LONDON (Reuters) - Some of the biggest names in literature, science and politics will pitch up to a small British town over the next week for a clan gathering of the world's most "promiscuous minds".
The 26th Hay Festival of literature, which begins on Thursday in Hay-on-Wye on the English/Welsh border, will play host to writers, scientists, philosophers, economists and readers in the thousands.
Among star names this year at what former U.S. President Bill Clinton dubbed the "Woodstock of the Mind" include best-selling spy novelist John le Carre, Australia's "Schindler's Ark" author Thomas Kenealley, Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Most of the readings, talks and panel debates take place in tents set up in a field outside the town of 1,500 people.
And when the sun sets behind the hills over the festival site, musicians as diverse as British indie band Noah and the Whale and Malian Tuareg "desert-rockers" Terakaft take over.
Festival director Peter Florence has described the festival as a deliberate attempt to spark ideas and unexpected connections in a "promiscuous mind".
This year should be no different.
Among events Florence highlighted as likely to fire the synapses were sessions featuring the music of Mali and another in which France's ambassador to Berlin discusses the lessons of western intervention in Mali and Libya.
Florence said he hoped audiences would connect talks from Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner and "banker to the poor" Muhammad Yunus, who developed the concept of microfinance, to that of economist Linda Yueh on the growth of China.
He also cited sessions with British economist Nicholas Stern, author of a 2006 report on the economics of climate change, and with Google's Schmidt on the digital future.
Bernstein, who with Bob Woodward helped uncover the Watergate scandal that brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon, takes part in a debate on the future of the free press.
"Most of all I hope people will contribute to the sessions and further the debate. This crowd is really, really smart, and they are experts in fields we cannot even begin to represent," Florence told Reuters by email.
Among literary giants on this year's program le Carre, the creator of fictional British spy master George Smiley, makes his first visit to the festival. U.S. novelist Barbara Kingsolver, author of "The Poisonwood Bible" and "The Lacuna", talks about her latest book, "Flight Behavior".
The Hay Festival runs until June 2.
Editing by Paul Casciato