The Winter Festival

I used to dread autumn. It meant the end of summer, the start of dark days and cold weather, all those sunny outdoor days a thing of the past. Well even without the Hay Winter Festival I had already come to recognize the beauty and atmosphere of the turning of the year, and the Winter Festival just adds a wonderful bonus.

It is a cut down shortened version of the main summer festival, but with a special character. For a start it takes place in the recently restored Hay Castle and its grounds. That places it right in the centre of town, which creates a vibrant buzz with the hundreds of visitors enjoying all the town has to offer in between events. And then there is the turning on of the town Christmas lights, a joyful event which brings countless local families into the little market square to wait for a celebrity (this year the fabulous photographer Hamza Yassin) to throw the switch. It hardly needs saying the Festival is a feast of superb speakers from every discipline you can imagine. As Bill Clinton said, it is “the Woodstock of the Mind”. I am (just) too young to have gone to the original Woodstock, but I am grateful to have the Hay Festival version twice a year. If you have never been, it is really worth it, uplifting, inspiring, thought provoking, it is very special.

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