Hay Festival 2021

We are delighted to present our 2021 Digital Festival programme.

Find more information on how to register here. Most events will be available for free replay for up to 24 hours after the start time of the event. After this they will be available in our online archive Hay Player - please see individual listings for more details.

All events are available with subtitles – this option can be selected when you watch the event.

Event 70

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Duncan Westbury

Lunchtime Lecture Series 6: Gardening for Wildlife and Sustainable Food Production

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

Wildlife in our gardens and in the wider countryside plays a crucial role in supporting sustainable food production. As the use of chemical sprays continues to increase, how can we save and boost the numbers of wild pollinators and other natural enemies of crop pests? Join Dr Duncan Westbury, Principal Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Management at University of Worcester to find out how we can all make a difference.

This event will be pre-recorded but the speaker will be live on the chat to answer questions during the event, and for 15 minutes afterwards.

Event 71

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Alice Albinia talks to Lily Cole

Cwen

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

On an unnamed archipelago off Britain's east coast, women control the civic institutions, control the finances, run businesses, care for their children – and hope for a better world. It has been Eva Levi's life's work, but now that she has disappeared, the inhabitants fear it will be destroyed. But they don't know about Cwen, who has returned to haunt the civilisation. Her name has ancient roots, reaching down into the Earth and halfway around the world. The islands she inhabits have always belonged to women. And she will do anything she can to protect them. A portrait of female power and female potential, both to shelter and to harm. The author speaks to the supermodel-turned-activist Lily Cole.

Event 72

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Margaret MacMillan, introduced by Nik Gowing

The British Pugwash Lecture: Rolling the Iron Dice – Why do Humans Make war?

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

War between organized groups goes far back into human history. Is it an integral part of our society? What do those who make war think they can gain from it? And how have we tried to control and eliminate it? Modern war, its causes, nature, and impact, and the continuing search for peace are the topics covered by the expert on international relations and professor at University of Oxford. She talks to the broadcaster and journalist Nik Gowing.

Event 73

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Peter Ricketts and Matthew d’Ancona and guests

Hanging in the Balance: A New Global Order

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

The Trump Presidency, responses to Covid-19, and rising tensions around China suggest a global order in flux, pitting rule of law systems increasingly at odds with a new globalised authoritarianism and posing important questions for Britain and the EU. Peter Ricketts (Hard Choices) and Matthew d'Ancona (Identity, Ignorance, Innovation) debate the future of international diplomacy and the factors most likely to tip the balance.

Event 74

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Jay Griffiths talks to Rob Hopkins

Why Rebel?

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

Jay Griffiths issues a passionate, poetic manifesto for urgent rebellion, as well as a paean to the beauty of the natural world, in Why Rebel? Rebel because our footprint on the Earth has never mattered more than now. Rebel because we need a politics of kindness, but the very opposite is on the rise. Rebel because nature is not a hobby, it is the life on which we depend. Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars, and they are lining up now to write rebellion across the skies. Jay is in conversation with the creator of the Transition Towns movement, Rob Hopkins.

Event 75

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Wade Davis talks to Rosie Boycott

Hay Festival Digital Colombia presents: Magdalena - River of Dreams

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

The anthropologist, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Into the Silence, discusses his new book on Colombia's complex past, present, and future, through the story of the great Río Magdalena. The river represents the political history of Colombia, home to the greatest ecological and geographical diversity on the planet. As he travels its length, he encounters people who have overcome years of conflict, informed by indigenous wisdom and an enduring spirit of place. Only in Colombia can a traveller wash ashore in a coastal desert, ascend narrow tracks through dense tropical forests and reach verdant Andean valleys rising to ice-clad summits. This wild and impossible geography finds fuses perfectly with the Colombian spirit: restive, potent, at times placid and calm, at others tortured and twisted. He talks to journalist Rosie Boycott.

Event 76

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Margaret Reynolds, Nell Frizzell and Donna Freitas talk to Emma Gannon

The Mother of All Questions

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

As a single woman in her forties, having experienced a sudden early menopause, Margaret Reynolds decided to adopt. There followed a five-year struggle, documented in The Wild Track, before she became mother to a troubled six-year-old daughter, Lucy. Two chapters of the book are written by Lucy, who will join her on stage.

