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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK
New chapter opens for Hay festival
75,000 people are expected to visit Hay-on-Wye
The biggest literature festival in the UK has celebrated its16th year.

The Guardian Hay Festival 2003, held at a school in the small Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye, began on Friday, attracting thousands of visitors.

It was opened at 1700 BST by the former Under Secretary General, Dame Margaret Anstee, who is the highest-ranked woman in the history of the United Nations.

Irish singer and songwriter Van Morrison performed in two separate sessions to celebrate the opening of the festival.

Famous names

In recent years, the small borders town, famous for its many bookshops, has hosted former US president Bill Clinton, and acclaimed African-American novelist Maya Angelou.

This year, the festival welcomes Booker prize-winning Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

The acclaimed writer, who has published more than 25 books, talks about her latest novel, Oryx and Crake.

Another Booker winner, Graham Swift, discusses his work, including his most recent offering The Light of Day

But the festival is not only about fiction.

Audiences at Hay can listen to scientists, journalists, and politicians holding forth on their own areas of expertise or interest.

Van Morrison
Van Morrison will be performing on the first night
Some of the events include writer and feminist icon Germaine Greer on poetry, travel writer Bill Bryson talking to presenter Mariella Frostrup, and former Labour politician Tony Benn discussing the events in his latest volume of diaries.

The festival started in 1988 after a group of local people involved in taking their theatre group to other festivals decided to hold one in their home town.

Although focusing on literature, the festival has always included other elements, but organiser Peter Florence denied it had moved away from its origins.

"The percentages of politicians and music and comedians is the same as it was in the early days," he said.

"It is just the perception that it has changed as the festival has grown."

About 75,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which runs from 25 May to 1 June.

Book festival draws to close
09 Jun 02  |  Wales
Angelou's rainbow of poetry
05 Jun 02  |  Wales
Book festival starts on musical note
31 May 02  |  Entertainment
McCartney at Hay Festival
30 May 01  |  Wales

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