THE second Hay Festival which takes place entirely online has opened.

The festival normally attracts thousands of daily visitors to the border town of Hay-on-Wye but for the second year running the event has had to be held online due to Covid restrictions.

The opening gala, also online, featured works of literature, theatre and poetry from contributions including actors Stephen Fry, Jessica Raine, Charly Arrowsmith, Richard Eyre and Louise Brearley; comedians Sindhu Vee and Rob Brydon; writers Elif Shafak, Juno Dawson, Clemency Burton-Hill, Simon Schama, Rufus Mufasa, Hafsa Zayyan, Margaret Busby, poets Hollie McNish and Karl Nova; scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock; and host Natalie Haynes.

The festival runs until Sunday, June 6 and features conversations, debates, workshops, and performances with more than 300 acclaimed writers, global policy makers, historians and poets while new fiction and non-fiction works will be launched. The festival says it aims to interrogate some of the biggest issues of our time.

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Events will be broadcast live from temporary studios in Richard Booth’s Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, on hayfestival.org/wales. Registered users will have the opportunity to interact with other audience members online and pose questions to speakers. All events will be closed captioned and available to watch free for 24 hours after the live broadcast.

While events won’t have live audiences in person, Hay-on-Wye is still getting into the festival spirit, with a free WiFi network running throughout the town centre to provide unlimited event streaming for visitors.

Heather Salisbury, Hay Festival artist manager, said: “The support for Hay Festival over the past year has been overwhelming, with our Haymakers, partners, funders and sponsors giving us an incredible opportunity to reinvent what a Festival can be. This spring we beam our programme to you from Richard Booth’s Bookshop in the heart of Hay-on-Wye, welcoming writers, readers, thinkers and dreamers together from around the world to join our digital party. We’ll meet this moment of challenge and change with inspiration and vision, and place our trust in the wisdom of writers to guide us through.”