Making Hay-on-Wye

Most bibliophiles know the name Hay-on-Wye as the first 'book town.' Said to have thirty or more bookshops, it's a tiny Welsh town that transforms during its annual literary festival. The population swells from its usual 1,500 to 250,000 for one week -- this week. The festival is going on now through June 5. It may be the only place where one can see the literary side of both the Archbishop of Canterbury and actor Rob Lowe. Bill Clinton once called it "The Woodstock of the mind."

What might be unknown to some, however, is that the Hay Festival isn't just in Hay-on-Wye. In face, the Hay Festival is also going on in Belfast, Ireland, this week. Later in the year Hay festivals will occur in Kenya and Spain. In 2011, for the first time, the Hay Festival travels to Cape Town (South Africa), Xalapa (Mexico), and Merthyr Tydfil (South Wales).

It's amazing to see literary festivals making such an impact, particularly on such a global scale. As the Hay blogger put it after this year's events began: "There has been delightful evidence that dumbing down is dead."

Photo of Hay castle courtesy Wikimedia/Schuy