Three young friends meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Raymond Aron. Aron opens their eyes to a radical new way of thinking. Pointing to his drink, he says, “You can make philosophy out of this cocktail”. The author of How To Live: A Life of Montaigne tells the story of modern existentialism as one of passionate encounters between people, minds and ideas. Weaving biography and thought, Bakewell takes us to the heart of a philosophy about life that also changed lives, and tackled the biggest questions of all: what we are and how we are to live.
On Mother’s Day 2004 the artist Henny Beaumont gave birth to her third child. For the first few hours, her baby seemed no different from her two other little girls. With stunning art and refreshing honesty, Henny describes how family life changed the moment the registrar told her and her husband that their daughter might have Down’s syndrome. Henny’s wit and irony transform a deeply traumatic personal experience into a story that will resonate with every parent. She shares her family’s journey - in beautiful black and white drawings – from hospital to home, and from early years to school, in this moving, wise and unsparing graphic memoir.
The astronomer will share his excitement about recent cosmic ideas and discoveries. Since last festival there have been new searches for life (even intelligent life) in space. One of Einstein’s greatest predictions has been confirmed with the detection of gravitational waves from colliding back holes. Images of Pluto have surprised us, and astronomers have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars, some resembling Earth. And there is speculation that physical reality encompasses more than the aftermath of our big bang: we may inhabit a multiverse.
Rob Penn cut down an ash tree to see how many things could be made from it. Journeying from Wales and Ireland across Europe to the US, he finds that the ancient skills and knowledge of the properties of ash, developed over millennia making wheels and arrows, furniture and baseball bats, are far from dead. He chronicles how the urge to appreciate trees still runs through us like grain through wood.
Three debut authors talk to New Welsh Review editor Gwen Davies about childhood and the nostalgia of popular culture in memoir and fiction, and about getting that first book written and published. Abbie Ross’ memoir Hippy Dinners is set in north Wales; Julia Forster’s debut novel What a Way to Go is set in the Midlands; and Crystal Jeans’ novel Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise is set in Cardiff.
This is a statement from the superstar author of How To Be A Woman about the world and the causes she cares about. It’s a compelling and hilarious rallying call for our times, tackling topics as pressing and diverse as reclaiming the word feminism, gaying up the Olympics, affordable housing, 1980s swearing, boarding schools and the reasons the internet is like a drunken toddler. Chaired by Stephanie Merritt.
Slow traveller Ed Gillespie takes us on an inspirational global circumnavigation without going anywhere near an airport. From cargo ships to camels, hitchhiking to hovercrafts, Ed proves that getting there really is half the fun. Crossing Shamanic lakes, Mongolian deserts and climbing jungle volcanoes, he meets grizzled sea dogs, drunken smugglers, peckish pythons and billions of butterflies. This highly visual talk focuses on the exhilaration of taking it slowly and rediscovering hope both for humanity and for the planet we all share.
In late November 1623, the publisher Edward Blount finally took delivery at his bookshop, at the sign of the Black Bear near St Paul’s, of a book that had long been in the making: Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Professor Smith tells the story of that first collected edition of the plays, and follows the journeys of individual copies now located around the world with their tell-tale annotations, wine stains, provenance and uses.
The WI is fondly thought of in terms of ‘jam and Jerusalem’, but its roots are intertwined with the women’s suffrage movement and the many campaigns that have sought to articulate the needs of women since the First World War. The Professor of Cultural History will explore the political and social initiatives that helped define the radical organisation.
For much of history, soil has played a central role in society. Farmers and gardeners worldwide nurture their soil to provide their plants with water, nutrients and protection from pests and diseases; major battles have been aborted or stalled by the condition of soil; murder trials have been solved with evidence from soil; and, for most of us, our ultimate fate is the soil. The Professor of Ecology at Manchester explores the role soil plays in our lives and in the bio-geochemical cycles that allow the planet to function effectively. He considers how better soil management could combat global issues such as climate change, food shortages and the extinction of species.
