Thinking the Unthinkable logo Thinking the Unthinkable logo

New digital model for Hay Festival

by Nik Gowing

Filed under Coronavirus

Two years ago this week, we launched our Thinking the Unthinkable (TTU) book at the Hay Festival 2018 to a packed auditorium.

This year’s Festival opens on May 22. The unthinkable of COVID-19 means that for the first time in 30+ years there can be no physical festival.

Yet the lockdown and travel restrictions have not forced the festival’s cancellation. Instead they have inspired radical and enlightened thinking. It’s the kind that many global leaders could learn from.

The world’s premier Literary and Arts festival has become a digital festival. Usually more than 100,000 enthusiasts attend in person each May. Already for Hay Festival Digital more than 300,000 have registered from around the world. Children from five continents are joining special schools events online.

You too can enjoy 10 days of superlative events, and ‘Imagine the World’ from your laptop, tablet or handset.

Go to the website and register to be part of the festival. Then sign up to any of the 80+ events. They are all free, thanks to the generosity and support from huge numbers - whether kids donating their pocket money or huge numbers of audience goers, artistes and performers who were determined that the festival must continue.

From shock and deep adversity, the brilliant festival team led by Director Peter Florence have turned the unthinkable into firstly the thinkable and then the achievable for Hay Festival 2020.

It is already a success story. Innovation and ambition brought together out of necessity have created in just a few weeks an exciting new model for how future festivals will work to embrace huge numbers of people globally well beyond the lush green fields of the Welsh borders.

Many other leaders could benefit from this example of how to turn adversity to success. This is even before the first event starts.

The full programme is available here . See also this handy piece from the Guardian.

On Friday 22, Evan Davis will talk with the new Nobel economist Esther Duflo. Then there will be the Wordsworth Gala with Margaret Atwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Vanessa Redgrave et al. Stephen Fry will talk about Troy. An extraordinary digital day ends with the royal Ballet star Fernando Montaño dancing a festival exclusive version of the dying swan from his terrace in LA. Other events include Philippe Sands, Paul Krugman, the amazing Lan Yan, and Hilary Mantel.

You too can be part of this for free. Just register then click on to whatever grabs your attention.

The Unthinkable will become Enjoyable at Hay Digital 2020.

At Thinking the Unthinkable we urge you sign up, then enjoy so many events.

Leave a comment