Past event

Hay Festival, 2016

28-29 May 2016

Letters Live travelled to Hay for a third year after very popular visits in 2014 and 2015 at which Benedict Cumberbatch, Louise Brealey and Jude Law headlined, and following a sold-out, highly acclaimed run at the Freemasons’ Hall in London in March 2016.


An evening show was first, with a phenomenal line-up that included such talents as Maxine Peake, Olivia Colman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, and Louise Brealey. The next day saw the cast return for a family matinee that left the packed Tata Tent emotionally drained and gripped throughout.


Background photo: © Chris Athanasiou


Saturday, 28th May 2016


Benedict Cumberbatch

Five accidents in two Minutes

Fred Allen to State of NY Insurance Dept.

Thank you

Dr. Mark Taubert David Bowie



Louise Brealey

I refuse to be cheated out of my deathbed scene

Rebecca West to H.G. Wells

Look for me in the sunsets

Emmie to Sumner



Mark Strong

A frivolous note

Roald Dahl to His Mother

I would like to give you your own history

Juan Gelman to His Grandchildren



Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch

You Babylonian scullion

Mehmed IV to Zaporozhian Cossacks



Maxine Peake

I do not believe in war

Joan Baez to the Internal Revenue Service

Thinking of you to the end

Rose Schlösinger to Marianne Schlösinger



Maxine Peake and Louise Brealey

Dear Friend

Hermione Gingold to A Friend



Olivia Colman

Fortunately, I had my new radio

Mary Grant to A. Walker

Dear Internet

Tina Fey to Internet Commenters

Your eager mother

Jessie Bernard to Unborn Daughter



Toby Jones

Prayers for Rain

Winston Churchill to The Times

The most frightful nightmare

Paul Nash to His Wife



Tom Hollander

Oh Christ the cook is dead

Spike Milligan to Stephen

Who is this kid?

Tom Hanks to George Roy Hill



Tom Hollander and Toby Jones

The mingled souls of wheat and corn

R.G. Ingersoll to Rev Buckley





Kelvin Jones

Even Now

Sunday, 29th May 2016


Benedict Cumberbatch

He is not a forgiving cat

John Cheever to Josie Herbst

Part of this world, part of another

Gene Wilder to Mel Stuart

The coyote

William James to Alexander James

The most extraordinary scene

Captain Reginald John Armes to His Wife



Bruce and Lily Robinson

All the ladies like whiskers

Grace Bedell to Abraham Lincoln



Bruce Robinson

Make your soul grow

Kurt Vonnegut to Xavier High School



Jacqueline Wilson

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Beatrix Potter to Noel Moore



Louise Brealey

An absurd accident

Dora Carrington to Gerald Brenan



Mark Strong

On not raising hogs

J.B Lee Jr to Ed Foreman



Mark Strong and Shea Thomas

Our differences unite us

Barack Obama and Sophia Bailey-Klugh



Maxine Peake

It is only adults who ever feel threatened

Ursula Nordstrom to a School Librarian

I am in receipt of your Final Demand

Naval Officer to A creditor



Olivia Colman

Seat 29E

A Customer to Continental Airlines



Sophie Hunter

Your words built a castle

Chrissy Hart to JK Rowling



Toby Jones

Books are people

EB White to Children of Troy letter

This is quite true

Evelyn Waugh to Laura Waugh



Tom Hollander

BE your own self. Love what YOU love.

Ray Bradbury to William Stanhope

Try and be a Dinketysnipsy girl

Roald Dahl to Elizabeth





Kelvin Jones

Call You Home
Sit right down and write myself a letter