Hay on Earth is a sustainability-focused series of events at Hay Festival. At the Hay on Earth Forum each year we explore current issues, new developments and technical advances.
At this year’s Forum we bring you four events focusing on the future of food. This full day ticket gives you entry to all four events:
Who picked your Fairtrade banana? Where do all the wonky carrots go? And if we’re being encouraged to eat five-a-day, just how much damage are we doing to the world we live in through food miles? We all know that as a nation our mental health is in crisis. But a crucial part of the solution – what we eat – is being ignored. Gray, author of Avocado Anxiety and Other Stories About Where Your Food Comes From, tracks food from farm to fruit bowl, unpacks the dilemmas we face in trying to eat well and ethically, and helps us discover the impact that growing fruits and vegetables has on the planet. Psychologist Wilson, author of Unprocessed: How the Food we eat is Fuelling our Mental Health Crisis, reveals the role of food and nutrients in brain development and mental health. They talk to Hay Festival’s Sustainability Director Andy Fryers.
Jake Fiennes is on a mission to heal the land we’ve destroyed, and change the face of the British countryside. The conservation manager at Holkham in Norfolk, one of the country’s largest historic country estates, has taken a radical approach to habitat restoration and agricultural work, which has brought back wetlands, hedgerows, birds and butterflies over 25,000 acres of land. He takes us through the farming year and the natural cycle of the seasons, and delivers a manifesto urging us to rethink our relationship with the natural world before it’s too late.
When the stakes are high, how low will Ayesha Scott go? The protagonist of Rothschild’s new novel has a perfect life, but behind every realised dream lurks an unexploded nightmare. In the course of one day Ayesha discovers that she will be penniless, homeless and powerless unless she can outwit the international mafia, infiltrate the world of high finance and make backstreet deals with the shadiest members of the art world. Writer, film-maker and philanthropist Hannah Rothschild speaks to journalist Rosie Boycott about High Time and how she captures humour on the page.
Anger, despair, disillusionment. The state of our politics is such these days that all those feelings regularly sweep over us. But political journalist Rafael Behr (Politics – A Survivor’s Guide: How to Stay Engaged Without Getting Enraged) and strategist and writer Alastair Campbell (The Rest is Politics podcast host; author of But What Can I Do? Why Politics Has Gone So Wrong, and How You Can Help Fix It) are here to demonstrate that you can stay engaged with politics without getting enraged. Using their expert knowledge, the pair take us through how we can play our part and make a real difference, develop our skills of advocacy and persuasion, and campaign for change. Even if we find ourselves frustrated with politics, Behr and Campbell show us there’s always something we can do.
The way we consumed food changed during the lockdown, and has continued to evolve as we face new challenges with our food supply. Is food globalisation still viable in an uncertain age of dramatic geopolitical realignment, climatic and environmental peril and colossal challenges to food production and distribution? We urgently need fresh, innovative and sustainable ideas to address such existential threats.
Louise Gray is author of Avocado Anxiety and Other Stories About Where Your Food Comes From; Ian Rasmussen is a senior lecturer at the University of Chester and a Slow Food Member; and Bryce Evans is Professor of Modern World History at Hope Liverpool University. They discuss the Welsh concept of Milltir Sgwar – square mile – which promotes belonging to and being immersed in a small community. Are we bold enough to revert to a more localised approach to food production: a square meal on a square mile?
Adventurer Grylls recounts some truly hair-raising escapades from his life, and shares the daily tips he’s learned to help you build your mental resilience. Grylls speaks about stories from his memoir Never Give Up, capturing the reality behind some of the hairiest survival missions he's undertaken, gives a rare insight into his family life, and shares with vulnerability his most death-defying and life-defining moments. He also imparts advice from his new book Mind Fuel, a constructive and authentic self-help manual that shares the principles that have helped him overcome fear, develop a positive mindset and break through the obstacles that limit success in everyday life.
British farming is in crisis: we import a greater proportion of our food than we used to, our countryside suffers more than ever from agriculture-related pollution and biodiversity loss, and farming is a major contributor to climate change. Does technology, from high-tech, precision, smart, vertical or underground farms to lab-grown alternatives to ‘natural’ food, have the answer? And if so, could tech bring down the curtain down on 5,000 years of British agriculture? Our panel of experts – Welsh hill farmer and TV presenter Gareth Wyn Jones, author and journalist Mark Lynas, sustainability expert and author of The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix the Future Solitaire Townsend, and environment journalist and photographer Martin Wright – discuss whether a rewilded Britain is a feasible vision, or the worst kind of ‘techtopian’ fantasy, and if there’s a happy medium for farmers and consumers.
North Yorkshire’s only contemporary New Orleans-inspired brass band lead an evening of music that packs a powerful punch of relentless drums, rumbling tuba and wailing horns. The band’s repertoire ranges from a full-on set of party covers to thrilling jazz and New Orleans sets. New York Brass Band annually plays at Glastonbury, Notting Hill Carnival and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Start your day with a morning yoga class designed to reinvigorate your energy and spirit. Enjoy a grounding, energising, alignment‐based yoga practice, using the breath and sound to rediscover and rejuvenate the body and mind. Beginners and experienced students are most welcome. Yoga mats and props are provided.
