Welcome to our programme for Hay Festival 2023.
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Journalist and feminist Rosie Boycott, veteran music producer Joe Boyd, organic food pioneer Craig Sams join Bureau of Lost Culture podcast host Stephen Coates in a conversation about how the visions and values planted in the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s have flowered in the decades since.
Cultural critic Charlotte Williams speaks with a panel of guests, to be announced, about Welsh identity, education, and creative and cultural representation. Williams is a Welsh-Guyanese author and academic. As Hay Thinker in Residence she is committed to exploring the ways in which Wales and its multivarious Welsh identities are represented at the Festival.
One of Britain’s greatest living storytellers, Salman Rushdie is back with a magical realist feminist tale in Victory City, a novel presented as an abridged translation of a fictitious and previously lost Sanskrit verse saga. The novel’s final line, “words are the only victors”, seems more relevant than ever following a brutal attack on Rushdie in 2022, which left him injured. Three of his friends and admirers – novelists Margaret Atwood, Elif Shafak and Douglas Stuart – speak to the BBC’s Razia Iqbal about the power of Rushdie’s storytelling and celebrate the wonder of Victory City.
We are familiar with the idea of our body’s biome – the bacterial fauna that populate our gut and can so profoundly affect our health. The next frontier of scientific understanding is discovering our body’s electrome. Every cell in our bodies – bones, skin, nerves, muscle – has a voltage, like a tiny battery. This bioelectricity is why our brains can send signals to our bodies, why we develop the way we do in the womb and how our bodies know to heal themselves from injury. When bioelectricity goes awry, illness, deformity and cancer can result. But could there be an undo switch for cancer to flip malignant cells back into healthy ones; the ability to regenerate cells, organs, even limbs; to slow ageing?
The science writer explores the history of bioelectricity, from Galvani’s epic 18th century battle with the inventor of the battery, Alessandro Volta, to the medical charlatans claiming to use electricity to cure pretty much anything, to advances in the field helped along by the unusually massive axons of squid.
What does absolute darkness feel like? Not the kind that comes from switching off lights in your house, or stepping out in the city at midnight, but true, deep darkness. Dr Jacqueline Yallop delves into the enigma of darkness with this lecture. Looking at how science, art, literature and psychology have shaped our understanding of darkness, and how our imaginations continue to be inspired by it, she considers what darkness means to us, as individuals and societies, now and in the past. Yallop teaches prose and creative writing at the University of Aberystwyth. She is the author of two novels and three works of non-fiction.
The Bureau of Lost Culture’s Stephen Coates hosts a live podcast recording debating the countercultural power of music in modern times. Join Mercury Prize nominated singer and activist Sam Lee, influential singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan and pioneering record producer Joe Boyd, who has worked with a multitude of artists from Pink Floyd to REM.
Publicist Georgina Moore has worked in publishing for more than 20 years, and offers a unique perspective on being a published author. Set on the Isle of Wight, her debut The Garnett Girls is about three sisters kept from finding true happiness by their mother Margo’s refusal to speak about their father, who walked out on her. Rachel is desperate to return to London, but is held hostage by responsibility for Sandcove, the beloved but crumbling family home; dreamy Imogen feels the pressure to marry her kind, considerate fiancé; wild, passionate Sasha is trapped between her fractured family and controlling husband, and weighed down by a secret that could shake the family to its core. Moore talks to critic and writer Stephanie Merritt.
Hay Community Choir’s ‘Earth Song’ is a collaborative piece with poet Francesca Kay and musician Alice Phelps, as well as their director Fiona Evans. Inspired by Scottish Gaelic psalm singing, the choir explores the elements and celebrates all that it means to live on this planet, creating a work that the Earth itself has inspired.
Nothing is off the menu in this frank, revealing and very funny show. In her first ever live performance, Prue Leith will take us through the ups and downs of being a successful restaurateur, novelist, businesswoman and Great British Bake Off judge – feeding the rich and famous, cooking for royalty and even poisoning her clients.
In the second half of the show she’ll be joined on stage by Clive Tulloh, who will chair a Q&A giving you the chance to ask those questions you’ve always wanted to hear Prue’s take on. She says: “I’ve never done a stage show before and at 82 I’m probably nuts to try it, but it’s huge fun, makes people laugh and lets me rant away about the restaurant trade, publishers, TV and writing, and sing the praises of food, love and life.”
Edited by author and ex-psychiatrist Joanna Cannon, Will You Read This, Please? contains 12 real-life stories of NHS mental health service users, written by 12 authors, telling the stories of mental illness and the NHS from the truest and most honest source: the patients themselves. Cannon talks to novelist Tracy Chevalier (A Single Thread, Girl With a Pearl Earring) and Catherine Cho (author of Inferno, about her experience of postpartum psychosis) about how they became involved in the collection and the challenges and privileges of helping someone else to share a story that was previously unheard. They are joined by Jen McPherson, who worked closely with Cho to share her story in the collection, and talks about why she was compelled to share her experience of psychosis.
