Industry Notes: Hay Festival Serves 490,000 Streams; Costa Awards Open for Entries

In News by Porter Anderson

Hay Festival organizers in Wales are outspoken about the broad participation they’ve had in the digital iteration of their flagship event, while the Costa program has called for entries in its 49th edition.

Helena Bonham Carter in a taped piece about her ‘Shakespeare Behind the Scenes’ recording of what the Hay Festival calls ‘a Shakespeare megamix’ with Dominic West. Image: Hay Festival, Benjamin Caron

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Moment of Adventure and Opportunity’
The UK’s Hay Festival is reporting that during its May 21 to 31 digital program, it served out some 490,000 streams to users in 69 countries.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, the festival—forced by the COVID-19 pandemic from its usual physical doing at Hay-on-Wye in Wales—raised £95,786 (US$118,352) with its GoFundMe campaign and just over £100,000 (US$123,608) offline, as well. This made it possible for the program to mount more than 100 sessions online for fans at no charge.

The fundamental programming concept of the festival, of course, is a good fit for the era of webinars and Zooming, based in the comments of writers, historians, economists, policy people, and more. A program that capitalizes on good conversation and interviews has less a leap than some others when the coronavirus-driven push for online renditions of literary events are held.

In the UK today (June 2), the UK’s caseload stands at 277,736 confirmed infections and 39,127 deaths, in the 3:32 a.m. ET update (0732 GMT) of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

In addition to its primary programming, the Hay was able to also mount a free educational program for several grades of students with storytelling and live performances.

The program used the Crowdcast platform and had, as its primary sponsors Baillie Gifford, an investment management firm, and the Welsh government.

Peter Florence

In a prepared statement, the festival’s co-founding director Peter Florence is quoted, saying, “The combination of intimate conversations and the global audience able to participate online has reinvented the festival.

“We’ve had hundreds of thousands of viewers who’ve never been to Hay before. We’ve seen writers and actors and scientists respond to the technology with imagination and daring. And my brilliant colleagues have aced the innovation and the delivery. We’re going to absorb the wonders of all this and think carefully and quickly about how to move forward. It seems like a moment of adventure and opportunity.”

Baillie Gifford’s sponsorship lead Michelle McLeod says, “It has been an incredible journey for the Hay team to deliver the digital festival in such a short space of time, and an extraordinary achievement. Although we greatly missed the usual event in Hay-on-Wye, it was remarkable to hear so many inspiring and entertaining conversations, all beamed to thousands of people across the globe. Well done to the team at Hay Festival and to all the authors who took part.”

Some of the speakers featured in more than 100 events during the Hay Festival’s digital rendition. Image: Hay Festival

You can review events from the digital evocation of the Hay as well as from previous years’ physical events on the nonprofit company’s player, which is accessed by a nominal subscription, and there are  free offerings at the Hay Player’s landing page.

More details about the digital rendition of the Hay festival and its offerings is here.

Costa Book Awards: New Season, New Director

In case you missed it, our colleague Jim Milliot, editorial director at Publishers Weekly, spoke last week with Ailsa Chang on NPR’s All Things Considered, and explained—as the NPD Group’s Kristen McLean did in our interview—that the American publishing industry, hasn’t fared as badly in the pandemic than was feared. This is not to take anything for granted, nor do we suggest that anyone let her or his guard down. But, as Milliot notes, the industry’s sales in the States are down only about 1 percent through the middle of May and many good efforts, especially from the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, Binc, are helping with donations for situations that need support.

And one element of the book business that has never slowed down is the awards programs. Bombs could fall, as the saying goes, and these programs could continue to pump out the juror photos, the shortlists, the longlists, and so on. If you need some sign of consistency and stability amid so much upheaval, the awards are it. You can take some reassurance from the fact that as the fall season for the business swings into what we hope can be a remedial dynamic to start moving sales and readership forward—even with an expected bottleneck of delayed releases—those prize-winner seals will be on the book covers.

On Monday (June 1), we had news of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in Abu Dhabi opening to international submissions in its nine lucrative prize categories.

Today (June 2), it’s the UK’s Costa Book Awards, one of the UK’s most influential programs in a densely crowded field of prizes. announcing the opening of entries with a deadline of June 30. The program is open only to authors who live in the UK and/or Ireland and has five categories: first novel, novel, biography, poetry, and children’s book. Titles entered must have been published between November 1, 2019, and October 31 of this year.

Amanda Johnson

In 2021, the Costa will reach its 50th year of operation and it has a new director, Amanda Johnson, taking over from Bud McLintock who managed the program for 25 years. No stranger to the company, Johnson has been the awards’ publicity director since 2005. Those interested in entry should write for an entry form or information from Naomi Gane at

The Costa carries a £30,000 purse for its overall winner (US37,653), the Book of the Year, in the prize’s phrasing. Each category winner receives £5,000 (US$6,281), the total value of the annual program in prize monies being £60,000 (US$75,383).

Key dates ahead include a category shortlist on November 24, a list of winners in each category on January 4, and the Book of the Year winner’s announcement, with the Costa Short Story Award winner, on January 26.

The 2019 winner of the Costa Book of the Year was Jack Fairweather for The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz (Penguin Random House / WH Allen).

 More from Publishing Perspectives on the Hay Festival is here, more on the Costa Book Awards is here, more of our Industry Notes series is here, and more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.