Our 2023 Festival took place 25 May - 4 June. The programme is listed below.
Most of the events are now available in our online archive Hay Player – please see individual listings for more details.
How can you fight something if you don’t know it exists? We live under an ideology that preys on every aspect of our lives: education, employment, healthcare and leisure; our relationships and mental wellbeing; even the planet we inhabit. So pervasive has it become that it seems unavoidable. But trace it back to its roots, and we discover that neoliberalism was conceived, propagated and concealed by the powerful few. It’s time to bring it into the light – and to find an alternative worth fighting for.
Environmental campaigner George Monbiot's previous book was Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet. His latest is The Invisible Doctrine: The Secret History of Neoliberalism (& How it Came to Control Your Life).
The food and nutrition experts discuss eating for health and gut happiness.
Having a healthy gut is fundamental to good health, and the best way to harness the benefits of gut health is by eating plants, says the River Cottage author. He shares the know-how in How to Eat 30 Plants a Week: 100 Recipes to Boost Your Health and Energy, to help us put more plants on our plates, whether we are omnivores, vegetarians or vegans.
In Food for Life, scientist Tim Spector investigates everything from environmental impact and food fraud to allergies, ultra-processed food and deceptive labelling. He is author of Spoon-Fed and The Diet Myth, and Professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London. He also leads the ZOE Health Study, which analyses our unique gut, blood fat and blood sugar responses, so that we can improve our long-term health.
In historian and broadcaster Alice Roberts’ new children’s novel, Wolf Road, prehistoric Tuuli travels with her tribe through the seasons – making camp, hunting for food and protecting themselves against the hazards the climate throws at them. She knows there’s a bigger world out there, and when she spots a strange boy lurking outside their camp, she realises he might hold the adventure she is looking for. He is from another tribe, and as he and Tuuli strike up an unlikely friendship, they set out on a journey that will influence the rest of human history. Find out about the real anthropological discoveries that inspired this tale full of wild animals and heart-stopping danger.
Join the award-winning and much-loved author, comedian and actor for a fun-filled event centred on his action-packed children’s books, The Boy With Wings and The Book of Legends. His latest title, Clash of the Superkids, sees the return of Tunde Wilkinson, an ordinary boy who happens also to be a winged superhero. Lenny chats to compère Mic Lord, a theatre maker, MC and recording artist, all about Tunde’s impossible mission and super powers, and reveals an extract from the book.
In a wide-ranging conversation with Welsh-Jamaican reggae artist and presenter Aleighcia Scott, DJ Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 6, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru) reveals how he selected 100 Welsh records for his new book, and how these artists have influenced Wales’ culture, past and present. He analyses highlights in the careers of the most important recording artists Wales has produced, singing in English or Welsh – including Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Dafydd Iwan, Max Boyce, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, Adwaith and Mace the Great.
Surrounded by a necklace of crises from Ukraine via the Middle East to the Maghreb, Europe has been signalling that it must play a more active role on the global stage, but it has sat passively as China and the US direct the course of events. As we approach the US presidential election, does Europe have the strength, ability and will to assert itself against an unpredictable mixture of populism, war, technological advance and economic uncertainty? Misha Glenny, journalist and Rector of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, asks the EU’s former Vice-President, Baroness Catherine Ashton, political scientist Ivan Krastev and Rafał Trzaskowski, Polish politician and current city mayor of Warsaw, whether Europe can weather the approaching storms.
Explore the ancient world with Bettany Hughes, who tells it through its seven greatest monuments: the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq; the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece; the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Turkey; the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, Turkey; the Colossus of Rhodes, Greece; and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt. All were staggeringly audacious, and demonstrated the reaches of human imagination. Now only the Pyramid remains, yet the scale and majesty of these seven wonders still enthral us today. The author of Venus & Aphrodite and Helen of Troy asks: why do we wonder, why do we create and why do we choose to remember the wonder of others?
The front-bench Labour MP grew up on a council estate in Stepney, East London, the son of teenage parents. His maternal grandfather Bill, an unsuccessful armed robber, spent time behind bars, as did his grandmother, who was also a political campaigner. He brings to life the struggle and heartache of his parents’ and grandparents’ lives in poverty; the choices they had to make between feeding the meter and feeding the family. He is also passionate about the life-changing power of education. Encouraged by a series of inspirational teachers, he won a place at Cambridge, and later became head of education at Stonewall. He talks to BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed about his journey to become an elected MP in 2015 and now Shadow Health Secretary.
There is a prescription for whatever might be your poetic need or desire, from verses to soothe your soul and brighten your day to poems that offer comfort in times of trouble. The creator and editor of The Poetry Pharmacy is joined by special guests including Natascha McElhone (The Crown, Designated Survivor), Dominic West (Brassic, The Wire) and more to be announced for an event of connection, imagination and inspiration.
Gloriously Gothic and unnervingly contemporary, Jeanette Winterson’s Night Side of the River is a blend of chilling short stories and the author’s real-life encounters with the supernatural. Winterson explores grief, revenge and the myriad ways in which technology can disrupt the boundary between life and death. Our lives are digital, exposed and always on. We can find out everything about our world, but we know little about the world of ghosts. They wander the metaverse just as they haunt our homes and our memories, seeking new ways to connect, to live among us, to remind us, to tempt us, to take their revenge. These are the stories of the dead – of those we’ve lost, loved, forgotten…and feared.
