Our 2021 Digital Festival took place 26 May - 6th June, the programme is below.
Most of the events are now available in our online archive Hay Player - please see individual listings for more details.
Vaccine reluctance and refusal are no longer limited to the margins of society. Debates around the necessity of vaccines, along with questions about their side effects, have gone mainstream, blending with geopolitical conflicts, celebrity causes and 'natural' lifestyles to attract a growing number of hearts and minds.
The anthropologist argues that issues surrounding vaccine hesitancy stem from people feeling left out of the conversation. She examines the social vectors that transmit vaccine rumours around the globe and how they can be addressed.
Heidi Larson is Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science and the founding director of the Vaccine Confidence Project. Heidi is in conversation with Nicole Itano, Co-ordinator for the Global Recovery Collective and former lead of the United Nations initiative, Verified, aimed at combatting COVID-19 misinformation.
Rare biographical evidence in the Sierra Leone public archives reveals that tens of thousands of Africans were released from slave ships by Royal Navy patrols. The British Library Endangered Archives Programme has made it possible to digitise hundreds of volumes containing fragmentary information about their lives. Adam, a woman aged 26, was among the enslaved Africans stowed on board the Marie Paul in 1808. Anta, her nine-month-old daughter, was also on board when it set sail from Senegal on 20 August 1808 ‘with a cargo of slaves bound to Cayenne in South America’. This lecture explains how evidence from the archives in Sierra Leone has enabled us to reconstruct the identities of individuals uprooted and displaced by the transatlantic slave trade.
Suzanne Schwarz is Professor of History at University of Worcester.
Mary McConnell grew up longing for information about the mother she never knew, because she died suddenly when Mary was a baby. Her brother Sean was barely old enough to remember, and their father numbed his pain with drink.Now 35, Mary has lived in the same house in Belfast all her life. She has a son, TJ, about to turn 18, who is itching to see more of the world. One morning, he wakes up to find his mother gone. He doesn't know where, or why, but he's the only one who can find her. This is a powerful coming-of-age novel and an intimate family study, examining the cost of unconditional love.
The author talks to Clover Stroud, mother of five children aged one to 17 and author of The Wild Other and My Wild and Sleepless Nights.
In 1960s Uganda, Hasan is struggling to run his family business after the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.
In present-day London, Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by tragedy, he begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a past he never knew. We Are all Birds of Uganda, co-winner of the Merky Books New Writers' Prize, moves between two continents to explore racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong.
Hafsa talks to Sameer Rahim of Prospect.
Two great thinkers discuss liberalism, intellectual blindness and the dangers facing democracy today. Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian writer and 2010 Nobel Prizewinner, promotes liberal thought and pays tribute to seven authors who embrace it, in The Call of the Tribe. He talks to Michael Ignatieff, rector and president of Central European University in Budapest, author of The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World.
How do you like your water – frozen or salty? In Ice Rivers, glaciologist Jemma Wadham tells the story of frozen landscapes across the globe, explaining how they are melting at an accelerating rate. In The Brilliant Abyss, Helen Scales talks about our relationship with the deep sea, how we imagine, explore and exploit it. It is the last, vast wilderness on the planet, home to fantastic creatures but also a space exploited by humans for minerals and food.
Jemma Wadham is Professor of Glaciology at University of Bristol. Helen Scales is a marine biologist, diver, broadcaster and author. Andy Fryers is Hay Festival Sustainability Director.
From the night she is rescued as a baby out of the flames of a sinking ship to the day she joins a pair of daredevil pilots looping over the rugged forests of her childhood, the life of Marian Graves has been marked by a lust for freedom and danger. In 1950, she embarks on a Great Circle flight, circumnavigating the globe. She crash-lands into the Antarctic ice and is never seen again. Half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a troubled star beset by scandal, is irresistibly drawn to play Marian in her biopic, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot's life. This is a drama of struggle and submission, of lives lived on the edge: two defiant women in search of an undefinable freedom.
Maggie Shipstead talks to Sameer Rahim of Prospect.
Discussing the experience of, and society's attitude to women and motherhood, the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project talks to Caitlin Moran, author of More Than a Woman – 'a celebration of middle-aged women who keep the world turning' –with Joeli Brearley, who founded Pregnant Then Screwed after being fired at four months pregnant, and Pragya Agarwal, whose book (M)otherhood is part memoir and part analysis of motherhood fertility, and how these affect all our lives.
Why is it that often the things we value most, from frontline nurses to the natural world, to caring for children, seem unimportant to economic markets? During his time as a G7 central banker and seven years as Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney witnessed the collapse of public trust in élites, globalisation, and technology, the challenges of the fourth Industrial Revolution and the growing climate emergency. Dharshini David, economist and broadcaster, examines how economic value and social values became blurred, and how to rethink and rebuild before it’s too late.
When Pete’s parents moved from Cyprus to Birmingham in the 1960s, hoping for a better life, they had no money and only a little English. They opened a fish-and-chip shop called The Great Western Fish Bar. That's where Pete learned about coin-operated machines, male banter and Britishness. Shy and introverted, he stopped speaking from age 4 to 7, and found refuge in songs from Top of the Pops and Dial-a-Disc. As time passed, he was horrified by his guilty secret: his parents were Greek, but all the things that excited him were British, sparked by Don’t go Breaking my Heart, Going Underground, Come On Eileen and every other chart hit blaring out of the chip-shop radio.
