58th edition
14-17 June 2021

Interview with Julia Eccleshare

The 30th edition of the Hay Festival has just finished, would you please tell us how did it go?

The 2017 Hay Festival was a great success. According to indicative figures we had a 12% increase in audience compared to last year. I programmed over 120 ticketed events for children aged between 3+ and 14+. The Hay venues vary in size between 150 seats and 1700 seats so some of the events were very big indeed. The authors and illustrators who appeared range from the best-selling Julia Donaldson, Chris Riddell, Liz Pichon and Anthony Horowitz to some less well known authors who introduced their books to a new audience. The events I programme are a mixture of performances many of which have audience participation, solo author events and panel events which are more of a discussion. Almost all events end with a question and answer session between the audience and the speaker. The Hay audiences ask a lot of questions - and they are very good ones.


You were at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair as a member of the 2017 BolognaRagazzi Award’s jury: was this experience useful for your role as the children’s director of the Hay Festival? Viceversa, has your job of children’s director of the Hay Festival you helped as a juror?

My role as programmer of Hay Children's Festival was very helpful in my role as a judge of the 2017 Bologna Ragazzi Award. In particular it enabled me to have a much better feel for publishing around the world and I intended to make use of this internationalism when i programme Hay Festival 2018. The other way round, because I was a Bologna Ragazzi judge I was able to invite the award winning authors to Hay Festival. 


Could you give us a little preview on what you’re preparing for Aarhus39?

The International Children’s Literature Hay Festival in Aarhus will celebrate great children’s writing from around the world and will also feature some of the great International Children’s Illustrators from the Bologna exhibition. The Festival runs from 26-29 October. The first two days will invite school children to the DOKK1 Library and the weekend – 28 and 29th October – will invite the wider public to the children’s Festival with a packed programme of International writers including Michael Morpurgo, Chris Riddell and Cressida Cowell. We will also be showcasing the Aarhus 39 – the best 39 young writers under the age of 40 from across wider Europe who have been commissioned to write stories to the theme ‘Journey’ which have been published in anthologies Quest – for 8-12 year olds and Odyssesy – for teenagers – in both English (Alma Books) and Danish (Gyldendal). This project brings together voices exploring the idea of journey – both growing up, physical journeys of travel and migration, and also adventures of the imagination – all of which reveal that stories help to build empathy as we discover that lives lived in other places and with other experiences nonetheless reveal that we have more in common with each other and that we are not alone in our experiences of growing up.