Hay Festival hopes to attract TikTok crowd

Hay Festival, which runs from 25 May to 4 June, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people

More young people are attending Hay Festival due to the influence of TikTok, the site’s book shop manager has said.

Gareth Howell-Jones said sales at the shop – Europe’s busiest during the festival – were increasingly driven by “BookTok”, a sub-community of the app.

The literature festival begins on Thursday and will attracts hundreds of thousands of people to Hay-on-Wye, Powys.

It comes as organisers said they must broaden its appeal to those who may not have considered a literature festival before.

Mr Howell-Jones said books which gained attention on TikTok were “hugely popular” at the festival last year, which he said was a “really positive thing”.

“It’s getting a lot of young people to read very good books that are recommended. It’s readers and writers communicating again which is what the whole thing is about”, he said.

“We’ve got more BookTok books here than we had last year… and there are more TikTokers and influencers coming to the festival as well, so it’s only going to expand.”

Music superstars Stormzy and Dua Lipa wil both be in attendance at this year’s festival

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced he will be joining this year’s lineup, alongside music superstars Stormzy and Dua Lipa.

Rapper Stormzy will be joined at this year’s festival by authors from his #Merky Books project, which aims to publish books from under-represented voices.

Dua Lipa, a three-time Grammy winner, will be recording a live episode of her At Your Service podcast with Booker Prize-winning author Douglas Stuart.

Others stars at the festival include Oscar nominees Helena Bonham Carter and Richard E Grant, astronaut Tim Peak, adventurer Bear Grylls and author Julia Donaldson.

This is a Hay Festival after a pandemic and during a cost-of-living crisis and organisers said they have taken account of that – the festival is free to enter.

About 8,000 schoolchildren will attend the event, with the festival operating outreach programmes across Wales.

Festival boss Julie Finch, who is running the show for the first time this year, said she was “incredibly excited” to learn how the festival could adapt for the future.

“Really this is my first year, I’ve been a member of the audience for 10 years so the flip side of that is that I now find myself in charge,” said Ms Finch.

“This festival is all about shaping the future of the next Hay Festival.”

She added that the programme of artists is “moving away” from being “just about books”.

“We simply cannot just press the repeat button, we have to understand what is happening with our audiences and then we can move forward.”

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