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Hay-on-Wye: The Book City

by Argyri Manglari

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It is described as the city of books. Hay-on-Wye, a small city in the centre of Wales, at the edge of Wye River, has long tradition on books. The city gathers a large amount of book-lovers every year. Book-lovers could search for second hand books in more than 40 book stores.

hay-on-wye book festival
The city every May hosts the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts which gathers writers, editors and book-lovers from around the world.
How did all begin? It was 1961 when a man named Richard Booth decided to open the first book store with 2nd hand books in an old fire department in Hay. He hired a few assistants and they travelled all together in USA and they bought books from public libraries which were closed one after another. He sent all those books back in Hay by containers. He soon became a symbol for the city and many people and organizations imitated him. No long ago the city was full of small bookshops which sold second hand books. Until the 70s Hay-on-Wye had become known worldwide as the Book City and today it accepts more than 500,000 visitors per year.

Since 1988 Hay-on-Wye organizes the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts. Writers like David Simon, Stephen Fry, Salman Rushdie and Simon Singh have been there. Even Bill Clinton described the festival as the “Woodstock for the brain”. Last years the festival also includes music events and movies. The festival travels as well in four continents, from Mexico to Lebanon and from Hungary to Nigeria.

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Argyri Manglari

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I am a journalist, blogger, creative writer and editor. I love travelling around the world and writing about my travels.

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