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.
The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse. In a world ruled by gods and men, the voices of strong women have been silenced. Until now. An ancient story of love and sisterhood, Elektra is a spellbinding reimagining of Greek myth with a fresh perspective on the Trojan War. Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller and shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year.
For this year’s Forum we bring you four events focusing on reconnections.
Full day ticket allowing entry to all four events:
 Adele Nozedar and Lizzie Harper talk to Andy Fryers
 Anna Jones talks to Kitty Corrigan
 Hannah Bourne-Taylor talks to Matt Stadlen
 Minette Batters, Peter Hetherington and Nick Palmer
Foraging is one of the fastest-growing nature-related pastimes in the UK and US. Profiling 40 incredible trees from apple to yew in The Tree Forager, Adele Nozedar takes us on a foraging journey through their beauty, wildlife, folklore and medicinal uses. Tracing the fascinating story of the intimate relationship between humankind and our trees, we also celebrate the 10th anniversary of Adele’s first foraging book, The Hedgerow Handbook, launched at Hay Festival in 2012. Adele is joined by botanical illustrator Lizzie Harper who has brought both books to life with vivid watercolour, pen and ink. They talk to Hay Festival’s Sustainability Director.
Premonitions are impossible. But they come true all the time. What if you knew that something terrible was going to happen? What if you could share your vision? Could these forebodings help the world to prevent disasters? In 1966 John Barker, a dynamic psychiatrist working in an outdated British mental hospital, established the Premonitions Bureau to investigate these questions. He would find a network of hundreds of correspondents, from bank clerks to ballet teachers. Among them were two unnervingly gifted ‘percipients’. Together, the pair predicted plane crashes, assassinations and international incidents with uncanny accuracy. And then, they informed Barker of their most disturbing premonition: that he was about to die.
Sam Knight’s The Premonitions Bureau is an enthralling true story, of madness and wonder, science and the supernatural — a journey into the oddest corners of ‘60s Britain and the most powerful and unsettling reaches of the human mind. He talks to LBC radio host Matt Stadlen.
For millennia the rose has played a significant role in religion, the legal system, politics and all the arts from Europe right across to the Far East. It is a symbol of love and beauty, an important ingredient in the culinary and cosmetic worlds, and a medicine to cure both physical and psychological ailments. In the garden too it plays a crucial role and, with its long flowering period, beautiful blooms and wonderful fragrance, is one of the most garden-worthy and versatile of all plants.
Explore the central role roses play both in our everyday lives and in our gardens with leading rosarian Michael Marriott.
Divide: The Relationship Crisis Between Town and Country is a powerful manifesto for bridging the political and cultural division between rural and urban communities to make positive lasting changes to heal the environment. Journalist and broadcaster Anna Jones warns that unless we learn to accept and respect our social, cultural and political differences as town and country people, we are never going to solve the chronic problems in our food system and environment. Anna Jones talks about the key to this – respecting our differences, recognising each other’s strengths and working together to heal the land – with writer and editor Kitty Corrigan.
Torrey Peters’ Womens Prize-longlisted debut novel is a uniquely trans take on love, exes and motherhood. Reese nearly had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York, a job she didn’t hate. She’d scraped together a life previous generations of trans women could only dream of; the only thing missing was a child.
Then everything fell apart and three years on Reese is still in self-destruct mode, avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men. When her ex calls to ask if she wants to be a mother, Reese finds herself intrigued. After being attacked in the street, Amy detransitioned to become Ames, changed jobs and, thinking he was infertile, started an affair with his boss Katrina. Now Katrina’s pregnant. Could the three of them form an unconventional family – and raise the baby together? She talks to the author of This Lovely City, Louise Hare.
From her punk days growing up in Southampton, to revolutionising the bridal industry, Jenny Packham takes us on her journey to find inspiration from a Paris flea market and the vintage stores of LA. She pieces together her life, and a career filled with a passion for exquisite clothes, with her brother Chris, the naturalist and TV presenter.
A tiny wild bird changed Hannah Bourne-Taylor’s life. Fledgling tells the story of how rescuing, hand raising and releasing first a swift, then a finch, while living a remote existence in rural Ghana, redefined her identity and helped her overcome isolation and anxiety. Sharing part of her life with a finch who accepted Hannah as his surrogate mother, the vast differences between humans and wild creatures shrunk so there were none. Through remarkable dedication, Hannah took on the challenge of reuniting the finch with his family flock in the wild, their bond allowing them to overcome many adversities. Swifts play a huge role in Fledgling too, these awe-inspiring birds inadvertently teaching her life lessons and helping her connect to the landscape.
Fledgling is a beguilingly honest and personal memoir about identity, belonging and coexistence but most of all it is a love story between Hannah and one very gregarious finch. Fledgling is Hannah’s debut nature memoir, a story that went viral across the world last month, being covered in international newspapers, television, radio including Radio 4’s Saturday Live. Unapologetically and infectiously enthusiastic, Hannah is a conservationist on a mission to engage everyone with birds for the sake of the wild, but also ourselves.
Peter Finch is one of Britain’s leading poets. His blending of the avant-garde, concrete, visual, sound, performance and more conventional forms has placed him at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. He probes tradition and experiment with author and presenter Jon Gower in this event celebrating his remarkable career.
Approximately 75% of UK land area is used for agriculture, providing employment for around 472,000 people. The food and agriculture sector also accounts for a rising 30% of our carbon footprint, presenting an urgent need to reframe land and reinvent farming.
