Justin Webb’s childhood was far from ordinary. “The TV news came on and a lugubrious-looking chap in a light coloured suit with a deep, plummy voice said something about the balance of payments. ‘That’s your father’, my mother said, quite unprompted.”
Between his mother’s undiagnosed psychological problems and his step-father’s untreated ones, life at home was dysfunctional at best. But with gun-wielding school masters and substandard living conditions, Quaker boarding school wasn’t much better. And the backdrop to this coming of age story? Britain in the 1970s. Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and Free. Strikes, inflation and IRA bombings. A time in which attitudes towards mental illness, parenting and masculinity were worlds apart from the attitudes we have today. A society that believed itself to be close to the edge of breakdown.
On radio and television, Justin Webb comes across as one of this country’s most relaxed and affable broadcasters. His moving and frank memoir tells a different story of a childhood defined by loneliness, the absence of a father and the grim experience of a Quaker boarding school. He gives a perceptive account of Britain in the 1970s when the country was at its most stagnant and grey. He talks to broadcaster and journalist Sophie Raworth about his story of hope and how the gift of a radio changed the life of an unhappy little boy and put him on the road to becoming one of Britain’s most trusted journalists.
The Plimsoll Sensation: The Great Campaign to Save Lives at Sea tells the true tale of the agitation led by Samuel Plimsoll MP, ‘The Sailor’s Friend’, and by his wife Eliza, who worked together to defend sailors against nefarious practices including overloading and the use of unseaworthy ‘coffin-ships’.
The backlash of libel cases and vilification almost ruined Plimsoll, but his drive and passion made him feverishly popular with the public; he was the subject of plays, novels, street ballads and music hall songs. With the demonstrative support of the nation, he faced down his enemies, came close to ousting Disraeli’s government and achieved lasting safety measures for merchant sailors, including the load line that bears his name.
In this illustrated talk, Nicolette Jones throws light on a cross-section of Victorian society and tells the story of an epic legal, social and political battle for justice, which is still an inspiring example of how the altruism and courage of determined individuals can make the world a better place.
Introducing the third novel from the international literary sensation and acclaimed author of Breasts and Eggs and Heaven. Shy, lonely and introverted Fuyuko lives alone and fills her days with her job as a freelance proofreader. About to turn thirty- five, she cannot imagine ever having any emotional or successful relationship in her life as it currently stands. She is regularly haunted by encounters of the past.
But Fuyuko loves the light and goes out on the night of her birthday, Christmas Eve, to count the lights. Her only friend, Hijiri, offers some light in her life, but it is a chance encounter with another man, Mitsutsuka, a man who shares Fuyuko’s passion for light, who offers her access from another dimension.
Lively discussion with Jude Rogers and a selection of the best fiction and non-fiction writers at Hay. Today she’s joined by the comedian and actor, Marcus Brigstocke, the bestselling author, Sarah Vaughan, and the historian and TV presenter, Dr Tracy Borman.
A new collaboration with Shakespeare’s Globe brings nine performances of Julius Caesar to a specially commissioned open-air theatre at the newly renovated Hay Castle. The travelling company of actors, will bring to life Shakespeare’s political thriller with a stripped back production made fresh for our world today.
Touring has been a longstanding tradition at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, since the tours of the Elizabethan Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Shakespeare’s versatile troupe toured frequently in the summer especially when there was a plague or political unrest. Shakespeare’s Globe has now established a world renowned reputation for highly ambitious and economical Shakespearean storytelling in the rough and ready fashion of Elizabethan times.
“We are so delighted to be able to finally come to the Hay Festival to perform against the breath-taking backdrop of Hay Castle.” – Shakespeare’s Globe
Click here to pre-book a delicious picnic box to enjoy during the performance.
Join the internationally bestselling author of The Miniaturist in conversation with the Unbound publisher about her dazzling, feminist retelling of the Greek myth Medusa. Exiled to a far-flung island by the whims of the gods, Medusa has little company except the snakes that adorn her head instead of hair. But when a charmed, beautiful boy called Perseus arrives on the island, her lonely existence is disrupted with the force of a supernova, unleashing desire, love and betrayal.
Áine Ní Ghlinn, Ireland’s Laureate na nÓg (Children’s Literature Laureate) joins Children’s Poet Laureates for Wales Casi Wyn and Connor Allen for a dynamic Celtic language conversation with Welsh author and presenter Jon Gower. All of them work with great energy and passion to encourage children and young people to read for pleasure and explore their creative expression in Cymraeg and Gaeilge.
Explorer is the story of what first led Benedict Allen to head for the farthest reaches of our planet – at a time when there were still valleys and ranges known only to the remote communities who inhabited them. It is also the story of why, thirty years later, he is still exploring. It’s the story of a journey back to a clouded mountain in New Guinea to find a man called Korsai who had once been a friend, and to fulfil a promise made as young men. It is also a story of what it is to be ‘lost’ and ‘found’. Allen considers the lessons he has learnt from his numerous expeditions; most importantly, from the communities he has encountered and that he has spent so much of his life immersed in. He talks to travel and adventure writer Dan Richards.
