Hay Festival 2021 – Biography

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Event 11

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Jennifer Lucy Allan talks to Stephanie Merritt

The Foghorn’s Lament

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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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.

Event 15

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Horatio Clare talks to Beth Underdown

Heavy Light: A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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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.

Event 19

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Helena Attlee and Greg Lawson

Lev’s Violin

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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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.

Event 22

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Suzanne Schwarz

Lunchtime Lecture Series 2: Reconstructing the Life Histories of Enslaved Africans

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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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.

There will be no Q&A at the end of the event.

Event 28

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Caitlin Moran, Joeli Brearley and Pragya Agarwal talk to Laura Bates

Motherload

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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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.

Event 37

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Deborah Levy talks to Lisa Appignanesi

Real Estate

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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The final instalment of Levy's 'Living Autobiography' series is a thought-provoking and intimate meditation on home and the spectres that haunt it. With her characteristic wit and acute insights, she crafts a searing examination of womanhood and ownership. Her possessions, real and imagined, push us as readers to question our cultural understanding of belonging and belongings and to consider the value of a woman's intellectual and personal life. Blending personal history, gender politics, philosophy, and literary theory, Real Estate is a compulsively readable narrative. Lisa Appignanesi is a writer, Chair of the Royal Society of Literature and a former president of English PEN.

Event 39

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Peter Scott-Morgan talks to Stephen Fry

Peter 2.0: The Human Cyborg

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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Peter, a brilliant scientist, is told he will lose everything he loves – his husband, family, friends. He has Motor Neurone Disease, a condition universally considered to be terminal. He is told it will destroy his nerve cells and that within two years, it will take his life, too. But face-to-face with death, he decides there is another way and using science and technology, he navigates a new path that will enable him not just to survive, but to thrive. This is true story about the first person to combine his very humanity with artificial intelligence and robotics to become a full Cyborg. His discovery means that his terminal diagnosis is negotiable, something that will rewrite the future. By embracing love, life and hope rather than fear, tragedy and despair he will become Peter 2.0.

There will be no Q&A at the end of the event.

Event 40

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Malcolm Gladwell

The Bomber Mafia: A Story set in War

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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Before the Second World War, at a sleepy Air Force base in central Alabama, a group of renegade pilots puts forth a radical idea. What if we made bombing so accurate that wars could be fought entirely from the air? And if we could make the brutal clashes between armies on the ground a thing of the past? This book tells the story of what happened when that dream was put to the test, following the stories of a reclusive Dutch genius and his homemade computer, Winston Churchill's forbidding best friend, a team of pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard, a brilliant pilot who sang vaudeville tunes to his crew, and the bomber commander, Curtis Emerson LeMay, who would order the bloodiest attack of the Second World War.

Event 45

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Nick Crane talks to Simon Hancock

Latitude

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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By knowing the shape of our planet we can create maps, survey the oceans, follow rivers, navigate the skies, and travel the globe. This is the story of how we discovered what no one thought possible: the shape of the earth. In 1735, the good ship Portefaix sailed across the Atlantic carrying the world’s first international team of scientists to a continent of unmapped rainforests and ice-shrouded volcanoes. Beset by egos and disease, storms and earthquakes, mutiny and murder, they struggled for ten years to reach the single figure they sought: the length of one degree of latitude. Twenty-five years after the publication of Longitude, this tells the other side of the story, one of our most important geographical discoveries.

Event 54

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Lemn Sissay presents...When Bonnie met Ash

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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Bonnie Greer, American-British playwright, novelist, critic and broadcaster, talks to trail-blazing Novara Media editor Ash Sarkar about a life in writing and activism. What has changed and what has remained the same? A unique view through the telescope of time from then to now and now to then.

Part of Lemn Sissay's George Floyd: One Year On series.

Event 56

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

The Reverend Richard Coles in conversation with Julia Samuel

The Madness of Grief

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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Whether it’s pastoral care for the bereaved, discussions about the afterlife with parishioners, or being called out to perform the last rites, death is part of a clergyman's routine. But when Reverend Richard Coles’ life partner died unexpectedly just before Christmas 2019, much about death took him by surprise: the volume of ‘sadmin’ you have to do, the simple pain of typing a text message to your partner – then remembering they are gone. In time, things do get better, and the Reverend’s deeply personal account of living through grief – and the lessons he has learnt along the way – resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one. He talks to psychotherapist Julia Samuel, author of This Too Shall Pass.

