Home News Sharing the power of books at the Hay Festival 2023 

Sharing the power of books at the Hay Festival 2023 

In 2023 we took part in our fifth Hay Festival event. In this blog, our Head of Communications Emma Taylor reflects on why Hay is so important.  

This time last month, we were joined by over 1,000 book lovers The Hay Festival to hear Elif Shafak, Kit De Waal and Mariella Frostrup talk to our trustee and International Board on Books for Young People Chair Pam Dix about the importance of books in these troubling times.  

We’ve had a platform at The Hay Festival since 2017, and this year was our biggest event to date. I’d like to extend a very warm thank you to the festival team, to our participants and especially to Pam for all their work in putting the event together. Watch the event here 

A month on from our latest event and five years into our festival presence, we know that The Hay Festival really helps us advocate for global access to books in three ways:  

Raising awareness of the global need for books

Very often, the global need for and importance of books goes unrecognised. Many simply don’t realise that millions of people live in a world entirely without books.  

For small charities like ours, the costs of advertising campaigns to raise awareness of this global issue is prohibitive. Just £2 sends a brand-new book, and we need to use the funds we have to do more for readers.  

So events like Hay, where we can talk to such a large audience of book lovers, give us a crucial opportunity to spread the word about the global need for books without breaking the bank.  

Highlighting marginalised readers

We are inspired every day by the readers, teachers, librarians and families who work against seemingly impossible odds to read. And we are committed to giving readers around the world the chance to tell the world how important books are to them – whether on film, in person, or in writing.  

We always include reader voices in our events at Hay. These readers have varied a lot over the years – from people living with poverty in Malawi to librarians who have lost their library in Mosul to refugees seeking refuge in a story.  

This year, we were proud to share the story of Syrian reader Shahed. You can hear from her below: 

Inspiring action

Hay is all about hearing from story creators about how, together, we can reimagine the future – and one way that we can give everyone the chance to reimagine the future is to make sure they all have access to books which act as windows into new worlds.  

The authors who support us always speak passionately about the power and importance of books, and following on from our festival events we’ve had new donations and new contacts which help us send more brand-new books to communities worldwide.  

It is one of our most important days of the year, and one that wouldn’t be possible without the authors who so generously give their time, The Hay Festival team and our event chairs who make each conversation so special.   

We would like to once again thank Pam, Elif, Mariella and Kit for taking part this year, and we look forward to many more years of sharing the power of books at Hay.  

There’s so much you can do to share the power of books

Sign up now to hear from readers and be kept updated on our work, fundraising activities and events.

With thanks to Syria Relief/Action for Humanity

More blogs

Lessons in Literacy

Our East Africa Representative James shares his reflections from the Pan-African Literacy for All conference.

Read more