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.
Join us on a journey to reclaim real bread, from the ancient grains that humans have eaten for 10,000 years, to meeting the farmers who still hand-scythe their harvest in the Nile Delta, to understanding modern farming practices in the American prairies and talking with the millers of West Wales. As well as documenting the history of bread, Rob Penn set himself a challenge to become the family baker – to sow, harvest and thresh two ancient grains and then bake the slow fermented sour dough in his own wood-fired oven. The woodsman and cyclist Robert Penn's previous book was The Man who Made Things out of Trees. Andy Fryers is Hay Festival Sustainability Director.
From the moment she hears Lev's violin for the first time, Helena Attlee is captivated. She is told that it is an Italian instrument, named after its former Russian owner. Eager to discover the stories contained within its delicate wooden frame, she sets out for Cremona, birthplace of the Italian violin. Making its way from dusty workshops, through Alpine forests, Venetian churches, Florentine courts, and far-flung Russian fleamarkets, this book takes us from the heart of Italian culture to its very furthest reaches via luthiers and scientists, princes and orphans, musicians, composers, travellers and raconteurs.
Helena will be joined on stage by composer, conductor and current owner of Lev’s violin, the charismatic, cross-genre classical violinist Greg Lawson.
The inconvenient truth is that we are causing the climate crisis with our carbon intensive lifestyles and fixing it will affect all of us. But it can be done.
The economist addresses the actions we all need to take: personal, local, national and global. Reducing our own carbon footprint is the first step. We, the ultimate polluters, must pay a carbon price that applies to everything and everywhere, from the flights we take to the food we eat and the land we farm. And we need to embrace sustainable economic growth without harming other aspects of the environment. We must find a solution, because everything is at stake.
Dieter Helm is Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Oxford, and Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford. He is in conversation with Carys Roberts, Chief Executive of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
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.
Two great young writers discuss their novels that explore the roots of racism around the world. 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.
Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of fiction that wrestles with the history of racism in America. Vern, a black woman with albinism, is hunted after escaping a religious compound. She discovers that her body is changing and she is developing extra-sensory powers. Alone in the woods, she gives birth to twins and raises them away from outside influences. But something is wrong – not with them, but with her own body. To understand this, she must investigate not just the secluded religious compound she fled but the violent history of dehumanization, medical experimentation, and the genocide that produced it.
They talk 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.