Hay Festival of literature was cancelled for the first time due to coronavirus
  • The 33-year-old annual event normally takes place in Hay-on-Wye in Wales
  • The festival did appear in a digital format with it being streamed 210,000 times
  • Stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Helen McCrory celebrated the event
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

It was cancelled for the first time in its 33-year history due to the coronavirus outbreak, sparking fears for its future.

But the Hay Festival of literature has become an ‘astonishing’ success by going online, with events over the opening weekend being streamed more than 210,000 times in 63 countries.

Events at the festival, held annually in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, usually cost from £5 to £40 but this year they will be free to view thanks to donations totalling £350,000.

The Hay Festival of literature (pictured) was cancelled for the first time in its history but the digital edition of this year’s event was streamed more than 210,00 times in 63 countries

The opening weekend featured a preview of Stephen Fry’s upcoming book Troy, a conversation with novelist Maggie O’Farrell and a celebration of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy with stars including Vanessa Redgrave, Helen McCrory and Benedict Cumberbatch.

All events were live-streamed from participants’ homes on the Crowdcast web platform which allows users to interact with guests and ask questions.

Festival director Peter Florence said: ‘It’s been an astonishing and exhilarating weekend. 

This new, global Hay crowd is reinventing the festival and offering tantalising opportunities for the future.’

The festival is scheduled to host 80 live broadcasts and runs until Sunday. 

Upcoming events include a conversation with Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel and an evening of Shakespeare with Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West.

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