Hay Festival 2021

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.

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Event HD10

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Nadia Shireen

Slug in Love

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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Even slugs need a hug sometimes. Join the illustrator for live drawing and storytelling based on this big, bold picture book written by Rachel Bright, delivering a warm, witty message.

3+ years
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Event HD11

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Jeff Kinney

Rowley Jefferson's Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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Scare yourself silly with the author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Grab a torch, crawl under the covers and dive into a twisted world of the imagination. You'll meet zombies, vampires and ghosts in these comically terrifying tales.

7+ years
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Event HD12

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Sarah Crossan and the winner Alice Oseman

The Bookseller YA Book Prize

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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The former Irish Children’s Laureate appears in conversation with Alice Oseman, the newly crowned winner of the YA Book Prize 2021, discussing her winning title Loveless.

11+
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Event 68

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Rageh Omaar and Ahmed Dahir Elmi talk to Paul Boateng

A Library From the Ashes: The Story of Somaliland’s First National Library

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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From 1988-1991 war devastated Somaliland, and like hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, Ahmed Dahir Elmi was forced to flee. He lived and worked in the UK for 22 years, discovering a love of libraries, and when he returned home in 2011 he took on the challenge of creating the country’s first national library. Over the next eight years, and with the help of Somali-born British journalist and writer Rageh Omaar, Ahmed's dream became a reality. The two talk to Paul Boateng, chair of Book Aid International and frequent visitor to Somaliland, about their personal struggle to bring books to everyone in Somaliland, and how the library is now at the heart of a thriving literary culture.

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Event 69

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Russell Tovey, Robert Diament and Olivia Laing in conversation

Talk Art: Live

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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Launching the Talk Art podcast in 2018, actor Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament had one aim: to make the art world more accessible. Since then, the podcast has become a global hit, featuring exclusive interviews with leading artists, curators, gallerists, actors, musicians and fellow art lovers. Talk Art the book is a guide to navigating the art world, covering media from photography and ceramics to performance and sound art, and introducing lesser known artists. The authors talk to the writer and critic Olivia Laing, author of Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency.

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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
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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.
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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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Event 73

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Lisa Nandy and Peter Ricketts talk to Matthew d’Ancona

Hanging in the Balance: A New Global Order

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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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. Lisa Nandy MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, 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.

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Event 74

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Jay Griffiths talks to Rob Hopkins

Why Rebel?

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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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, author of From What Is To What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want.

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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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.
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