How will corona viruses change occasions?

If things went as planned this year, the organizers of the Hay Festival would be preparing to welcome over 200,000 visitors to the Welsh city of Hay-on-Wye this week. Over the past 32 years, the event has brought authors, actors, politicians and thinkers together in a lively program of conversations, discussions and parties against the backdrop of green fields and rolling hills. The event has become a major attraction for book fans around the world and has had a massive impact on the region and brought in around £ 25m each year to the local economy.

Since major events are no longer possible due to the corona virus, the Hay Festival has to do things a little differently. Over the next two weeks, a free virtual festival will be hosted on the Crowdcast online platform that will broadcast films, dance performances, and live questions and answers with authors and creatives from Hilary Mantel to Maggie O & # 39; Farrell, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Stephen Fry. It is a star-studded and varied line-up: in addition to interviews with leading names in the fields of fiction and non-fiction, Hay will also have live readings of poems by William Wordsworth, dance performances and lectures on topics ranging from human history to US politics to social justice organize.

Hay made the decision to cancel his festival in March when it became clear that the event could not take place as planned. Founder and director Peter Florence admits that it was a "scary" time – especially given the fact that the festival generated most of its income from ticket sales – but after starting an emergency call, Hay managed through the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to collect donations of almost £ 100,000.

Hay Festival; Photo: Sam Hardwick

“The response was overwhelming. It became very clear that people wanted us to have a future and that the festival is important to them, ”he tells CR. The money enabled Hay to put the festival online, and the team behind it has worked over the past two months to bring the Hay experience to life online.

As Florence emphasizes, much of Hay's success is due to the dialogue, which allows visitors to discuss great ideas with other festival goers as well as some of the brightest minds working in fields such as literature, business, art, and science. While most of the program consists of conversations, it is also known to host more experimental events and performances as well as informal parties.

It was a challenge to create a digital event that offered the same mix of experiences. “We had to reformat an event company into a broadcaster and adapt the broadcasting know-how to a new interactive digital platform that nobody has mastered yet. So the whole trip is an hour full of discoveries and adventures, ”admits Florence. With their imagination, however, the Hay team has put together a lively event program that goes beyond the traditional video interview or the zoom conference format.


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