Hay festival on despite disease fears

The Hay on Wye literature festival will be held this year, despite the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Organisers of the annual May festival in the mid Wales border town have decided to go ahead with the event, which regularly attracts 50,000 visitors from across the world.

High-profile guests this year will include ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and former US President Bill Clinton.

The festival is due to start on 25 May but organisers had been unsure until now of whether foot-and-mouth would be sufficiently under control to allow it to proceed.

This year, the festival will be moved from its usual farm site on the outskirts of Hay to a less sensitive site in the town centre.

Festival secretary Peter Florence said advice would be offered to visitors on the correct precautions to take when travelling to the event.

“We are expecting that there will be a certain number of people who will feel cautious about coming to the countryside, but we have been able to move the festival into the very centre of Hay on Wye, and we will be able to offer fairly detailed advice to our guests and visitors as to the safest way for them to come to Hay,” he said.

Rural communities within close reach of the tiny town of Hay – which has a population of 1,300, 39 bookshops, and its own self-appointed ‘king’ – have been badly hit by the crisis.

This year’s event is expected to be particularly popular following confirmation of big names like Paul McCartney and Bill Clinton.

Mr Clinton will be carrying out his first public engagement in the UK since ending his presidential term.

Festival organisers confirmed several weeks ago that Mr Clinton’s UN-sponsored lecture on racism and conflict would take place on the second day of the event.

Rock concert

Members of the audience would also have the opportunity to ask questions.

Event Secretary Peter Florence said at the time: “I’m thrilled. The British public have not had a chance to question him in this way before.

Authors already booked to appear this year include Louis de Bernieres, Margaret Atwood, Nick Hornby and Frank McCourt, and Irish rock star Van Morrison is due to perform on 1 June.

Previous festivals have featured guests as diverse as the controversial Salmon Rushdie, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, and politician-turned-novelist Edwina Currie.

Last year’s line-up included Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Martin Amis , and poet laureate Andrew Motion.