In a net zero world, land will need to sustain inter-cropping, livestock, pasture, biodiversity, water services, carbon sequestration and more. The prospect of new food and farming policies for the UK provides the opportunity to do things differently and we now have a much better understanding of how farming and nature can co-exist and, indeed, benefit each other. But as we strive for just transitions that leave no one behind, what are the implications of making these shifts? Minette Batters is President of the NFU, Peter Hetherington is a journalist and author of Whose Land is Our Land? and Land Renewed: Reworking the Countryside and Nick Palmer is Head of Compassion in World Farming UK. Chaired by Adele Jones, Deputy CEO, Sustainable Food Trust.
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 including Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes.
Anthony Horowitz pulls the trigger on his new James Bond novel on its publication day. With a Mind to Kill opens with M’s funeral. One man is missing from the graveside: the traitor who is now in custody, accused of M’s murder – James Bond. Behind the Iron Curtain, a group of former Smersh agents want to use the British spy in an operation that will change the balance of world power. Bond is smuggled into the lion’s den – but whose orders is he following, and will he obey them when the moment of truth arrives? In a mission where treachery is all around and one false move means death, Bond must grapple with the darkest questions about himself. But not even he knows what has happened to the man he used to be.
Anthony Horowitz is the only author in recent years to have been invited by Ian Fleming Publications to write successive, official James Bond novels. In 2015 he published Trigger Mortis, continuing with Forever and a Day in 2018. Both were critically acclaimed bestsellers, and With a Mind To Kill completes Horowitz’s trilogy of original 007 novels.
A new collaboration with Shakespeare’s Globe brings nine performances of Julius Caesar to a specially commissioned open-air theatre at the newly renovated Hay Castle. The travelling company of actors, will bring to life Shakespeare’s political thriller with a stripped back production made fresh for our world today.
Touring has been a longstanding tradition at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, since the tours of the Elizabethan Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Shakespeare’s versatile troupe toured frequently in the summer especially when there was a plague or political unrest. Shakespeare’s Globe has now established a world renowned reputation for highly ambitious and economical Shakespearean storytelling in the rough and ready fashion of Elizabethan times.
“We are so delighted to be able to finally come to the Hay Festival to perform against the breath-taking backdrop of Hay Castle.” – Shakespeare’s Globe
Click here to pre-book a delicious picnic box to enjoy during the performance.
Kate Rusby is often hailed as the ‘first lady of folk’. Announcing herself to the music press in 1999 with a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize, she has forged an impressive 30-year career, breaking records and headlining everywhere from the Royal Albert Hall to Cambridge Folk Festival.
A remarkable interpretive singer, Kate’s soulful vocals resonate with the wistful beauty of an earthbound angel. Inhabiting a lyric with unforced conviction – no matter how old or how modern – she has that rare ability to transport her audience, touching them emotionally and making each tune live vividly within their experience and imagination.
You’re sure to be thoroughly entertained by Kate’s choice of much-loved classics from her back catalogue stretching over the past 30 years of music making, together with a selection of fresh songs from her most recent albums and new releases. Rusby’s wondrous singing, hugely engaging Yorkshire wit and the intuitive support of the band ensure a truly remarkable and unforgettable concert experience.
Julie Owen Moylan’s debut novel That Green Eyed Girl, set between the 1950s and 1970s, is an evocative page-turner about jealousy, loyalty and the secrets we keep to protect those we love. Drawn to women’s history, she tells the stories of complicated people at complicated times – those who don’t conform to social pressures. Mental health, sexuality, infatuation, first love and first heartbreak – above all it’s about a very human need to connect with people and be understood. Author Louise Hare’s debut novel This Lovely City was published in 2020.
Supported by Hawthornden Literary Retreat
Photographers John Bulmer and Billie Charity talk about their photo books, shot in the Marches. John’s A Very English Village was shot 50 years ago in Pembridge and Billie’s Lockdown Light captured lockdown in and around Hay. They discuss the changes five decades have wrought both in the subjects and the process of taking photographs and publishing them in book form.
Are universities losing the culture war? From the doctors and nurses in our hospitals to the teachers in our schools and the scientists developing vaccines, universities train the professionals who form the backbone of our society. So why, in recent times, have universities fallen out of favour with Government ministers and the media? What can the sector do to prove its worth and help the nation in the recovery from the pandemic and beyond?
Diana Beech is CEO of London Higher, Richard Brabner is Director of UPP Foundation, Jane Britton is Director of Communications and External Affairs at the University of Worcester and David Green is their Vice Chancellor.
So much has been written about Norman Scott – from the newspapers who covered the Jeremy Thorpe trial in 1979, insulting Norman with homophobic slurs, to the book A Very English Scandal and its subsequent dramatisation (Norman was played by Ben Whishaw). Here, for the first time, he tells his remarkable story in his own words to writer and former broadcast journalist Rachel Clarke. From his disruptive childhood to how he found solace in friendship with animals and some of the jaw-dropping characters and moments that he has encountered throughout a quite remarkable life, in An Accidental Icon he reveals the life of a man many people think they know, but do not.
Elizabeth and Mary take us through a new booklet on many of the smaller churches and chapels local to Hay-on-Wye. In its foreword Simon Jenkins describes them as ‘among the loveliest in Britain’. They house superb rood screens, magnificent fonts, a water-powered organ, a rare monolithic stone preaching cross and the only parish Dead House in Wales.