The Panic Years are somewhere between 25 and 40, says Vogue columnist Nell Frizzell. This is when any woman used to making all sorts of decisions with ease, must confront the one big decision with a deadline: whether or not to have a baby. The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas is a novel about love, loss, betrayal, divorce, death, a woman's career and her identity. Rose's husband promised before they got married that he'd never want children, but now he's changed his mind. Their marriage has come to rest on this one question: can Rose find it in herself to become a mother?

The three talk to Emma Gannon, author of Olive, a modern tale about milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.

Event 77

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Val McDermid and Kathryn Briggs talk to Louise Welsh

Resistance

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

Queen of crime Val McDermid teams up with illustrator Kathryn Briggs in a graphic novel set at an open-air music festival (remember those?) over the summer solstice weekend, when 150,000 people descend on a farm in the north-east of England. At first, a spot of rain seems to be the only thing dampening the fun – until a mystery bug descends and, before long, illness is spreading at an electrifying speed, seemingly seems resistant to all antibiotics. Can journalist Zoe

Meadows track the outbreak to its source, and will a cure be found before the disease becomes a pandemic? This heart-racing thriller imagines a nightmare that seems only too credible in the year of COVID-19.

They talk to psychological thriller writer Louise Welsh.

Event 78

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Lemn Sissay presents...Nadia Owusu and Hannah Azieb Pool

Fear of the memoir

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

Say the unsayable? Is memoir a testimony to the truth or a carefully curated lie? Does testimony expose the truth or hide it? What rises to the surface and what stays hidden in the margins? Author of Aftershocks, Nadia Owusu followed her Ghanaian father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Hannah Azieb Pool's memoir, My Fathers' Daughter, tells how in 1974 she was adopted from an orphanage in Eritrea and brought to England by her white adoptive father. She grew up unable to imagine what it must be like to look into the eyes of a blood relative until one day a letter arrived from a brother she never knew she had...

Part of Lemn Sissay's George Floyd: One Year On series.

Event 79

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Julianne Pachico talks to Rosie Goldsmith

10@10: New writers – The Anthill

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

Embracing themes of memory, regret and home, The Anthill is a panoramic evocation of modern-day Colombia in all its vibrancy and squalor, as well as a deeply intimate account of a young woman’s search for self-fulfilment.

Lina returns to Colombia after a 20-year absence. Sent to England following her mother's death when she was eight, she is searching for the person who can tell her what's happened in the intervening period. Matty, Lina's childhood confidant and best friend, runs a refuge called The Anthill for the street kids of Medellín. But her long-anticipated reunion with him is struck by tension. Memory is fallible, and Linda discovers that everyone has a version of the past that is very, very different.

The author talks to the arts correspondent Rosie Goldsmith.

There will be no Q&A at the end of the event.

Event HD13

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Adam Henson

A Year on Adam’s Farm

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

Join the farmer/author/broadcaster on a tour of his Cotswold farm. Did you know that a shearer can shear 200 sheep in a day? Or that robots can milk cows? Animal lovers and budding farmers can learn where food comes from, peek inside a combine harvester, and discover incredible facts about farm animals.

3+ Family

Event HD14

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Jonathan Stroud

The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

Lose yourself in a broken England of the future, where gunfights and monsters collide. Learn how the writer draws his landscapes and creates his witty characters. Then find out what adventures await in his latest book.

11+

Event HD15

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Benjamin Zephaniah talks to Gemma Cairney

Windrush Child

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

Join the legendary poet and author to talk about his latest book, a novel for children reflecting on the experiences of the Windrush Generation in the UK.

8+

Event 80

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Jo Lloyd and Dylan Moore talk to John Mitchinson

The Earth, Thy Great Exchequer, Ready Lies and Many Rivers to Cross

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

Whether seeking knowledge, riches, or a better life, the characters in Jo Lloyd's debut collection, The Earth, Thy Great Exchequer, Ready Lies, are united by a quest for lasting value, as they ask how we should treat our world, our work, our selves, and each other. The stories are lyrical, compassionate, full of wit and truth.

