Bookseller Richard Booth, whose empire quickly spread across all the empty shops in the town, as well as the former firestation and 17th Century Jacobean mansion, declared independence from both England and Wales in a bloodless coup on 1st April, 1977. No-one actually took him seriously, but it certainly put Hay on the map.
Our family once visited the town back in the early 1970's when were on holiday on a Herefordshire farm (yes, British people do such strange things!) and I remember spending a whole afternoon in just one section of one shop, utterly mesmerized by the choice of antiquarian books. I had glimpsed paradise, and one day, I have promised myself, I will return.
But has the festival, now in its 20th year (with150,000 ticket sales for 435 events) got too big, too impersonal and too concerned with commericialisation and celebrity glitz? Some critics think so, writes Andrew Johnson in the Guardian.
Another much smaller UK festival I read about with much envy is the Way With Words festival in Dartington, Devon.
A well-run literary festival should be something like a convivial garden fête - lots of strangers milling around in the sunshine and striking up conversations over a coffee, at the bar, waiting in the queue for the next event.says author Penelope Lively in the Telegraph, who reckons that she's found bookish heaven in Dartington.
I know the venue well from my days living just down the road in Plymouth or visiting my friend Helen in Totnes and have happy memories of chamber concerts in this beautiful old hall, scones and clotted cream in the tea shop, and long walks in the beautiful gardens.
The trouble is perhaps that when I think of England I always see it on a perfect Summer's day and am just swallowed up by waves of nostalgia ...
(Top picture from Guardian blog, bottom picture form the Telegraph)