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.
On the opening night of Hay Festival 2021, writers join forces with stars of stage and screen in a unique celebration of the power of words. Beaming in voices from around the world, host Natalie Haynes presents an evening of joy, celebration, reflection and remembrance as performers share the poems, books, plays and speeches that have inspired them most over the past year.
Performers include HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, actors Richard Eyre, Jessica Raine, Stephen Fry, Theresa Lola, Romola Garai, Charly Arrowsmith and Louise Brealey, comedians Sindhu Vee and Rob Brydon, writers Elif Shafak, Juno Dawson, Clemency Burton-Hill, Simon Schama, Rufus Mufasa, Hafsa Zayyan, Margaret Busby, poets Hollie McNish and Karl Nova, rapper Guvna B, scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and more.
For almost 20 years, Meadow Arts has brought cutting-edge contemporary art to unexpected locations. A new book tells the story, from its birth in a Welsh Border wildflower meadow (hence the name) to its pioneering work in cathedrals and country houses, farms and forests, schools, libraries, museums and bookshops.
Anne de Charmant, founder and curator, Tom Jeffreys, art critic and author of The White Birch: A Russian Reflection, and artist Alex Hartley discuss highlights from the book and its subject.
This visceral new novel from a former Booker prizewinner is about family, love, hope – and orange-bellied parrots – set against global catastrophe. Anna's aged mother is dying, if her three children would just allow it. Condemned by their pity to living, she increasingly escapes through her hospital window into visions of horror and delight. When Anna's finger vanishes and a few months later her knee disappears, Anna, too, feels the pull of the window. She begins to see that all around her others are similarly vanishing, but no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into a strangely beautiful world.
Colour and scent are the hallmarks of Sarah Raven's style – and they are simple luxuries that everyone can bring into their garden. A Year Full of Flowers reveals the hundreds of hardworking varieties that make the garden sing each month, together with the practical tasks that ensure everything is planted, staked and pruned at just the right time. Tracing the year at her home, Perch Hill in East Sussex, she shares the lessons learned from years of plant trials and explains the methods that have worked for her.
Carolyn Dunster's Cut & Dry shows how to make stunning bouquets from dried flowers, perfect for occasions that require long-lasting displays. The book is aimed at a new generation who are discovering this classic craft, and includes ideas for the home, for gifts and presentations. It suggests the best combinations of colour and texture to brighten up any space in any season.
Arthur Parkinson is a gardener and author of The Pottery Gardener and The Flower Yard.
In a time of uncertainty, Rethink offers a guide to a much-needed global 'reset moment', with leading international figures giving us glimpses of a better future post-pandemic. Each contribution explores a different aspect of public and private life that can be re-examined. Collectively, they offer a roadmap for positive change after a year of hardship. Broadcaster Amol Rajan is joined by Prof. Jude Browne, Director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies, who will be Rethinking Responsibility.
The author of Wanderland looks at non-orthodox perspectives on landscape, and considers the richness and wisdom they bring. Born in Britain to Indian parents from South Africa, and raised in Canada, Jini has contributed to anthologies, penned a guidebook, and her texts and poems have been displayed in exhibitions at London’s Southbank Centre and at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. As a travel writer, in 2019 she was named a National Geographic Woman of Impact. Her work explores a cross-cultural, cross-genre space where place, spirituality and culture meet.
When Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared that Covid-19 would become “another illness that we have to live with … like flu”, an immediate question arose: what does it mean to learn to live with a new epidemic disease? If, as many experts predict, Covid-19 is not going away any time soon, what can the history of influenza teach us? Dr. Michael Bresalier, Lecturer in the History of Medicine at Swansea University, explores the history of influenza in the 20th century and traces the process by which humanity has adapted to influenza – an ever-changing process and enormous global challenge. He warns that any analogy to Covid-19 must be made with caution.
Quick Reads are short books and great stories by bestselling authors. To mark its 15th anniversary, two of its writers discuss the importance of reading, how it changed their lives and how books have the power to support all of us in a time of crisis.
Writer/performer Michael Rosen shares his experience from the edge of life, as he battled Covid-19, in a life-affirming collection of poetry and words: Many Different Kinds of Love: A Story of Life, Death and the NHS. He reflects on the trauma and identity shift of being critically ill, the caring community of neighbours, loved ones, and NHS staff, who brought him back.
