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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Writers prepare to make Hay
Festival organisers say Hay is keeping close to its origins

Lovers of literature are counting down the days to the biggest festival celebrating the written word in the UK.

The Hay Festival, in the small Welsh border town of the same name, is still going strong as it approaches its 16th year.

In recent years, there have been surprise last-minute sessions from the likes of former US president Bill Clinton and acclaimed African-American novelist Maya Angelou.

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

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

The book paints a sinister picture of a future world where genetic engineering has got tragically out of control.

And American author Don Delillo - who has never done a festival before and has said he will not do another, according to the organisers - has agreed to give an interview at this year's event.

Margaret Atwood
Ms Atwood won the Booker prize in 2000

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

But the festival is not just a showcase for writers of fiction.

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

Some of the sessions include:

  • Writer and feminist icon Germaine Greer on poetry
  • Travel writer Bill Bryson talking to presenter Mariella Frostrup
  • Geneticist Steve Jones questions whether there is a role for men in the future
  • Former Labour politician Tony Benn discusses the events in his latest volume of diaries.

Music is an important part of the festival - this year, Irish legend Van Morrison entertains in two separate sessions.

Soul stalwart Alison Moyet performs songs from her first album for eight years, while for those of a classical persuasion, The Alberini Collection perform throughout the week.

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."

He added there would be a large amount of engagement with the Arab world.

Edward Said, Queen Noor of Jordan and a representative from the Arabic satellite TV station Al-Jazeera are taking part.

"It's always been on the slate for this year, although it's become more urgent in recent months.

"There's such a lack of knowledge and understanding about the Arabic faith that we wanted to do as much about that as we could," said Mr Florence.

About 75,000 people are expected to attend events at Hay Festival, which runs from 25 May to 1 June at Hay-on-Wye.

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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