Festival line-up lives up to name for promiscuity in the world of ideas
Since the annual festival at Hay-on-Wye quietly dropped the word "literary" from its title in 1989, it has become a celebration of far more than the world of books.
This year's programme is no exception. The treats in store for visitors to the Guardian Hay festival this May include an appearance by David Simon, creator of the TV series The Wire; Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern report on the economics of climate change; and Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the international criminal court, which last week issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
According to the festival's director, Peter Florence, "it is a catholic, or, rather, promiscuous event" - which ranges widely through the world of ideas, and through the world of the written word in all its forms.
Memorably, two former US presidents - Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter - have trodden the Powys sod, and previous Guardian Hay festivals have tackled the great issues of the day from conflict resolution to the environment.
Which is not to say the literary world is a sideshow at the event. This year, the festival will play host to an array of distinguished authors - including a rare appearance by Alan Bennett. "He will, willy-nilly, be the fastest-selling author at Hay this year," said Florence. "You only get to be that famous if you really are relentlessly brilliant."
There will also be the appearance, after years of steady courtship, of Swedish crime writer Henning Mankel, creator of the world-weary, brooding police inspector Kurt Wallander.
The festival has a habit of revealing literary trends. This year, according to Florence, "we are seeing a shift. The dominant generation in literary fiction is no longer that of Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes, but a younger generation, almost entirely female, who include Monica Ali, Kate Atkinson, Sarah Waters and Zoë Heller" - all of whom will speak. "The other people I would insert into that group are Anne Michaels and MJ Hyland," said Florence. "Hyland I suspect will be really discovered this year. I think she could absolutely catch fire."
Michaels, the author of Fugitive Pieces, will be at Hay to talk about her new book, The Winter Vault; and, in what promises to be a fascinating meeting of literary minds, Hyland, author of Carry Me Down, will appear in conversation with Hilary Mantel, whose latest novel, Wolf Hall, set in England in the 1520s, is published next month.
For music lovers, a highlight will be the appearance of the South African musician and activist Hugh Masekela. Hay will also welcome Jimmy Cobb, the drummer on Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain. "He is still experimenting, still making a revolutionary impact on music," said Florence.
The festival is traditionally strong on importing the most interesting thinkers from the US. This year features Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, was named by Barack Obama as the work he would find most useful in the Oval office - aside from the Bible.
And, while this year Hay will not be host to a former US president, Robert F Kennedy Jr, nephew of JFK, will talk about intensive pig farming. By complete contrast, Tony Curtis - "Hollywood's best-value yarn spinner," according to Florence - will be back.
• Tickets go on sale today for Tony Curtis, Alan Bennett and Hugh Masekela in concert, at hayfestival.com or on 0870 990 1299. Remaining events go on sale in early April; register for details at the Hay website.
• Fans of The Wire won't want to miss David Simon, creator of the series.
• Alan Bennett. Wit, humanity and literary virtuosity combined.
• Rowan Williams talks to AN Wilson
• Nicholas Stern fleshes out a blueprint for a safer planet, in a talk chaired by Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz
• Doris Kearns Goodwin in conversation with Jon Snow - an audience with one of the great presidential biographers, focusing on Lincoln.
• Eric Hobsbawm will extemporise about the Wall Street crash, the Nazi invasion of Poland, and Thatcher.
• Geoff Dyer and Will Fiennes in conversation: two fascinating literary minds come together.
• And finally, an utterly irresistible topic: ecologist Hugh Warwick will talk about "my life with hedgehogs".
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017