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For this year’s Forum we bring you six events focusing on the way we produce, supply and package the food we eat, the impacts those processes have on our planet and the ways in which the narrative is decided.
Who or what is to blame for us getting fat and ill in increasing numbers? Sugar or fat? Gut microbes or genes? Laziness or poverty? Whatever it is, it’s placing a devastating burden on our healthcare system, and scientists in every field are desperate to explain this epidemic and stave off a modern health disaster. Anthony Warner, author of The Angry Chef, lays out the best evidence available, rails against quack theories preying on the desperate, and considers whether we’re blaming our bodies for other people’s ignorance and cruelty. Kitty Corrigan is a journalist and travel writer.
The last year has seen an explosion of public outrage over plastics pollution, triggered by images of straws in turtles’ noses, whales dying after eating shopping bags, and the ugliness of a blue planet disfigured by a throwaway society. It’s sparked tougher regulation on single-use plastics and has shamed supermarkets into action. What would an end to plastic pollution mean in practice? And how do we get there?
Natalie Fee (author and campaigner, founder of City to Sea), Lucy Siegle (journalist and author) and Paula Owen (founder of Green Gumption) talk to award-winning environment journalist Martin Wright.
In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the ‘Knepp experiment’, a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.
One in three Britons now identifies as (at least) ‘semi-vegetarian’, while the number of vegans has risen by a heady 700% in less than three years. Whether driven by concerns over health, animal welfare or – increasingly – climate change, it’s fast becoming a norm. But, like most modern dilemmas, it’s not quite that simple. Advocates of mindful meat-eating point out that cows and other livestock can play a vital role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem on our farms, and – depending on how they are grazed – they might even help the soil store more carbon. So do you have to go vegan to save the planet? Or is there a more nuanced approach? Simon Fairlie (author of Meat: A Benign Extravagance and editor of The Land magazine) and Safia Minney (vegetarian entrepreneur, People Tree and Pozu) talk to Martin Wright.
Stacey Dooley is one of Britain's most loved documentary presenters and investigative reporters. Fashion conscious Stacey's life took an unexpected turn when she travelled to India in 2007 for the BBC3 series 'Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts' to live and work alongside the people in the Indian fashion industry making clothes for the UK High Street.
Upon her return to the UK, Stacey began campaigning against child labour, organising events to raise money for charities and even appearing on BBC2's Newsnight to raise awareness, and has since embarked on a series of investigations to become one of BBC3’s most celebrated presenters.
Through the course of her documentary making, Stacey has covered a variety of topics, from sex trafficking in Cambodia, to Yazidi women fighting back in Syria. At the core of her reporting are incredible women in extraordinary and scarily ordinary circumstances – from sex workers in Russia, to victims of domestic violence in Honduras. In her first book, On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back, Stacey draws on her encounters with these brave and wonderful women, using their experiences as a vehicle to explore issues at the centre of female experience. From gender equality and domestic violence, to sex trafficking and sexual identity, Stacey weaves these global strands together in an exploration of what it is to be women in the world today.
She won Strictly 2018.
Imogen Walford is senior producer of BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
This exploration of the evolution of policy and practice related to upland farming, the role science has played and related impacts on treasured landscapes will be accompanied by poetry and prose inspired by these places and activities. Fraser is Reader at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University. Elizabeth Jardine-Godwin is a writer and teacher who was Pwllpeiran Writer in Residence in 2013.
The superhero social entrepreneur, founder of the Big Issue and now member of the House of Lords, brings his new literacy campaign to Hay to launch the second edition of Literary Briefs: Chapters & Verse, championing 50 great books. Join him to talk about the power of libraries, stories and imagination, and to help build a new ‘Wider Reading Alliance’.
The new time-shift novel from the global bestselling author of Lady of Hay mines Erskine’s own family history. Her heroine Ruth discovers a hidden diary from the 18th century, written by an ancestor, Thomas Erskine. As she sifts through the ancient pages of the past, Ruth is pulled into a story that she can’t escape. As the youngest son of a noble family Thomas’s life started in genteel poverty, but his extraordinary experiences propel him from the high seas to Lord Chancellor of England. Yet, on his journey through life, he makes a powerful enemy who hounds him to the death – and beyond. Ruth has opened a door to the past that she can’t close, and meets a ghost in her family tree who wasn’t invited.
