Coronavirus: Almost 500,000 stream first online Hay Festival

Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Tori Amos

Almost half a million people logged on to watch stars like Sandi Toksvig, Tori Amos and Stephen Fry at the first online Hay Festival.

The 33rd edition of the literary event was free and broadcast online over the past two weeks after receiving donations of £350,000.

The Hay Festival went digital for this year because coronavirus lockdown rules meant it could not be staged in Powys.

“Hundreds of thousands” enjoyed Hay for the first time, organisers said.

“We’ve seen writers, actors and scientists respond to the technology with imagination and daring,” said director Peter Florence.

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Novelist and poet Margaret Atwood, actor Benedict Cumberbatch and actress Helena Bonham Carter joined the likes of comedian and broadcaster Fry, The Great British Bake Off presenter Toksvig and singer Amos at this year’s Hay.

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Image caption Stars including Helena Bonham Carter, Margaret Atwood and Benedict Cumberbatch appeared live from their homes

The festival boasted 100 award-winning writers and it attracted 490,000 people from 70 countries.

“The combination of intimate conversations and the global audience able to participate online has reinvented the festival,” added Mr Florence.

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Image caption Some 275,000 tickets are usually sold for the two-week festival

“We’ve had hundreds of thousands of viewers who’ve never been to Hay before and my brilliant colleagues have aced the innovation and the delivery.”

Festival organisers will now “absorb the wonders” of its first online event and “think carefully about how to move forward.”

source: bbc