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.
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. In conversation with Caroline Cook, Head of Climate Change, Baillie Gifford.
Loose Ends producers Clive Anderson and Andrew O’Neill bring the chat and laughs of Radio 4’s top entertainment show to the Hay Festival. Guests are Simon Day, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Joseph Coelho and Dr Ranj, with music from Sweet Baboo and Panic Shack
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.
They talk to BBC Culture Editor Katie Razzall.
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; Sheila Dillon is a food journalist and presenter of Radio 4’s The Food Programme; Duncan Fisher is co-manager of Our Food 1200, a community benefit society re-building a local food economy in Bannau Brycheiniog, Powys & Monmouthshire ; Ian Rasmussen is a senior lecturer at the University of Chester and a Slow Food Cymru Wales 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.
Grylls is in conversation with adventurer Tori James, the first Welsh woman to climb Everest.
Join Andy Zaltzman for a recording of Radio 4’s flagship topical comedy show as he grabs the week’s headlines and hurls them at four of the nation’s best comedians and journalists.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions relating to these classes. As capacity is limited, we recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
Kanga Wellbeing will also be onsite throughout the Festival offering wellbeing and a wide range of holistic massage therapies. Therapies will be held in cosy lotus belle tents with heaters and fans. For more information or to book, please visit www.kangaevents.com/hay-
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.
Hear Dr Sian Williams talk to people who have lived through extraordinary events that have set their lives on an entirely different course. Life Changing is all about the human experience, how people deal with obstacles that turn their lives upside down. The journeys are not always straightforward and there are often some remarkable discoveries along the way.
Westminster journalists are the ultimate insiders, with privileged access to the Houses of Parliament and the people running the country. Do they work to hold the powerful to account? Or is the Lobby an opaque and cosy club that sometimes fails democracy? Katie Razzall is joined by a panel of Westminster insiders to discuss.
Guto Harri is a former Director of Communications at 10 Downing Street. His new podcast, Unprecedented, tells the story of the final months of Boris Johnson’s administration. Ian Dunt is a columnist at the i Newspaper and author of How Westminster Works... and Why It Doesn't; Caroline Wheeler is Political Editor at The Sunday Times and Eleni Courea is Deputy Editor of POLITICO London Playbook.
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.
Danny Robins is joined by writer and comedian David Baddiel for a thrillingly spooky live recording of the hit BBC podcast, investigating real-life stories of the paranormal.
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.
Please note - This event was originally advertised as Thursday 25 May 2023, 4pm and has now changed to the above date and time.
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.
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, talks about how we can take action to make things better, drawing on health, farming, and environmental and food security.