Sun shines on second Schools Day at Hay Festival 2016

Credit: Joel Keith Hill

Credit: Joel Keith Hill

Over four thousand secondary pupils filled the Hay Festival 2016 site for a day of discussion and debate today, ahead of a packed weekend of programming at the UK’s leading literary festival.

With over 600 events running until Sunday 5 June, the festival brings Nobel Prize winners, novelists, scientists, global leaders, historians, musicians and comedians together in discussions and celebrations, covering everything from literary landmarks - Shakespeare, Cervantes, Brontë and Dahl – to the EU referendum and US election.

Thousands of secondary school students enjoyed a tailored programme of events funded by the Hay Educational Trust and Welsh Government, featuring Dr Emily Grossman, Bletchley Park’s enigma expert Thomas Briggs, novelist Frances Hardinge, Science of Star Wars experts Jon Chase and Mark Brake, and YA superstars Juno Dawson, Patrick Ness, plus the chance to join workshops with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Hay Levels Live, a new initiative offering Sixth Form students the chance to quiz distinguished speakers live at Hay Festival 2016 and online, launched in the festival’s new education hub, Hay Compass. The 50 minute discussions, structured around questions submitted from students before and during the event, feature some of the world’s greatest teachers including James Shapiro, Jerry Brotton, Marcus du Sautoy, Monica Grady, John Mullan, Hannah Critchlow, Steve Jones, Daniel Davis and many more. Questions on physics, maths, biology, Tudor history, and Shakespeare, can be submitted online now at the Hay Levels Live website or through Twitter using @HayFestival #HayLevels.

Around the site, rosarian Michael Marriott launched the Roald Dahl Rose, kicking off a series of events throughout the festival to mark the writer’s centenary year. Designer and business leader Emma Bridgwater, discussed her world-famous work, signing her exclusive Hay Festival mugs as well as books in the bookshop. 

Roald Dahl Rose, photo credit: Marsha Arnold

Roald Dahl Rose, photo credit: Marsha Arnold

David Gilmour and Polly Samson discussed their songwriting partnership, before legendary screenwriter Andrew Davies talked about making his six-part War and Peace. Plus, there were talks featuring BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, best selling novelist Tracy Chevalier, and academics, including Director of Oxford Internet Institute Helen Margetts, computer science professor Ursula Martin, and the “Lego professor” David Whitebread.

In evening entertainment, comedian Dara O Briain returned for his second comedy set of the festival, local singer-songwriter Willow Robinson brought his Golden Valley blues to the site, and director Tom Hansell presented the UK premiere of After Coal.

The programme for the next 10 days is available in full at, with speakers over the festival including Caitlin Moran, Sam Mendes, Maxine Peake, Michael Palin, Simon Schama, Germaine Greer, Salman Rushdie, Gordon Brown, Yanis Varoufakis, Mervyn King, Monty Don, Tom Holland, Jeanette Winterson and Tom Jones, with comedy from Sarah Millican, Marcus Brigstocke, Isy Suttie and Sara Pascoe; music from Suzanne Vega, Billy Bragg, Laura Marling, K T Tunstall, Turin Brakes, and Baaba Maal; and an all star Letters Live event led by Louise Brealey, Olivia Colman and Tom Hollander.

“For these 11 days this green field in Hay-on-Wye will be trodden by novelists, poets, scientists and comedians; Nobel winners, world leaders, acclaimed writers and entertainers, and curious minded people of all ages. We’re welcoming the world, and all its ideas, with open arms.”
— Peter Florence, Hay Festival Director

A newly named families and children’s programme – HAYDAYS – offers a range of activities and events led by some of the biggest names in children’s writing including Julia Donaldson, Jacqueline Wilson, Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Michael Morpurgo, Cressida Cowell, and CBBC’s Sam and Mark, plus YA superstars Frances Hardinge, Holly Smale, Juno Dawson, Patrick Ness and vlogging sensation Caspar Lee, who will discuss the power of social media and his unexpected life at the heart of it. 

Meanwhile, beyond the main stages is a whole host of activities for all ages to discover and enjoy, from the best local food and drink, creative workshops and artists’ exhibitions, to a blockbuster programme of free BBC events and the opportunity to explore the stunning countryside surrounding the festival site. 

The full programme of more than 600 events is available to view at