In a one-off musical event, Cardiff virtuoso guitarist and singer-songwriter Gareth Bonello, best known as The Gentle Good, will join Pete as the (Broken) Greek chorus, performing interpretations of songs that feature in Broken Greek, and will enact key scenes as Pete reads an extract from the book.
A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence revolving around the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal'. Who are we serving, the portal asks itself. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die? Suddenly, two texts from her mother appear: "Something has gone wrong" and "How soon can you get here?" As real life and the portal collide, she confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of goodness, empathy and justice, and evidence that proves the opposite. This is a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection, the first novel from the author of the memoir Priestdaddy. Nina Stibbe is the author of Love, Nina: Dispatches From Family Life. Her third autobiographical novel is Reasons to Be Cheerful.
Join Sue and Paul in a sing-along event as they battle the Evil Pea and watch Supertato fly through the air. Take part in games and activities and dive into a new adventure.
Join the Children’s Laureate on location in Kingley Vale Woodland as she talks about the final book in her Wizards of Once series, Never and Forever, and one of the main inspirations behind the books: the magic of trees and woodland. Live Q&A follows.
Join the author as he talks to comedian Shappi Khorsandi about his career in children’s books. Hear what inspires his stories and about the inspiration behind his best-loved characters. Then listen to him reading from his books and ask the questions you've been longing to ask.
On turning 80, David Hockney sought out rustic tranquillity for the first time: a place to watch the sunset and the changing seasons; a place to enjoy simple pleasures, undisturbed and undistracted: "We have lost touch with nature rather foolishly as we are a part of it, not outside it". So when Covid-19 and lockdown struck, it made little difference to life at the centuries-old Normandy farmhouse where he had set up a studio the previous year, in time to paint the arrival of spring. In fact, he relished the enforced isolation. His book affirms the capacity of art to divert and inspire, based on a wealth of conversations and correspondence with Martin Gayford, his long-time collaborator. Their exchanges are illustrated by a selection of Hockney’s new Normandy drawings and paintings, many previously unpublished. Martin Gayford is art critic of The Spectator. His books include A History of Pictures (with David Hockney) and Shaping the World: Sculpture from Pre-History to Now (with Antony Gormley).
A journey of discovery through the natural world with the bushcraft and survival legend takes us into the British countryside and across continents, teaching us how to tune our senses, enhance our experience of nature, and understand our place within it. Guiding us through practical fieldcraft tips, Ray Mears explains how we can learn from the creatures with which we share the planet, from the stealth of the leopard to the patience of the crocodile, and even the colour-changing camouflage of the octopus.
In conversation with Yvonne Witter, Ordnance Survey Get Outside Champion, leader of the Peak District Mosaic group and one of the BBC's Woman's Hour Power List 2020.
Would the world be different – and better – if more women occupied leadership positions? This controversial question is re-examined in the context of the global pandemic. Gender is part of the explanation for the stark contrast between the Covid experience of Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand and that of Donald Trump’s America. Some have argued that the 2008 Global Financial Crisis might have been mitigated if more women had been seated at he top tables of key financial institutions. But female leadership is still relatively rare, and the women who lead governments and organisations through crises are treated more harshly than their male counterparts.
Jennifer Mathers is a Senior Lecturer and former Head of the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University.
Instead of civic organizations, we join internet mobs. Instead of reasoned conversation, the voices of the angriest, most divisive participants are amplified. Rational voices are hard to hear; radicalization spreads quickly. Unsurprisingly, an internet controlled by a tiny number of secretive companies in Silicon Valley does not reflect democratic values of openness, accountability and respect for human rights. Instead, the current rules of online conversation are undermining our democracies. Why don’t we change them?
Pulitzer Prizewinning historian Anne Applebaum is author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University, New York.
To avoid global collapse, we need to re-think everything we do and take for granted, from growing and cooking food, to the economy and methods of governance. It demands a Renaissance, a re-birth, and it must be driven and led by us, because the governments, corporations and financiers dominating the world have lost touch with the moral and ecological realities of life. The good news is, millions of grassroots initiatives the world over are already moving in the right direction.
This Renaissance needs to have at its heart, people who have traditionally been on the margins of business and politics – women. From New Orleans to Bangladesh, women, especially poor women of colour, are suffering most from a crisis they have done nothing to cause. Yet where, in environmental policy, are the voices of elderly European women dying in heatwaves? Of African girls dropping out of school due to drought? Our highest-profile climate activists are women and girls; but, at the top table, it’s men deciding the Earth’s future.
We’re not all in it together – but we could be. Anne Karpf makes the case for visionary, global climate policies that are gender-inclusive and promote gender equality.
Anne Karpf, sociologist, journalist and author of How Women can Save the Planet and Colin Tudge, biologist, broadcaster and author of The Great Re-Think: A 21st Century Renaissance talk to journalist Rosie Boycott.
The final instalment of Levy's 'Living Autobiography' series is a thought-provoking and intimate meditation on home and the spectres that haunt it. With her characteristic wit and acute insights, she crafts a searing examination of womanhood and ownership. Her possessions, real and imagined, push us as readers to question our cultural understanding of belonging and belongings and to consider the value of a woman's intellectual and personal life. Blending personal history, gender politics, philosophy, and literary theory, Real Estate is a compulsively readable narrative. Lisa Appignanesi is a writer, Chair of the Royal Society of Literature and a former president of English PEN.