Poetry, music and stand-up: the top 10 unmissable events at this year's Hay Festival

Posted by
Hayley Spencer
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Once famously dubbed 'the Woodstock of the mind,' Hay Festival is always one of the alfresco highlights of the year.

The 10-day literary event in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, turns 29 this year, with another stellar lineup of readings, comedy and music - plus an unbeatable atmosphere for literature lovers.

This year, the festival takes place from the 26 May - 5 June and there's a wealth of events to choose from. To help you out, we've selected the 10 not-to-miss slots. 

And, if you manage to find a free moment in between drinking in the culture, then be sure to explore the breathtaking Black Mountains nearby, browse the shelves at Hay­-on-­Wye’s world famous bookshops or sample some of the delicious local shepherds award-winning ice cream. 

Laura Marling’s special solo acoustic set

Laura Marling's dreamy folk melodies and dulcet tones regularly feature on the Spotify playlist here at Stylist HQ, so a chance to see her live at Hay is top of our list. She'll be playing an intimate acoustic set at the Tata Tent.

Thursday 2 June 2016, 9.30pm. Tickets are £18.

Angela Duckworth on grit and the power of perseverance

Award-winning psychologist Angela Duckworth is set to give an illuminating talk on the subjects she examines in her book, Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success. In conversation with Corisande Albert at the Telegraph Stage, she throws some light on why success depends on more than natural talent, discussing the importance of passionate persistence. Definitely one to see if you're angling to achieve big things this year. 

Saturday 28 May 2016, 10am. Tickets are £7.

Sarah Millican on The Standard Issue

Whether you're passionate about publishing or a big fan of Sarah Millican's sharp breed of comedy, be sure to book tickets for her talk on her online magazine, Standard Issue.  "No celebrity tittle tattle, no photoshopping, no calorie counting, no cellulite circling," reads the site's mission statement, and one year on, its success is evident in millions of views for its honest, forthright and funny content. Millican and her Deputy Editor, Hannah Dunleavy, will talk about what's next for their fledgling title.

Friday 3 June 2016, 5.30pm. Tickets are £9.

Amy Liptrot on her memoir

In Amy Liptrot's highly moving first book, The Outrun, she chronicles her return to her native Orkney after 10 years of living in London left her unhappy and dependent on alcohol. At Hay she reveals how writing, reconnecting with nature and living alone helped her recover.

Saturday 4 June 2016, 7pm. Tickets are £7.

Award­-winning poet Sarah Howe

In Sarah Howe's T.S. Eliot Prize-winning first collection of poetry she explores her dual heritage as she journeys to Hong Kong. In her slot at Hay she'll read a selection of the powerful works from Loop Of Jade and discuss her inspirations with fellow poet Owen Sheers.

Saturday 4 June 2016, 5.30pm. Tickets are £7.

Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates talks to Bryony Gordon

Laura Bates's Everyday Sexism Project began as a social media campaign documenting the daily harassment faced by women and evolved into a ground-breaking book. Speaking at Hay, in conversation with journalist Bryony Gordon, Bates will bring the same frank, no-holds-barred approach to issues surrounding body image and how its effected by the media and social media.

Friday 3 June 2016, 1pm. Tickets are £7.

KT Tunstall and her band

KT Tunstall is known for her high-energy performance style, so after a laid-back day of talks and readings she's bound to get everyone on their feet. She'll be joined by her band for a rousing rendition of her new album Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon at the Tata Tent.

Friday 3 June 2016, 9.45pm. Tickets are £24.

Brazilian singer Flavia Coehlo

With influences spanning hip-hop to samba, Flavia Coehla's unique sound has won her worldwide recognition. If you're not already acquainted you need to be. Watch her perform her mesmerising debut album, Bossa Muffin, at Hay alongside her awesome band.

Saturday 4 June 2016, 9.45pm. Tickets are £12.

Sara Pascoe's stand-up and her talk with Stephanie Merritt

Writer and comedian Sara Pascoe is the star of two must-see slots at Hay. First up, she sits down with Stephanie Merritt for a candid (and no doubt hilarious) discussion of female sexuality and what it means to be a modern woman, as per her book on the topic: Animal: The Autobiography Of A Female Body. On Monday, it's her turn to take the mic for a spot of stand-up as part of her Animal tour, which examines the limits of empathy. Expect to leave with aching sides.

In talk with Stephanie Merritt. Monday 30 May 2016, 10am. Tickets are £7.

Animal Stand-Up, Sunday 29 May 2016, 10pm. Tickets are £10.

Hay Festival will take place on Hay-on-Wye, Wales from 26 May - 5 June.