The Hay Festival has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, putting the future of the not-for-profit event at stake.
The annual 10-day literature festival, which takes place in the Hay-on-Wye town in Wales, was scheduled to start on May 21. Organisers said that refunds for all tickets are available, but warned that the festival’s future is in jeopardy.
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched by the organisers to help secure the forthcoming editions of the event that has been described as everything from the "Woodstock of Literature" to the "Christmas of the Book World." The inaugural Hay Festival Abu Dhabi took place in the capital last month.
More than 100 events, including concerts, panel discussions and talks by award-winning writers, took place across the four day event, which began on Tuesday, February 25.
“We regret deeply that our annual gathering of readers and writers and friends won’t take place in May, as it has for 33 years,” Peter Florence, the festival’s director, said in a statement.
"As we face these coming weeks of uncertainty and isolation we will work hard to carry forward our spirit of togetherness, and to share stories and ideas."
Florence said that the festival now faces a stark reality and has called on the public for help. Organisers will face the difficult challenge of recovering the large infrastructure costs they have already committed to. A GoFundMe campaign with a target of £150,000 (Dh650,000) has been set up to help protect the festival’s future.
“We have ten days to raise the funds we need to support us in the coming months and secure Hay Festival 2021 and a time when we can again celebrate together and tell stories of these times,” Florence said.
Organisers said that #Helphayfestival emergency fund will contribute towards a larger fundraising target that the festival is trying to secure through multiple sources.
At the time of this writing, almost £40,000 has been raised in the 18 hours since the campaign has gone live. Donors will be recognised as official “Haymakers” and credited on a commemorative wall displayed at every Hay Festival to follow if the event takes place again.
The annual festival had huge economic implications for the Welsh town where it takes place. The influx of thousands of bibliophiles who flocked to Hay-on-Wye generated around £25 million for the region, which is one of the lowest paid areas in the UK.