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Is modernity really failing? Or have we failed to appreciate progress and the ideals that make it possible? If you follow the headlines, the world in the 21st century appears to be sinking into chaos, hatred and irrationality. Yet Pinker argues that this is an illusion – a symptom of historical amnesia and statistical fallacies. If you follow the trendlines rather than the headlines, you discover that our lives have become longer, healthier, safer, happier, more peaceful, more stimulating and more prosperous – not just in the West, but worldwide. Such progress is no accident: it’s the gift of a coherent and inspiring value system that many of us embrace without even realising it. These are the values of the Enlightenment: of reason, science, humanism and progress. The leading thinker shows how we can use our faculties of reason and sympathy to solve the problems that inevitably come with being products of evolution in an indifferent universe. We will never have a perfect world, but – defying the chorus of fatalism and reaction – we can continue to make it a better one.
Ian Robertson joined the BBC during the golden age of radio broadcasting. Almost half a century after being introduced to the rugby airwaves by his inspiring mentor Bill McLaren, the former Scotland fly-half looks back on the most eventful of careers, during which he covered nine British and Irish Lions tours and eight World Cups. ‘Robbo’ is one of the great storytellers, with a wealth of insight and anecdotes about the greats of the game and its many fans – including Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Nelson Mandela. Sitting in a field in Wales, he might even be persuaded to venture some predictions for RWC in Japan.
The historian presents a lavish introduction to the Elizabethan aesthetic. Beginning with the great portrait of the Queen in grand procession with her Garter Knights, Strong explores chivalry, the changing structure of society, the complexities of imagery and heraldic symbols, and the richness of the Elizabethan imagination. Significantly, these paintings were personal commissions by private individuals and not for public viewing, so they speak volumes about the people who commissioned, painted and saw them. Strong was Director of the National Portrait Gallery 1967–1973 and of the Victoria & Albert Museum 1974–1984.
The Roundhouse Poetry Collective is a group of some of the most exciting young, emerging poets in the country. Previous collective members include Jack Rooke, Caleb Femi and Cecilia Knapp. The group meets weekly to create and experiment under guidance from lead tutors Bridget Minamore (a former Poetry Collective member herself) and Cecilia Knapp. The Poetry Collective performs a mix of heartfelt, funny and challenging material, which they tour across the UK. We are delighted to present a selection of poems from this year’s collective.
There is a move in the field of mental health to shift from asking the question “What’s wrong with you?” to “What’s happened to you?” in an attempt to place traumatic life experiences and adversity at the heart of understanding mental health difficulties. Dr Lucy Johnstone, Clinical Psychologist and one of the lead authors of a radical new conceptualisation of mental distress called the Power Threat Meaning Framework, joins co-author Professor John Cromby for a discussion with consultant clinical psychologist Benna Waites.
BAFTA and Perrier Award-winning comedian Dylan Moran brings his acclaimed show to Hay Festival. Moran will offer his unique take on love, politics, misery and the everyday absurdities of life, all served with poetical panache by one of the finest comedians of his generation. Moran has been called the Oscar Wilde of comedy, and his famed style – deadpan, witty and crackpot lyricism – promises to be an unmissable journey through his interpretations of the world, swerving cliché to offer a cutting blow to our idiosyncrasies. “Top-drawer stand-up from this master of the form” – Guardian.
Widely celebrated as one of the greatest poets of his generation, Zephaniah is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls ‘street politics’. His poetry, books and plays have captivated hearts and minds, fuelling imaginations and winning him a legion of fans all over the world. Though his music is lesser known, it is no less fervent. Created alongside his accomplished producer and collaborator The Sea, his Revolutionary Minds album is a deep selection of dub-reggae juggernauts, the essence and style of which fully reinforce the messages projected through Zephaniah’s powerful lyrics. He is one of the great performers of our age. He plays Hay with his band.
What is the potential of complex, ambiguous, wordless picture books and short films as springboards for children’s critical and creative discussions about the world and how we live together in it? Fiona Maine is a lecturer in literacy education at Cambridge University.
