Born and raised in Zanzibar, Abdulrazak Gurnah is a Professor Emeritus of English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent. He is author of nine novels, including Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize), By the Sea (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the LA Times Book Award) and Desertion.
In 2021 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his uncompromising work on the effects of colonialism between cultures and continents. He talks to journalist Max Liu about his work, in particular his recent book Afterlives, a compelling historical novel focused on those enduring German rule in East Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century.
There are categories of intimate writing which modern technology has rendered obsolete. Keats sealed his letters to his beloved with a kiss. Whoever did that to an email in the age of electronic Valentines? Who, nowadays, keeps a private written journal? It’s all up there in the cloudy Diary in the Sky. Until well into the 20th century young men and women carried ‘autograph books’ for sketches, verbal and pictorial, by friends. They now only exist as relics on eBay. Is intimate writing a dead letter – as obsolete as the quill pen? Not entirely. John Crace has revived the political sketch, diary and (highly personalised) critical ‘digest’.
John Sutherland has written intimate memoirs (one of which, his struggle with alcoholism, he regrets publishing). He recently met himself – sixty years younger – in his university tutor’s voluminous letters about him to Philip Larkin. It inspired his latest book, Monica Jones, Philip Larkin and Me.
The Two Johns discuss intimacy in public and personal writing – the difference between writing with one eye on publication and for oneself alone – and where, in an era of grams, selfies and tweeting it can go. And have fun while doing so.
Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body. It’s learning her life from the inside. It shape-shifts down the banks of her canals, leaks through her tissue, nooks and nodes. It taps her trachea like the bones of a xylophone. It’s spreading. When Lia finds out that her cancer is back, she tries to keep the landscapes of her past, her present and her body separate; for the sake of Iris, her daughter, and for her husband, Harry, desperate to keep their lives flourishing. But bodies are porous, unpredictable places… As Lia’s condition worsens, the narrator inside her strengthens; the boundaries between her past, her present and her body begin to leak and spill.
Maddie Mortimer’s accomplished debut novel is a story of coming-of-age at the end of a life. Utterly heartbreaking yet darkly funny, it’s a symphonic journey through one woman’s body: a wild and lyrical celebration of desire, forgiveness and the darkness within us all. She talks to Sarah Moss, Women's Prize-shortlisted author of Ghost Wall and Summerwater.
The ancient Spartans were a society of citizen-soldiers, famous throughout history for their doomed stand at the Battle of Thermopylae. Andrew Bayliss looks beyond the popular image of muscle-bound soldiers with long hair and red cloaks and explores the mindset of Spartan citizens, in particular their emotions such as anger, fear and shame. He examines the Spartans’ often brutal exploitation of their helot slaves, on whom their warrior lifestyle depended. Senior Lecturer in Greek History at the University of Birmingham, he is author of The Spartans: A Very Short Introduction.
The food writer and passionate forager (author of The Tree Forager) joins guides from Brecon Beacons National Park to lead a gentle walk through the beautiful surrounds of Hay-on-Wye. The Park’s lead tree warden introduces wayfarers to some of the area’s oldest and most interesting trees.
Join Cressida Cowell, bestselling author-illustrator of the much-loved How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once series, in her final festival appearance as UK Waterstones Children’s Laureate. Cressida talks about her books and their inspirations, dragons, wizards and sharing writing and illustration tips. She will also be giving Hay an exclusive sneak peek of her sketchbooks and will read from her new book series, Which Way to Anyway.
Over its 100 years, the BBC has pioneered many now-ubiquitous technologies. The BBC’s tech programme, Click, looks at some of the remarkable stories of innovation from the BBC microphone to the famous ‘pips’. In this special show from Hay Festival, host Spencer Kelly brings together a panel of guests to unpack the history of BBC tech before looking to see what the future may hold.
A one-hour collaging workshop with Hay Festival Illustrator in Residence Tom Etherington and Bethan Thomas, founder of Collage Crew workshops. Tom and Bethan guide you through the playful world of collage. Create striking artwork from old books, while learning about what makes an iconic book cover. Tom is a former Penguin Books designer behind some of the most memorable jacket images of recent times, from Greta Thunberg’s No One is Too Small to Make a Difference and Grayson Perry’s The Descent of Man to the recent Jack Kerouac reissues and the Green Ideas series.
An opportunity to get crafting! Activities differ every day, including everything from print-making to junk modelling with recycled materials. Get messy and creative: your imagination is the limit.
Book for the session and you can drop in at any point during the 2.5 hour duration. An accompanying adult must attend at all times but does not require a ticket.
Pianist Jeremy Denk traces his implausible journey to world renown, illustrating his reflections with musical interludes on piano in this unique event.
From precocious and temperamental six-year-old piano prodigy in New Jersey he progressed via New Mexico, far from classical music’s nerve centres, past a bewildering cast of college music teachers and a series of humiliations and triumphs, to find his way as one of the world’s greatest living pianists, a MacArthur ‘Genius’, and a frequent performer at Carnegie Hall.
Unusually, Denk is willing to explore both the joys and miseries of artistic practice. Hours of daily repetition, mystifying early advice, pressure from parents and teachers who drove him on – and an ongoing battle of talent against two enemies: boredom and insecurity. He composes a fraught love letter to the act of teaching, examining what motivates both student and teacher, locked in a complicated and psychologically perilous relationship. He explores how classical music is relevant to ‘real life’ and reminds us that music is our creation, and that we need to keep asking questions about its purpose.
As young man, Paul Keene quickly realized that no one would pay to hear him play the piano, so he’d have to make a living by paying others to do so. Since then, he’s spent 25 years programming classical concerts with most of the world’s major artists and orchestras, latterly at London’s Barbican Centre.