Rather than continually making more clothes using more materials, there should be a greater emphasis on how clothes can be repaired, adapted and upcycled. The Professor of Sustainability, Design and Fashion at University of the Arts London presents an inspiring manifesto for improving durability and resourcefulness in the fashion industry.
You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum has become a modern classic – pretty good at only 10 years old. But, as the winner of two Roald Dahl Funny Book Prizes, two Blue Peter Book Awards and the Red House Book Award, this was always something special. Celebrate Mr Gum with the author in an event that is likely to be as riotous as the book.
Celebrate 25 years of this picture-book with its award-winning creator Simon James (Baby Brains, Nurse Clementine). Little Emily has a whale living in her garden pond and decides to write to Greenpeace for tips on how to look after him. With storytelling and live drawing, Simon takes you on a journey through this much-loved classic and introduces you to his latest book, REX.
The triumphant, concluding volume in David Crystal’s trilogy on the English language combines the first history of English punctuation with a complete guide on how to use it. The punctuation of English, marked with occasional rationality, is founded on arbitrariness and littered with oddities. Professor Crystal leads us through this minefield with characteristic wit and clarity. [DC on semi-colons is hilarious; also painfully funny on exclamation marks! Ed.]
Even in their most private moments, the Tudor monarchs were accompanied by a servant specifically appointed for the task. A groom of the stool would stand patiently by as Henry VIII performed his daily purges, and when Elizabeth I retired for the evening, one of her female servants would sleep at the end of her bed. The Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces uses the personal notes from these courtier intimates to give a revelatory picture of the Tudors’ private lives.
Which tree is often used in the treatment of cancer? Which everyday condiment is the most widely traded spice on the planet? Plants are an indispensable part of our everyday lives. From the coffee bush and grass for cattle (which give us milk for our cappuccinos), to the rubber tree that produces tyres for our cars, our lives are inextricably linked to the world of plants. The Curator of the Oxford University Herbaria identifies the plants that have been key to the development of the western world.
In his first official event as National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn will discuss Welsh literature with his predecessor, Gillian Clarke. Both poets will read from their work and share their stories and thoughts on this thriving scene.
Yn ei ddigwyddiad cyntaf fel Bardd Cenedlaethol Cymru, bydd Ifor ap Glyn yn trafod llenyddiaeth Cymru gyda’i ragflaenydd, Gillian Clarke. Bydd y ddau fardd yn trin a thrafod byd barddoniaeth ac yn taflu ambell gerdd i’r pair hefyd.
University of Worcester Series
The hyper-accelerated culture of the C21st presents many challenges for our mental and physical wellbeing. The consultant clinical psychologist explores positive strategies for handling life’s challenges, from taking care of your physical health to building strong relationships with those around you and developing coping strategies for negative moments.
From the food on our plates to the greens in our garden, many plants share one extraordinary characteristic – they contain two, three or even 10 copies of their entire genetic code in each of their cells. This so-called ‘polyploidy’ crams cells full of DNA and not only gives us weird and wonderful-looking plants, but almost all of the plants we eat every day. The Director of Science at the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew and Michael Faraday Prize winner talks about polyploidy and how it will help us take on our great global challenges.
The flood that God used to destroy the sinful race of man on Earth in Genesis 6:17 crystallises in its terrifying, dramatic simplicity the universally recognised concept of payback. For millennia human civilisation has relied on such beliefs to create a moral order that threatens divine punishment on people who commit crimes, while promising rewards – abstract or material – for those who do good. Today, while secularism and unbelief are at an all-time high, this almost superstitious willingness to believe in karma persists. Why?
Why are readers so interested in the lives and opinions of writers? When did writers become celebrities in the way we understand them today? And what did those lucky few who acquired some souvenir or relic of their favourite writer hope to gain from it? Two critics look at the rise of literary celebrity in the C18th and C19th, the cult of the poet and the trade in literary relics.