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Camilla shares her passion for Hay Festival as she opens literary celebration

The duchess gave a reading at the online opening gala and praised the festival’s ability to ‘inspire, examine and entertain’.

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The Duchess of Cornwall is an avid reader (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall is an avid reader (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall is an avid reader (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall has opened the Hay Festival, telling of her love of the annual literary event.

Camilla, who set up her own Reading Room on Instagram during lockdown, also delivered a reading from A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles – which is among her book club choices this season.

The duchess said that the event’s principle of bringing readers and writers together was very close to her heart.

The festival, which is being held online this year, began with a free opening gala.

Others who were sharing works of literature, theatre and poetry included actors Jessica Raine, Stephen Fry and Charly Arrowsmith, comedians Sindhu Vee and Rob Brydon, author Elif Shafak and scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Avid reader Camilla, who was dressed in a blue patterned blouse, black jacket and gold statement drop earrings, said: “For over 30 years, Hay has been bringing readers and writing together at sustainable events, reaching more than five million people, of all ages, across five continents.

“I am one of those five million – and I absolutely love the Hay Festival.

“Over the past 10 years, I have been lucky enough to attend three times.

“Each occasion has been unique, thanks to the endless creativity of the directors and staff.”

The duchess joked that she had once also “suffered the shame of being roundly beaten by school children in a game of giant chess”.

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The Duchess of Cornwall plays a game of outdoor chess at the Hay Festival in 2013 (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall plays a game of outdoor chess at the Hay Festival in 2013 (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Duchess of Cornwall plays a game of outdoor chess at the Hay Festival in 2013 (Ben Birchall/PA)

She added: “But every Hay Festival, wherever and however it takes place, has in common one purpose: to inspire, examine and entertain.

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“From personal experience, I can say that Hay more than achieves this aim, because of the brilliant people who come together to debate, to challenge, to thank and to celebrate.

“I am quite sure that tonight will be no exception, even if we are, sadly, unable to be together in person.”

Camilla said the theme of the gala – “the power of words to offer hope in our darkest times” – could “hardly be more appropriate”.

She said: “We are now emerging from what has been a tremendously challenging year.

“We’ve all drawn enormous comfort from others’ words, whether in a telephone call from a supportive neighbour, a letter from a much-missed grandchild or in books old and new.”

She said books had always offered hope, including that joy was just around the corner, and that people could find “a community of kindred spirits” in “fellow bookworms”.

The digital festival will take place over 12 days from May 26 to June 6.

Former prime minister Tony Blair will be among those speaking at its PM300 series of events on leadership and global democracy.

He will be interviewed by his former Labour Party colleague Alastair Campbell, who served as his spin doctor.

PM300 marks 300 years since the UK’s first prime minister came to power.

Other figures appearing at the festival include actress Kate Winslet and poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

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