Jim Down, in his book, Life Support:Diary of an ICU Doctor on the Frontline of the Covid Crisis, says that life and death decisions are an everyday occurrence for a doctor running an intensive care unit, but nothing had prepared him for the events of spring 2020. He recounts how he and his colleagues transformed their hospital and ultimately faced down the biggest challenge in the history of the NHS. Told with warmth, honesty and humour, it is a moving testament to the everyday heroism of the NHS staff in a global crisis.
Rachel Clarke is a palliative care doctor who witnessed the courage of patients and NHS staff and, for all the bleakness and fear, found that people rose to their best, upon facing the worst, as a microbe laid waste to the population. Her book, Breathtaking, draws on testimony from nursing acute and intensive care colleagues, as well as patients. She concludes that this age of contagion has inspired a profound attentiveness to, and gratitude for, what matters most in life.
Join us to celebrate Raven Leilani, the winner of the £20,000 prestigious literary prize for writers aged 39 and under. This year's winner talks with the 2020 recipient, who won with Lot, his collection of short stories of a young man finding his place among family and community in Houston.
The 2021 shortlist comprised of:
Alligator and Other Stories by Dima Alzayat (Syria/USA)
Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (USA)
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (Nigeria/USA)
Pew by Catherine Lacey (USA)
Luster by Raven Leilani (USA)
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (USA)
Leilani will also appear later in the Festival in our 10@10 series in conversation with Pandora Sykes on Friday 4 June [event 115]
Part memoir, part travelogue, part history of the foghorn, this is a booming, lonely sound echoing into the vastness of the sea. When the author hears the foghorn's colossal bellow for the first time, it marks the beginning of an obsession and a journey deep into the history of a sound that has carved out the identity and the landscape of coastlines around the world, from Scotland to San Francisco. Within its sound is a maritime history of shipwrecks and lighthouse keepers, the story and science of our industrial past. The book is an odyssey told through the people who battled sea and sound, who lived with it and loathed it, and one woman's intrepid voyage through the howling loneliness of nature.
With lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, Robert Jones Jr tells an unflinching story of a forbidden union between two enslaved men in the Deep South of America. Isaiah and Samuel are lovers. The barn is their home on the plantation, the one place they can go to be alone together. It becomes a place of refuge where their love can flourish, blurring the horrors of the vicious world around them. The others know that there are many ways to shelter from the most evil of regimes, and keeping the community’s tender secrets is one of them.
A masterful debut novel of the pain of inheritance, the power of hope, and what happens when brutality threatens the purest form of serenity.
It’s nearly 40 years since Francis Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet was published, linking what we eat and what we do to the planet. As countries race to embrace net zero targets, the role of farming and farmers, and the way we manage the landscape more generally, is under scrutiny. Is a healthy diet for humans the same as a healthy diet for a zero-carbon future? Should we be paying farmers for ‘public goods’, such as soil restoration, wildlife conservation and carbon sequestration? How might that transform the landscapes of the future – in Britain, Europe and elsewhere? And what does that mean for the hundreds of millions of small farmers in countries like India – site of some impassioned protests in recent months?
Cassandra Coburn is author of Enough: How Your Food Choices will Save the Planet; Sarah Bridle's book is Food and Climate Without the Hot Air. Martin Wright, former editor of Green Futures, is an environment journalist and photographer.
Nature and travel writer Horatio Clare was committed to hospital under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act after suffering hypomania in the Alps while on a family holiday, and locked in a psychiatric ward. His book is a gripping account of how the mind can lose touch with reality, how we can fall apart and how we can be healed – or not – by treatment. It vividly describes the intensity of a manic experience, as well as its perils and strangeness, shot through with the love, kindness, humour and care of those who looked after him, and it is partly an investigation into how we understand and treat acute crises of mental health. Horatio Clare talks to Beth Underdown, novelist and Lecturer in Creative Writing.
Sharp-tongued and ferocious, Mary is a difficult grandmother for Durga to love. When Durga visits her in rural Malaysia, she only wants to endure Mary, and the dark memories home brings, for as long as it takes to escape. But a reckoning is coming. Stuck together in the rising heat, both women must untangle the truth from the myth of their family's past. What happened to Durga's mother after she gave birth? Why did so many of their family members disappear during the war? And who is to blame for the childhood tragedy that haunts her to this day? In her debut novel, Catherine Menon traces one family's story from 1920 to the present, unravelling a thrilling tale of love, betrayal and redemption against the backdrop of natural disasters and fallen empires. She is interviewed by the novelist, playwright and critic Colm Tóibín.
A compelling family history reveals some dark truths in the tropical heat of Malaysia.
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).