The British Monarchy, one of the most iconic and enduring institutions in the world, has weathered the storms of rebellion, revolution and war that brought many of Europe’s royal families to an abrupt and bloody end. Its unique survival owes much to the fact that, for all its ancient traditions and protocol, the royal family has proved remarkably responsive to change, evolving to reflect the times. But for much of its history, it also spearheaded seismic change, shaping our religious, political and cultural identity and establishing the British monarchy as the envy of the world.
There has never been a more apposite moment to consider the history of this extraordinary survivor. Within the next decade, there is likely to be a change of monarch, sparking renewed global interest on a scale not seen since Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. Crown & Sceptre looks back at the history and evolution of the monarchy from 1066 to the present day.
Tracy Borman is a leading historian and Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. She is a regular presenter on the History Channel and Channel 5, and frequently speaks on BBC Radio 4.
Javier Cercas’ books include the classic Soldiers of Salamis. With his work translated into over 30 languages, Cercas is arguably Spain’s greatest living novelist, and is the subject of both critics and veneration. He has published fiction in the vein of ‘historical memory’, focusing on the Spanish Civil War and the Francoist State. He talks to lawyer and writer Philippe Sands about his latest book Even the Darkest Night, a first, prize-winning work of suspense.
The war in Ukraine has thrown into sharp relief the dangers of dependence on imports of Russian gas, just as the Gulf wars at the turn of the century showed up our over-reliance on Middle East oil. On the surface, renewables offer a way out: away from dependence on dodgy dictators for our economic lifeblood, and towards climate-friendly energy independence. But can we really rely on them for the lion’s share of our energy? What happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?
One answer, of course, could be to massively improve the efficiency with which we use existing energy. Then there are battery banks and ‘green hydrogen’, pumped hydro or compressed air storage, along with all sorts of smart new ‘demand management’ tricks – but these are early stage or (for now) small-scale technologies.
So do we need to ramp up nuclear power? Boost North Sea gas? Revisit fracking? Take a couple of coal-fired plants out of mothballs? Or can we put our faith in a clean, green, energy-efficient future – one which both keeps the lights on and sticks two fingers up to the world’s fossil-fuelled despots?
Harriet Lamb is CEO of Ashden, Mark Lynas is an author, journalist and environmental activist, Nina Skorupska is CEO of the Renewable Energy Association and Martin Wright, former editor of Green Futures, is an environment journalist and photographer.
In Stacey Halls’ Mrs England a young governess must navigate the challenging dynamics of family life underneath the polished surface of an Edwardian marriage. Set against the atmospheric West Yorkshire landscape, the author of The Familiars’ third novel is a powerful examination of truth and deception.
Beth Underdown’s The Key in the Lock is a gothic mystery around a mother mourning the loss of her son in the Great War, haunted by more than his loss. Underdown’s previous novel is The Witch Finder’s Sister.
The novelists discuss secrets and the creation of eerie atmosphere.
Known for her witty and surreal view on everyday life, actor and comedian Lucy Beaumont shares the unpredictable craziness of being a mum in her laugh-out-loud ‘mumoir’ Drinking Custard: The Diary of a Confused Mum. From when she was hospitalised with indigestion in her third trimester (blame the burrito), to when she was *this close* to slapping her hypno-birthing instructor, to finding herself drinking a whole pint of custard in one sitting, Beaumont sees the funny side of motherhood.
Over the course of a year, award-winning comedian Rachel Parris asked members of her live audience for bits of life advice that they would pass on to others. In Advice From Strangers: Everything I Know from People I Don't Know she takes these tidbits – such as ‘Be Kind’ or ‘Never Pass Up the Opportunity for a Wee’ – and weaves them into an explorative book that is at times funny and serious, and hilarious and heartbreaking.
The two comedians explore the challenges of motherhood and modern life, dealing with everything from tampons to Tories and #hashtags to staying hydrated.
Acclaimed physicist Jim Al-Khalili invites you to engage with the world as scientists have been trained to do. Underpinning the scientific method are core principles that can help us all navigate modern life more confidently. Discussing the nature of truth and uncertainty, the role of doubt, the pros and cons of simplification, the value of guarding against bias, the importance of evidence-based thinking, and more, Al-Khalili shows how powerful ideas at the heart of the scientific method are deeply relevant to the complicated times we live in. Come along to imbibe his brief guide to leading a more rational life. He talks to Dr Glyn Morgan, Curator of Exhibitions at the Science Museum.
Seaweed has the potential to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. About 50 per cent of the photosynthesis on Earth occurs in seaweeds and microscopic algae floating in the oceans contributing to the uptake of carbon dioxide and the release of oxygen. The seaweeds provide shelter for marine life and are an important part of the food chain. How can an upscaled, responsible and restorative seaweed industry play a globally significant role in food security, climate change mitigation, and support to the marine ecosystem, as well as contributing to job creation and economic growth?
Vincent Doumeizel is Senior Adviser at United Nations Global Compact on Oceans and director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation. He talks to Hay Festival’s Sustainability Director.