From the historian and co-presenter of The Rest is History podcast comes the story of antiquity’s ultimate superpower at the pinnacle of its greatness. The Roman Empire once stretched from Scotland to Arabia, the wealthiest and most formidable state the world had seen. Holland’s Pax: War and Peace in Rome’s Golden Age begins in 69 AD, a year that saw four Caesars in succession rule the empire, and ends some seven decades later with the death of Hadrian. Covering the destruction of Jerusalem and Pompeii, the building of the Colosseum and Hadrian’s Wall, and the conquests of Trajan, he vividly sketches the lives of Romans from slaves to emperors. This is the last of his trilogy that began with Rubicon and continued with Dynasty.
Join renowned scientist Robert Winston to hear about The Story of Science – a journey through human history, looking at the stories behind humanity’s greatest inventions and findings. With fascinating facts, tales of innovative inventions and daring discoveries, the professor explains how accidents have led to some of the greatest findings we’ve ever seen, from the stone hand-axe to life-changing medicine. If you’re a young inventor or science enthusiast, or simply a curious mind, constantly asking ‘how’ and ‘why’ things happen, this event is for you.
Critically acclaimed comedian Sara Pascoe introduces her engaging debut novel. Weirdo follows Sophie, an existential Essex girl battling low-level paranoia in her search for happiness and truth. All Sophie wants to do is act like a normal, well-adjusted person and not say any of her inner monologue out loud. If she can suppress her pornographic visualisations and pathological lying, who knows, maybe she can get out of debt, dump her current boyfriend and try to enjoy Christmas with her awful family? Pascoe wrote and starred in the sitcom Out of Her Mind, hosts The Great British Sewing Bee and has written two non-fiction books – Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body and Sex Power Money.
“Quietly profound and laughing-in-public funny” – Caitlin Moran.
‘The Singularity’ is how Silicon Valley likes to describe the ultimate break point in human history: when we will come face to face with machines that have minds of their own. But what if this has already happened? Hundred of years ago, human beings started building the artificial entities that now rule our world. They are called states and corporations: immensely powerful robots, able to take decisions and act for themselves. They have made us richer, safer, healthier and more capable – and they may yet destroy us. The Handover distils over 300 years of thinking about how to live with artificial agency. David Runciman is Professor of Politics at Cambridge University and host of the Past Present Future podcast.
In Long Island, the sequel to Brooklyn, published in 2009, we are reunited with Eilis Lacey 20 years on, in the 1970s, living with her husband, Tony Fiorello, and children on Long Island, rather too close to her Fiorello in-laws. A shocking piece of news propels Eilis back to Ireland, to a world she thought she had long left behind and to ways of living, and loving, she thought she had lost. He is the author of ten previous novels including The Master, Brooklyn, The Testament of Mary, and The Magician. He has been shortlisted for the Booker three times, won the Costa Novel Award, the Rathbones Folio Prize and is the current Laureate for Irish Fiction.
The leading human rights lawyer, campaigner and former Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales argues for the vindication of human rights, attacked by opponents from across the political spectrum and populist and authoritarian movements worldwide. After the devastation of the Second World War, the international community came together to enshrine fundamental rights to refuge, health, education and living standards, for privacy, fair trials and free speech, and outlawing torture, slavery and discrimination. Their goal was greater global justice, equality, and peace. That goal is now threatened by wars, inequality, new technologies and climate catastrophe. Outlining the historic struggles for human rights, Chakrabarti is an indispensable guide to the law and logic underpinning human dignity and universal freedoms. For human rights to survive, they must be far better understood by everyone.
This new collection reflects on several decades of the poet's political activism, from her Glasgow childhood, accompanying her parents on Socialist campaigns, through the feminist, LGBT+ and anti-racist movements of the Eighties and Nineties, to the present day when a global pandemic intersects with the urgency of Black Lives Matter. Her writing bring to life a cast of influential figures – Jamaican model Fanny Eaton, muse of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England; singer, Marxist academic Angela Davis and the poet and civil rights campaigner Audre Lorde. Woven through are lyric poems on the loss of Kay’s parents: poems of grief infused with the light of love and celebration.
The host of The Repair Shop shares his inspirational words of positivity for making the very best of life. Filled with characteristic warmth and humour, he talks about the life lessons that have helped him to find positivity and growth, no matter what he’s found himself facing. "It’s very easy to be passive in life and just do what you know. But you’ll be a lot more excited every day if you shape your own future." After leaving school at 15 without qualifications, Blades eventually managed to study for a degree in criminology and philosophy at Buckingham University before finding his vocation in restoration. He is co-founder of the social enterprises Out of The Dark and Street of Dreams, working with disadvantaged young people.
In The Silver Bone, Ukraine’s most celebrated novelist transports the reader to early 20th-century Kyiv during the turmoil following the Russian Revolution. This mystery introduces rookie detective Samson Kolechko in Kyiv as he tackles his first case, involving two murders, a long bone made of pure silver and a suit of decidedly unusual proportions tailored from fine English cloth. Inflected with the author's signature humour and magical realism, the novel takes inspiration from the archives of crime enforcement agencies in Kyiv, crafting a propulsive narrative with rich historical detail. Kurkov has written 19 novels, nine books for children and numerous documentary, fiction and TV movie scripts.
Humans are capable of both love and hate, amazement and disgust, fun and misery. So why do we live in a world that constantly urges us to hate ourselves and others, to be repulsed by our own bodies, to be ashamed of pleasure, to be embarrassed by fun? In her new collection, the author and poet asks why we have been taught to hate, and if we might learn to love again. She won the Ted Hughes Award for Nobody Told Me, wrote the three poetry collections Plum, Cherry Pie and Papers, adapted the Greek tragedy Antigone and co-wrote the play Offside with poet Sabrina Mahfouz.