Many Rivers to Cross by Dylan Moore traces a series of migrations, from Wales to Calais, and from Ethiopia to Lampedusa. Aman is a failed asylum seeker, David a journalist, Jasmine is a sex worker, Mike is a lorry driver, Claudie is a churchgoer, Selam is a single mother, Solomon a refugee. And Gareth is dead. When Aman goes missing, presumed drowned in the river Usk in Wales, David embarks on an unexpected journey, ending face down in the dust of Addis Ababa. When Mike crosses the Channel, unaware of four men stowed in the back of his lorry, he has no idea Solomon will turn up at his local pub. And when Selam feels the first flutter of life inside her, she could not begin to imagine her daughter flying high – a poet-princess of their strange new homeland. The author is a former Hay Festival International Fellow.

Event 81

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

The Wolfson History Prize with Amanda Vickery

2021 Shortlist

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

The Wolfson History Prize is the UK’s most prestigious history writing prize, recognising outstanding works of historical non-fiction and awarded annually to a work that combines excellent research and readability for a general audience. £40,000 is awarded to the winner, with each shortlisted author receiving £4,000.

Previous winners include Mary Beard, Simon Schama, Eric J. Hobsbawm, Amanda Vickery, Antony Beevor, Christopher Bayly, Antonia Fraser, Mary Fulbrook and David Abulafia.

The books shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2021 are:

• Survivors: Children’s Lives after the Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford
• Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture by Sudhir Hazareesingh
• Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe by Judith Herrin
• Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood by Helen McCarthy
• Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden
• Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution by Geoffrey Plank

The winner will be announced on 9 June.

The shortlisted authors for this year’s Prize will join previous winner, Professor Amanda Vickery, to discuss their books and historical writing today.

Event 82

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Siobhan Maderson

Lunchtime Lecture Series 7: The Great Reset - Co-designing an Inclusive, Sustainable, Post-pandemic Future

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout progresses, many of us are feeling cautiously optimistic about the future, tempered by an awareness of the social and economic devastation wrought by the pandemic. What could the new normal look like? Past mistakes, current initiatives and bold imaginative visions of the future are considered by the environmentalist, and diverse approaches explored

to learn how a reset could work for everyone – and other species – in the wider environment. Dr Siobhan Maderson is an ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

This event will be pre-recorded but the speaker will be live on the chat to answer questions during the event, and for 15 minutes afterwards.

Event 83

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Jonathan Drori

The Kew Platform: Around the World in 80 Plants

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

From the seemingly familiar tomato and dandelion to the eerie mandrake and Spanish ‘moss’ of Louisiana, via the early histories of beer and the contraceptive pill, we delve into the fascinating science of plants and how their worlds are intricately entwined with our own history, culture and folklore. Jonathan Drori is an author, scientist and executive TV producer. His previous book was Around the World in 80 Trees.

Event 84

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Emily Shuckburgh and Owen Hewlett talk to Andy Fryers

Audience Question Time: What will Net Zero mean for you?

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

We hear a lot about reaching Net Zero on carbon emissions but what does that look like for the average person? Is reaching Net Zero by 2050 achievable and how will it change the way we live, work and play? How will we heat our houses, travel to work and feed ourselves in a Net Zero world? This is your chance to quiz two experts on the likely scenarios. Emily Shuckburgh is a climate scientist, mathematician and science communicator. She is Director of Cambridge Zero, the University of Cambridge’s climate change initiative. Owen Hewlett is Chief Technical Officer at The Gold Standard Foundation, responsible for key innovations in carbon markets, climate finance and corporate reporting. Andy Fryers is Hay Festival Sustainability Director.

Event 85

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Brit Bennett talks to Arifa Akbar

The Vanishing Half

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
Read more

From the author of The Mothers, this follows the parallel lives of estranged twin sisters who choose to live in two contrasting worlds – one black and one white. The Vignes twins are identical but after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age 16, everything is different for them as adults: their families, communities, and racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' story lines intersect? Looking beyond issues of race, the book considers the lasting influence of the past on a person's decisions, desires, and expectations. Bennett talks to Arifa Akbar, the author of Consumed: A Sister's Story.

Event 86

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Rachel Cusk talks to Sheila Heti

Second Place

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
Read more

A woman invites a famous artist to the remote coastal landscape where she lives. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision may penetrate the mystery at the centre of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence soon twists the human patterns of her secluded household. From the author of the Outline trilogy, this is a fable of female fate and male privilege, and one of unfathomable attractions. Sheila Heti's eight books of fiction and non-fiction have been translated into 22 languages.

Explore All Genres