There are few issues where public debate is conducted with so much misinformation and irrational exuberance. So now for something completely different: a dispassionate analysis of what we actually know and what we don’t yet know about climate change. David J Helfand, Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University, carefully distinguishes facts from fictions and physics certainties from feedback uncertainties.
A spectacular two-part show, featuring the already classic seven-piece line-up the band debuted in 2018, who will play a long and generous set in two halves. Centred as always around the guitar and vocals of Mike Scott, The Waterboys feature electric fiddle maestro Steve Wickham of whom DJ Chris Evans says: "I've had Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on my show but the best guitar solo we've ever had was played on this man's fiddle"; Memphis soul man Brother Paul on keyboards; Aongus "funkiest man in Ireland" Ralston on bass; Jess Kav & Zeenie Summers on backing vocals; and top British drummer Ralph Salmins.
They promise an incendiary set comprising brilliant new material and the best of their recent and vintage work. The band's last three albums Out Of All This Blue (2017), Modern Blues (2015) and An Appointment With Mr Yeats (2011) re-established them as one of the crucial bands currently working out of these islands. Many of their songs including Fisherman's Blues, The Whole Of The Moon and How Long Will I Love You have become modern classics and they remain one of the most unmissable live acts in the world.
Young people will be talking about books for teenagers and what they think about Asian and black characters in novels. We’ll also hear why young people love spoken word poetry. Some will perform their own work.
Four of the award-winning contemporary painters and sculptors taking part in this intergenerational and international exhibition introduce their work, hosted by Charles Hewlings. Formerly a Welsh mountain pony stud farm, Randan Stables Gallery is a unique rural exhibition space in the heart of the Welsh Marches, six miles from Hay.
Over 50 years, Winston Churchill wrote extensively about art and produced more than 500 paintings. In this lavishly illustrated lecture, the historian offers an entirely new perspective on Churchill and his paintings. Professor Sir David Cannadine is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University, Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and President of the British Academy. His publications include The Undivided Past, In Churchill’s Shadow, Class in Britain and The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy.
A special Hay Festival edition of the BBC Radio Wales Arts Show. Nicola Heywood Thomas explores the ways that landscapes influence and inspire writers, musicians and visual artists. Her guests are poet Gillian Clarke, music writer Richard King, academic and short story writer Mary-Ann Constantine and artist Celia Johnson. Featuring live music from King Charles.
The environmentalist tells the heartbreaking story of a unique band of brilliant blue birds – who talk, fall in love, and grieve – struggling against the forces of extinction and their own desirability. By the second half of the 20th century the birds became so valuable that they drew up to $40,000 on the black markets. When, in 1990, only one was found to be living in the wild, an emergency international rescue operation was launched and an amnesty declared, allowing private collectors to come forward with their illegal birds, possible mates for the last wild Spix. In a breathtaking display of stoicism and endurance, the loneliest bird in the world had lived without a mate for fourteen years, had outwitted predators and second-guessed the poachers. But would he take to a new companion?
Although the post-war period brought peace and prosperity, Europe was now a divided continent, living under the nuclear threat. Europeans experienced a roller-coaster ride, both in the sense that they were flung through a series of events which threatened disaster, but also that they were no longer in charge of their own destinies: for much of the period the USA and USSR effectively reduced Europeans to helpless figures whose fates were dictated to them depending on the vagaries of the Cold War. There were striking successes: the Soviet bloc melted away, dictatorships vanished and Germany was successfully reunited. But accelerating globalisation brought new fragilities. The impact of interlocking crises after 2008 was the clearest warning to Europeans that there is no guarantee of peace and stability.
The Renaissance historian introduces her biography of the portrait painter who defined his age. Hilliard’s sitters included Elizabeth I, James I, and Mary, Queen of Scots; explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh; and members of the emerging middle class from which he himself hailed. He counted the Medici, the Valois, the Habsburgs, and the Bourbons among his European patrons and admirers. Chaired by Horatio Clare.
A conversation between two of the most inspiring contemporary science writers. Davis’ The Beautiful Cure: Harnessing Your Body’s Natural Defences describes the scientific quest to understand how the immune system works – and how it is affected by stress, sleep, age and our state of mind. Blakemore’s Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain won the 2018 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize. They talk to Hannah Critchlow.