Horatio Clare, author of Something of His Art: Walking to Lübeck with JS Bach, The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal and Running for the Hills, will look at writers inspired by the Welsh border landscape including Coleridge, the Wordsworths, Bruce Chatwin and David Jones, and will explore what it means to walk in the footsteps of writers and walkers.
Please wear appropriate footwear. Numbers are limited. There will be a bus journey to and from the walk location; return to Festival site by 1pm.
A Book Club like no other, as our favourite literary vaudevillians read Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and think about how things might actually be WORSE. Crace writes the satirical Digested Reads for the Guardian where he is also parliamentary sketch-writer. Sutherland is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of English at UCL and the go-to senior Eng-Lit Super-Don.
The author of the multi-award-winning The Invention of Nature introduces her magical collaboration with the artist Lillian Melcher. Meet Alexander von Humboldt: the great lost scientist, visionary, thinker and daring explorer; the man who first predicted climate change, who has more things named after him than anyone else (including a sea on the moon), and who has inspired generations of writers, thinkers and revolutionaries. With encounters with indigenous peoples, missionaries, colonists and jaguars, and incorporating Humboldt’s own sketches, drawings and manuscripts, this is a thrilling adventure story of history’s most daring scientist. Chaired by Oliver Balch.
The historian selects letters that have changed the course of global events or expressed a timeless idea – whether passion, rage or humour – from ancient times to the 21st century. Some are noble and inspiring, some despicable and unsettling, some are exquisite works of literature, others brutal, coarse and frankly outrageous; many are erotic, others heartbreaking. His correspondents range from Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great to Mandela, Stalin and Picasso, from Fanny Burney and Emily Pankhurst to Ada Lovelace and Rosa Parks, Frida Kahlo, Leonard Cohen, Lincoln, Trump and Suleiman the Magnificent.
Evaristo’s fabulous Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible. Evaristo also appears in Busby’s New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent.
Complicité (complicite.org) choreographer Sasha Milavic Davies leads a full-day workshop to create a short dance piece with 40 women as part of the everything that rises must dance project [watch here] – a community dance piece created with 200 women of all ages, backgrounds and dance experience, celebrating female movement and dance from around the world. Participants of all abilities are welcome and there will be a short flash performance in the Hay Festival garden at the end of the workshop. Please wear comfortable clothes.
A circular walk from Hay, heading along the Wye Valley Walk, passing a former golf course, to Pool Pardon and a delightful garden tea room cottage with artisan produce. After refreshments, we continue our loop back via Priory Farm and across fields to Mouse Castle Woods and Cusop Church before our descent into Hay. Strong boots and all-weather clothing recommended. Distance 9 miles. Ascent 300 metres.
Join author Anne Rooney on a journey to the prehistoric age. Walk alongside the massive megalosaurus, take to the skies with terrific pterosaurs and dive to the depths of an ancient ocean with the incredible ichthyosaur. Keep your eyes open, though – you never know what other creatures you might meet along the way. Dinosaur Atlas was shortlisted for the Royal Society’s 2018 Young People’s Book Prize.
David Long tells the extraordinary stories of amazingly brave animals – dogs, horses, cats and even birds. Their intelligence and loyalty as well as their courage is a model for all,and David explores what humans might learn from them as he retells their fascinating true stories.
Ever wondered what a giant’s favourite treat is, or how to find a fairy’s missing wand? Join the Guillains in fairyland and see what happens when you climb a beanstalk. Packed with storytelling and songs – get ready to laugh and sing along.
Come and join Rooted Forest School (rootedforestschool.co.uk) for an outdoor family session inspired by the Forest School approach. We will be making charcoal on the fire, using natural pigments to create our own paint, making brushes from found materials and creating communal land art. These sessions are aimed at families and will run whatever the weather, so make sure you’re wrapped up for the conditions.
Join us in NMiTE’s Studio 1, a hi-tech refurbished shipping container, to explore ideas through making. Experience how highly creative and technological engineering can be. NMiTE is located in Hereford and aims to be the city’s first university with a focus on engineering.
Sign up at the venue for 10am, 11.30am or 1pm. Ingenuity Studio 1 free drop-in sessions for families take place between 2.30pm and 5pm, Sunday 26 May – Saturday 1 June.