Event 62

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Lucasta Miller and Jonathan Bate talk to Miranda Seymour

Keats

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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John Keats, who died 200 years ago at just 25, is one of Britain’s most enigmatic poets and this biography by Lucasta Miller, critic and author of The Brontë Myth, excavates the backstories of nine familiar works. The epitaph Keats composed for his own gravestone – Here lies one whose name was writ in water – seemingly damned him to oblivion. He took a battering from the conservative press, yet in 1818 he wrote, "I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death". A lower-middle-class outsider from a dysfunctional family, his energy and love of language enabled him to reach the heart of English literature. A freethinker and a liberal at a time of repression, his work has retained its originality through the generations.

In Bright Star, Green Light, Jonathan Bate interweaves the lives of John Keats and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The latter was profoundly influenced by Keats, using the poet's lines in the title Tender is the Night. These two great writers both died young, loved to drink, were plagued by tuberculosis and haunted by their first love – and were the young Romantic figures of their twinned centuries. They talk to Miranda Seymour, author of Mary Shelley and In Byron's Wake.

Event 66

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Martin Robinson and Guvna B talk to Owen Sheers

You Are Not The Man You Are Supposed To Be and Unspoken

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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The 2017 the #MeToo movement sparked a worldwide conversation about men’s attitudes and behaviour towards women. Meanwhile, male suicides (which comprise 75% of suicides in the UK), poor emotional intelligence and mental health issues continue to blight an entire generation of young men. In an honest, urgent, witty book, Book of Man founder and editor Martin Robinson embarks on a personal quest to explore masculinity in the 21st century, visiting men’s groups, talking to drag artists, sex gurus and feminists, and hanging out with cage fighters and trans men. How do we go about being better dads, partners, brothers, sons? The book maps out new ways for men to be.

Men are strong in the face of fear. But what happens when that strength crumbles?

Unspoken by Guvna B addresses ideas of male identity through his own personal tragedy. Growing up on a council estate in East London, the rapper thought he knew what it means to be a man. But he had to face these assumptions head on when he suffered excruciating grief. They talk to poet and playwright Owen Sheers, who wrote The Men You'll Meet, addressed to his two daughters.

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.

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. Two chapters of the book are written by Lucy, who will join her on stage.

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.

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.

Event 95

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Lemn Sissay presents... Maaza Mengiste and Aida Edemariam

Who is telling the story?

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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Both Maaza Mengiste's Booker Prize-shortlisted novel The Shadow King and Aida Edemariam's Ondaatje Prize-winning biography of her grandmother, The Wife's Tale, approach the history of 20th-century Ethiopia through female protagonists. How does this change what is seen, what is heard, and what, in the end, lasts?

There will be no Q&A at the end of this event

Event 99

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Isabel Allende in conversation with Sophie Hughes

Hay Festival Digital Querétaro presents: The Soul of a Woman

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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The great Chilean writer discusses her lifelong feminism and hard-won life lessons – "When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating". Her new book is a wise, warm, defiant manifesto, in which she calls for the need to live one’s old age to the full: "My story is told in every year I have lived and every wrinkle I have”. She talks to translator and editor Sophie Hughes.

Event 105

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Emily Vaughn (represented by Veronica Clark) and Shaun Sawyer in conversation with Libby Sutcliffe

County Lines – Modern Slavery in the UK

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage
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It it is estimated that in the UK alone there are tens of thousands of victims of modern slavery. Globally it is 40 million. When an 11-year-old girl from a small town in Wales was groomed into ‘county lines’ drug trafficking, it was the beginning of vicious descent into one abuse after another, involving a huge child-sex trafficking gang. Over several years Emily Vaughn estimates she was raped by 1,500 men. Now in her early thirties, she wants to expose this insidious aspect of modern slavery and help others who have gone through similar experiences. Emily is still in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), and so for her own safety, she will be represented by her ghost writer Veronica Clark. Shaun Sawyer is the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall and the National Police Lead on Slavery and Trafficking. In conversation with Libby Sutcliffe, journalist/broadcaster and founder of www.slaveryfree.org.

Event HD23

Events taking place online 24 May - 6 June

Floella Benjamin

Coming to England

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage
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Join the actress and working peer as she tells how she travelled from Trinidad, aged 10, to make a new life with her family in Britain. Her experience of moving home and making friends shows you can overcome difficulties if you have the courage to believe in yourself.

3+, Family

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