Online success for Hay Festival as more than 200,000 people stream events

The festival was cancelled this year but an online programme of events is still running. Credit: Hay Festival.

The online version of the popular Hay Festival has proved a success after the streams of the opening weekend totalled more than 210,000.

It was announced in March the festival would be cancelled for the first time in its 33-year history.

Organisers feared its future could be in jeopardy as a result of the cancellation, prompting concerns over the future of the event.

However it was decided a number of the festival's sessions would still go ahead after it was decided to move online.

Events included poetry reading sessions sessions with Hay Festival President Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Other upcoming events include Bake Off star Sandi Toksvig talking about her life and memoir.

The Hay Festival has been running for 33 years. Credit: Hay Festival

The director, Peter Florence, said he was pleased they could reinvent the festival during the "strangest of times".

This new, global Hay crowd is reinventing the festival, and offering tantalising opportunities for the future. I am amazed by the sheer brilliance and ingenuity of my colleagues who are making this play. It’s a joyful adventure.

Director, Peter Florence

"It’s been an astonishing and exhilarating weekend", he added.

"The writers and artists have created extraordinarily rich and thrilling new work. We couldn’t ever have imagined how audiences in 63 countries would respond with such warmth to the intimacy of being in writer’s houses, nor how powerfully the stories would land in this strangest of times."

Hay Festival President Stephen Fry previews his Greek trilogy as part of the festival online. Credit: Hay Festival

Despite the success of the online sessions there are still concerns raised over the future of the literature festival next year, with a fundraiser to help save the event in 2021 being launched.

The online festival runs until May 31 with a full programme.