In 1908, Sydney Curnow Vosper painted an elderly Welsh woman in national costume, standing inside a chapel. Purchased by Lord Leverhulme and bizarrely deployed to advertise ‘Sunlight Soap’, Salem achieved the status of a national icon in Wales. Widely distributed as a print, it came to symbolise the piety of the common people, and acquired a moralising mythic back story. However, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, against a background of bombings, the burning of holiday cottages and the language movement, it underwent a transformation, redeployed by activists as a token of political docility and colonial subservience.
Following the acquisition by the National Library of Wales of a second version of the original painting, art historian Peter Lord reviews how this simple image became the focus of complex political identities, and the wider question of iconic representations of nationhood in Wales.
The original Salem painting by Sydney Curnow Vosper will be on display during the event, offering a special opportunity to view one of Wales’ most iconic artworks.
Photo © Dylan Williams
Ym 1908, peintiodd Sydney Curnow Vosper lun o hen fenyw mewn gwisg Gymreig draddodiadol yn sefyll y tu mewn i gapel. Wedi iddo gael ei brynu gan yr Arglwydd Leverhulme a’i ddefnyddio, yn rhyfedd iawn, i hysbysebu ‘Sunlight Soap’, daeth Salem yn eicon cenedlaethol yng Nghymru. Cafodd ei rannu'n eang fel print gan ddod yn symbol o dduwioldeb y dyn cyffredin, a datblygodd stori foesegol chwedlonol amdano. Fodd bynnag, yn chwarter olaf yr ugeinfed ganrif, gyda bomio, llosgi tai haf a’r mudiad iaith yn gefnlen, fe'i trawsnewidwyd a chael ei ailgyflwyno gan actifyddion fel arwydd o waseidd-dra trefedigaethol ac o fod yn wleidyddol ddof.
Yn dilyn caffaeliad gan Lyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru o ail fersiwn o’r darlun gwreiddiol, mae hanesydd celf Peter Lord yn adolygu sut y daeth y darlun syml yma i fod yn ganolbwynt i hunaniaethau gwleidyddol cymhleth, gan edrych ar y cwestiwn ehangach ynghylch cynrychiolaeth eiconig o genedligrwydd yng Nghymru.
Yn ystod y cyflwyniad, bydd y llun gwreiddiol Salem gan Sydney Curnow Vosper yn cael ei arddangos ac yn cynnig cyfle arbennig i weld un o weithiau celf fwyaf eiconig Cymru.
Mewn partneriaeth gyda Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru a noddir gan Oriel Mimosa
“Ulysses is going to make my place famous,” Sylvia Beach wrote to James Joyce when she made the decision to publish his novel, written over seven years and describing the events of a single day in Dublin. To celebrate a hundred years of this literary masterpiece, five devoted readers share their thoughts on reading a novel that has a reputation for being challenging, while maintaining a cult-like following as one of the defining books of modernism. Xiaolu Guo is a writer, Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company in Paris and John Mitchinson is publisher at Unbound. They talk to writer and journalist Sinéad Gleeson.
John Rankin Waddell, known as Rankin, is an exceptional photographer, publisher and film director. From the Queen of England to the Queen of Pop, his images have become part of contemporary iconography, evidence of his passion for all aspects of modern culture and its representation in the photographed image. In 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic Rankin created a series of portraits of key health workers to highlight the essential services provided by the NHS while celebrating the individual subjects for their contribution to society. He speaks to journalist and author Dylan Jones.
Irish Book Award-winning writer Sinéad Gleeson is co-editor of This Woman’s Work: Essays On Music. Neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday is author of The Secret World of the Brain. Journalist Jude Rogers’ The Sound of Being Human: How Music Shapes Our Lives explores how music shapes us from before birth to later life through her own personal, emotional story. They explore how music moulds our memories and identities in fascinating ways.
Sinéad Gleeson is co-editor of This Woman’s Work: Essays On Music. Neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday is author of The Secret World of the Brain. Journalist Jude Rogers’ The Sound of Being Human: How Music Shapes Our Lives explores how music shapes us from before birth. They explore how music moulds our memories and identities in fascinating ways.
Anna Fleming’s Time on Rock: A Climber’s Route into the Mountains charts her progress from terrified beginner to confident lead climber, and the way in which learning to climb offered a new relationship with both the landscape and herself. She describes how climbing invites us into the history of a place: geologically, of course, but also culturally, delving into what it’s like to be a woman in such a male-dominated world – and the ways in which the climbing community is trying to shift that balance.
Poet and novelist Helen Mort’s A Line Above the Sky is a love letter to losing oneself in physicality, whether climbing a mountain or bringing a child into the world. Melding memoir and nature writing to ask why humans are drawn to danger, and how we can find freedom in pushing our limits, she examines attitudes to women who take risks, particularly once they become mothers, and questions who their ‘body’ belongs to. Helen’s own story is haunted by the life of Alison Hargreaves who died on K2, having gone against convention by refusing to give up her career as a professional mountaineer after having children.