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Once described by Bill Clinton as 'the Woodstock of the Mind', the Guardian Hay Festival is one of the biggest literary festivals in the world. Taking place in the small market town of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border from 26 May to 4 June, it all happens a long way from anywhere, yet every year attendance increases, and now it attracts around 90,000 visitors who attend some four hundred events over ten days.
As this year's festivities get underway, writer and broadcaster Sarfraz Manzoor finds out why it is now the highlight of the literary calendar and meets some of this year's star attractions. These include two of the biggest names in contemporary fiction, Monica Ali and Will Self, both talking to Sarfraz about their latest books which they will be launching at the festival. Novelist Julie Myerson explains what it's like for normally reclusive writers to meet their fans, and Rory Bremner shares his views on comedy at Hay, and why it's unlike any other gig on the circuit.

Every year the festival awards a prize for best comic writing, but this is no ordinary gong as it comes in the form of a Gloucester Old Spot pig (although what the winner actually takes home is champagne and the complete works of P G Wodehouse). Sarfraz talks to previous pig winner Jasper Fforde about the challenges of writing comedy without an audience to test out your gags, and reveals the longlist for this year's prize.

Prod/dir: Ian Michael Jones
Exec prod: Judith Winnan
Prod co: Fulmar West Ltd
Posted on 25/05/2006
Region: All
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