THE programme for this year's Hay Festival, running from Thursday, May 22 to Sunday, June 1, is out this week.

Major figures heading the festival this year include Nobel laureate Toni Morrison in a wide-ranging discussion with festival director Peter Florence; Stephen Fry and Judi Dench with separate talks on Shakespeare to mark his 450th birthday celebrations; Jennifer Saunders talks about her Bonkers autobiography; Mervyn King gives the British Academy Lecture on Crises; chief scout Bear Grylls discusses survival and the great outdoors; and Hollywood star Carrie Fisher shares her thoughts on Star Wars and Postcards from the Edge.

Screen writers from hit television programmes discuss their art. Speakers include Steve Coogan and director Stephen Frears discussing Philomena and screenwriter Steven Moffat whose credits include Sherlock, Doctor Who and Spielberg’s Tintin, talks to Alan Yentob. Hans Ronsenfeldt, discusses the writing of his iconic Scandinavian drama The Bridge; Tom Hollander and his co-writers discuss Rev; the writers of Call the Midwife Heidi Thomas and Pippa Harris talk about their successful programme and are joined by one of the stars, Jenny Agutter.

On the fiction bill are Robert Harris who discusses his new novel An Officer and a Spy, crime writers Lynda La Plante and Lee Child; Orange Prize-winner Helen Dunmore; Jung Chang on Empress Dowager Cixi, the most important woman in Chinese history and ballet dancer turned novelist Carlos Acosta discusses his debut novel.

There is music from Cerys Matthews, Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, Hugh Masekela and Sam Lee, while Suggs and The Kinks' Ray Davies discuss their careers.

Comedy favourites Bill Bailey, Frank Skinner and Marcus Brigstocke return to the festival and for the first time Hay welcomes Susan Calman, Al Murray and Katherine Ryan.

Topping the Hay Fever bill is Julia Donaldson celebrating the Gruffalo’s 15th birthday and Francesca Simon marking Horrid Henry's 20th birthday; Henry Winkler, aka the Fonz, and author of the Hank Zipzer series and Judy Blume, legendary author of ground-breaking teenage novels, makes a rare trip to the UK.

For the full line-up of more than 700 events over the festival's 12 days, and to book, visit or call the box office on 01497 822629.