Please contact Kanga Wellbeing on email@example.com for any questions relating to these classes. As capacity is limited, we recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
Guides from the Brecon Beacons National Park will lead a gentle walk through the beautiful surrounds of Hay-on-Wye. Two of the Park’s leading ecologists share their knowledge of some of the local flora and fauna. You’ll be joined by a guest from the Festival programme.
Hay-on-Wye is based within 520 square miles of beautiful landscape that makes up Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. The National Park is driving change to bring about a sustainable future, meeting our needs within planetary boundaries. Their Hay Festival series of gentle walks will take you into the town’s local environment while offering the opportunity to learn more about the Park’s work and its treasured landscape.
Please wear appropriate footwear and outdoor gear.
Two of the most famous women in history, Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I are rarely spoken about as mother and daughter. Tracy Borman, joint chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces and chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust, offers an illuminating insight into how their short-lived relationship – Elizabeth was just three when Anne was executed – had a long-term impact. Piecing together evidence from original documents and artefacts, Borman tells the story of Anne Boleyn’s relationship with, and influence over, her daughter Elizabeth and sheds new light on the two women.
Three of the most exciting voices on publisher Faber’s poetry list read from their latest collections. Kunial’s England’s Green was shortlisted for the 2023 TS Eliot Prize; its poems find the true and the timeless in the lived everyday and invite the reader to look again at the places and the language that we think we know. Laird’s Up Late is a powerful collection reflecting on the strange and chaotic times we live in; it contains a sequence meditating on a father’s dying, which won the 2022 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Sullivan, who won the TS Eliot Prize in 2019 for her debut Three Poems, performs from Was it for This, an exhilarating exploration of the ways in which we attempt to map our lives in space and time.
In 1790, whalers from Nantucket are invited to found the port of Milford Haven in west Wales. But what does the arrival of these hardy Quakers mean for the local population? And what is the meaning of the beached whale that preceded them? As two cultures clash, concern swerves into hysteria against the incomers, and a local preacher plans a grotesque, Jonah-inspired fate for the whalers. Nathan Munday, a writer and trainee minister, talks to writer and broadcaster Horatio Clare about how his novel Whaling explores our relationship with nature, the boundary between faith and superstition, and the world of immigration.
Our food system is one of the most successful, most innovative and most destructive industries on earth. It sustains us, but it is also killing us. Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of fast food chain Leon, creator of the National Food Strategy and author of Ravenous: How to get Ourselves and our Planet Into Shape, speaks to journalist and editor Rosie Boycott about how we can take action to make things better, drawing on health, farming, and environmental and food security.
Alexander McCall Smith’s much loved character Precious Ramotswe first came to life on the pages of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency 25 years ago. Join us as we celebrate this global success. The author gives us insights into his writing career and a glimpse of the many series that have been published in the intervening years, including 44 Scotland Street series and a new novel in the Detective Varg series, The Discreet Charm of the Big Bad Wolf.
Challenge your assumptions about the origins of everything from farming to democracy with archaeologist David Wengrow. The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, a collaboration between Wengrow and the late anthropologist David Graeber, brings together the latest scholarship and archaeological evidence to tell a new story about the last 30,000 years, from the egalitarian early cities in Mexico and Mesopotamia to part-time kings and queens in Ice Age Europe. Ambitious and wide-ranging, Wengrow and Graeber’s work overturns everything you know about human behaviour. Wengrow talks to Georgina Godwin, journalist and Books Editor for Monocle 24.
As nurses and ambulance workers have gone on strike to demand better pay, conditions and protection for patients, the future of the NHS has once again come to the forefront of national concern. Join Professors Sally Moyle and Sandra Nicholson for a discussion on how, in the face of unfilled vacancies and a retention drain, we secure the future of the NHS workforce. Moyle is pro-vice chancellor for health and science at the University of Worcester, and a nurse and experienced workforce planner. Nicholson is a GP and founding dean of the Three Counties Medical School and chair of the Association for the Study of Medical Education.
The author and broadcaster presents a powerful, career-spanning collection of his journalism on race, racism and Black life and death from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States. For three decades, Younge has had a ringside seat at the most significant events and personalities to impact the Black diaspora and recounts these in Dispatches From the Diaspora: accompanying Nelson Mandela on his first election campaign, joining revellers on the southside of Chicago during Obama’s victory and entering New Orleans days after hurricane Katrina. We see him with Maya Angelou in her limousine, discussing politics with Stormzy on his couch and witnessing Archbishop Desmond Tutu almost fall asleep mid-interview. He discusses how much change is possible and the power of systems to thwart those aspirations with author and educator Jeffrey Boakye.
Captivated by castles? Delighted by drawbridges? Then don’t miss Hay resident Mary Morgan and local historian Elizabeth Bingham’s talk on the violent histories of castles in and around Hay-on-Wye. The pair, who return to the Festival following last year’s popular talk on local churches, talk about Hay Castle and everything from partially ruined mottes and baileys to stone fortresses under constant threat from the Welsh, describing how some castles have adapted to a new phase in the 21st century.