Canadian anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and photographer Wade Davis talks about his latest work Magdalena, the River of Dreams, about the Magdalena River in Colombia. His memoir braids together history and journalism, adventure through a spectacular landscape and a kaleidoscopic picture of Colombia’s complex past, present and future.
The Jan Morris Lecture is a space to celebrate the legacy of this great voyager, historian and journalist, and to listen to fascinating stories about the most significant landscapes around the world, through the work of great travel writers.
Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and acclaimed author of Negroland Margo Jefferson shatters herself into pieces to examine each influence, love and passion that has thrilled and troubled her and made up her sense of self as a person and as a writer – her family, jazz luminaries, dancers, writers, lovers, artists, athletes and stars.
Jefferson interrogates race, class, family, art and identity as well as the act of writing memoir, and probes fissures at the centre of American cultural life. Bing Crosby and Ike Turner are among the author’s alter egos. The sounds of a jazz LP emerge as the intimate and instructive sounds of a parent’s voice. WEB Du Bois and George Eliot meet illicitly. The muscles and movements of a ballerina are spliced with those of an Olympic runner, becoming a template for what a black female body can be.
She talks to journalist Max Liu.
Ian McMillan is always at home in front of a crowd, and in this Hay Festival Verb he is joined by some of our most exciting writers, performers and poets to explore the idea of homeliness – literal or metaphorical – and to ask if writing can be a kind of home.
His guests are: the poet Lemn Sissay, whose latest book for children is a celebration of curiosity and belonging; Monica Ali, who casts her eye across family matters in her new novel Love Marriage; Daniel Morden, a consummate storyteller and performer, acquainted with all the myths of belonging; and Tishani Doshi, whose poetry and prose is alert to the possibilities of a home – in the poem or in the body.
Ian will also share a brand new poetry commission by a contemporary poet for the BBC's centenary – part of The Verb’s Something Old, Something New series.
Join Jacqueline Wilson on a magical adventure into Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood. A lifelong fan of Blyton and The Magic Faraway Tree series, Jacqueline has written a new Faraway Tree exploit to delight readers of all ages. There are new and familiar faces to meet and a whole new set of fantastical worlds for readers to explore. Jacqueline Wilson is one of Britain’s bestselling children’s authors. She writes for a wide age range and has legions of fans both in the UK and around the world.
With the aid of a giant world map, Dom Conlon takes children on a journey through the natural world to see how hares adapt to climate, how sharks protect the air we breathe, how the wind brings life to the Amazon rainforest and how life without light would be a difficult thing. Children will leap across the room and make their own Wild Wanderer stories to take away.
In Ask a Historian: 50 Surprising Answers to Things You Always Wanted to Know, author, BBC podcaster and public historian Greg Jenner provides answers to things you always wondered about, but didn’t know who to ask.
Why is Italy called Italy? How old is curry? Which people from history would best pull off a casino heist? Who was the richest person of all time? When was the first Monday? What were history’s weirdest medical procedures that actually worked? How much horse manure was splattered on the streets of Tudor London?
Responding to 50 genuine questions from the public, Greg leads an entertaining tour through the ages, revealing the best and most surprising stories, facts and historical characters from the past. Bouncing through a wide range of subjects – from ancient jokebooks, African empires and bizarre tales of medicinal cannibalism to the invention of meringues, mirrors and menstrual pads – he spans from the Stone Age to the Swinging Sixties, and offers up a deliciously amusing and informative smorgasbord of historical curiosities, to be devoured one morsel at a time.
1972 was a landmark year for the emerging women’s liberation movement. A time of great optimism and hope, it saw the birth of two great feminist institutions – Spare Rib and Virago Books. Both challenged the stereotyping and exploitation of women and played a key role in transforming the role of women in society. But fifty years on, how far have we come?
Join Carmen Callil, writer, publisher and founder of Virago, and Rosie Boycott, co-founder of Spare Rib, journalist and cross-bench peer to discuss this question with Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, an ever-increasing collection of over 100,000 testimonies of gender inequality, to discuss gender issues and where we stand on gender equality today.
Disinformation is one of the most pressing and urgent social and political challenges of our times. Almost every high-profile event or issue seems to act as a magnet for disinformation campaigns and influence operations, ranging from democratic elections to the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
Director at Cardiff University Crime and Security Research Institute Martin Innes investigates how disinformation campaigns are organised and conducted. Informed by a large-scale international research programme exploring disinformation and its impacts across diverse settings and situations, he uses several key ‘real world’ examples to illuminate the key components of how digital disinformation campaigns are run, and what can be done to limit their harms.
Radio 3’s Free Thinking/Arts & Ideas podcast explores the seas and oceans. Rana Mitter’s guests are: Nobel Prize-winning author Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose books have drawn on his birthplace Zanzibar and the refugees arriving at the Kent coast; climate scientist Professor Emily Shuckburgh, who worked at the British Antarctic Survey; and Joan Passey, author of Cornish Gothic, a New Generation Thinker on the scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to turn research into radio.
A special event featuring words and improvised music with leading poet, author and raconteur Chris Tutton and harpist Anne Denholm.
Chris Tutton has published seven critically acclaimed collections of poetry. Named by Ned Sherrin as “the master of the short poem”, his work has also been described as “absolutely beautiful” by Alexander Waugh, with the Sunday Times lauding its “dramatic passion and dignity”.
Anne Denholm is one of the leading British harpists of her generation and served as Official Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales, 2015–2019. She has earned a strong reputation for her interpretations and powerful engaging performances across a variety of musical fields, and in 2020 was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.