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The Hay Festival

Hay-on-Wye is soon to be host to one of the world’s top literary festivals.  Now in its 30th Year we take a look at the history of the festival and some interesting facts about its history.

The Hay Festival is one of the world's top literary festivals, staged in the small town on the Wales-England border.  It was devised by Norman and Peter Florence in 1988.  Hay-on-Wye was already well known for its many bookshops before the festival was launched and by the 1970s Hay had gained the nickname "The Town of Books".  Currently there are about 30 bookshops in the town.

Some interesting facts:-

It was memorably described by President Bill Clinton as "a Woodstock of the mind". 

Two former US Presidents have visited the festival - Bill Clinton in 2001 and Jimmy Carter in 2008.

The late singer-songwriter Ian Dury rewrote the lyrics to "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" at Hay in one of his last concerts: "From the gardens of Bombay, all the way to lovely Hay". 

Hay has a Welsh name, Y Gelli (The Grove).

Hay's Three Tuns Pub is said to have welcomed famous and infamous visitors, including musician Jools Holland, singer Marianne Faithful, politician Lord Kinnock, BBC news presenter Huw Edwards and some of the Great Train Robbers.

On 1 April 1977,  Richard Booth proclaimed Hay an independent kingdom and he was crowned king and ruler of the new state. His horse was named Prime Minister.

In 1962 Richard Booth opened Hay’s first secondhand bookshop in the town’s old fire station.  In 1965 he bought the local Cinema and turned that into a bookshop too.

It is said that the original funding came from £100 won in a game of poker but Peter Florence has never either confirmed or denied the story.

Hay Festival Wales takes place 25 May – 4 June in Hay-on-Wye, bringing writers and readers together to share stories and ideas in events that inspire, examine and entertain.

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