Three Grammy-winning, world-class American musicians – vocalist Arooj Aftab, pianist Vijay Iyer and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily – recorded Love in Exile in their adopted hometown of New York City. The album sees them create a unified voice, despite their distinct backgrounds. Bask in their singular, gorgeous sound with this performance of their work. Aftab is the first Pakistani to win a Grammy; Iyer is a MacArthur genius and Grammy nominee; and Ismaily’s sensitivity and technical acumen has made him a legend among musicians like the late Lou Reed, for whom he was a session player.
The Canadian singer/songwriter is fiercely honest about her 25 years as a recording and touring artist in her memoir Song of the Sparrow. To celebrate its release, and its accompanying album, Tara MacLean shares tales from her book, interspersed with guitar music and song, for a uniquely intimate evening of storytelling.
Bureau of Lost Culture podcast host Stephen Coates tells the extraordinary story of how forbidden songs cut onto records made from x-rays defied the censor in the Cold War-era Soviet Union. The talk will be followed by a demonstration of the art of making an x-ray record and a special performance by singer and activist Sam Lee.
Start your day with a morning yoga class designed to reinvigorate your energy and spirit. Enjoy a grounding, energising, alignment‐based yoga practice, using the breath and sound to rediscover and rejuvenate the body and mind. Beginners and experienced students are most welcome. Yoga mats and props are provided.
Please contact Kanga Wellbeing on firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions relating to these classes. As capacity is limited, we recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
Bring your best ideas to this solutions-focused workshop session. Facilitated by sustainability entrepreneur Andy Middleton, Chief Exploration Officer at the TYF Group, and joined by key speakers to be announced, we’ll look at the key issue of biodiversity. We’ll discuss the scale of the issue and a range of solutions, how to action them, how they might impact on their lives and how to manage the change.
Biodiversity is the collective term for the full variety of life on Earth. We’ve lost 69% of wildlife over the past 50 years, and at last we’re realising the consequences. The COP15 summit in Montreal last December was a remarkable and unexpected success but most businesses have little knowledge of nature risks and no plan to restore biodiversity. How can we mobilise joined up, local-to-global action by business, society and governments on biodiversity, at a speed and scale fast enough to matter?
This workshop is part of our Hay Festival Planet Assembly, a daily, inclusive conversation over ten days involving lay people, scientists, commentators and experts. We want to empower everyone to be accelerators and multipliers for the dramatic policy transformations that are needed immediately to tackle the acute climate and biodiversity emergencies.
Agronomist Jonathon Harrington and vet Barney Sampson lead a tour of Trevithel Court, a traditional mixed farm with orchards supplying apples for Bulmers, Westons and other cider producers in Herefordshire and Wales. Walk among the apple trees and learn about cider production; look inside a beehive and learn how bees make honey and store it for the winter, and why they are so essential for pollination. You can sample some of the cider and honey produced on the farm. See the quality beef cattle fed with the grass and arable crops grown on the farm and the machinery used for crop production and harvesting. Trevithel Court is run by David James in partnership with his son Will James, the fourth generation of the family to farm here.
With thanks to David & Catherine James and family for welcoming us to their farm.
Please wear walking boots or Wellingtons and waterproof clothing in case of inclement weather. These are visits to real working farms and are suitable for anyone interested in learning more about food and farming. Families are welcome but children must be supervised at all times.
An exploration of memory, memoir and the process of reflection through writing with frank, tender and sometimes funny thoughts from two writers who have written about personal losses – Margaret Atwood of her long-term partner, and Rob Delaney of his son from a brain tumour. The pair share reflections on writing about the worst things imaginable, the power of language to express humanity and the impact of memoir. Their compassionate and honest insights speak to society’s need to understand, and work through, one of life’s most painful experiences. Delaney’s A Heart That Works is a moving memoir about losing his son Henry; Atwood’s Dearly is a collection of poems about absences and endings, ageing and retrospection, but also about gifts and renewals.
Open the covers of this discussion about the life-changing power of books, and how literacy and a love of reading can improve a child’s life chances, with Cressida Cowell, former Waterstones Children’s Laureate and author of the How to Train Your Dragon series, and Children’s Laureate Wales Connor Allen.
Guides from the Brecon Beacons National Park will lead a gentle walk through the beautiful surrounds of Hay-on-Wye. You’ll be joined by artist and writer James Roberts, author of Two Lights: Walking Through Landscapes of Loss and Life.
Hay-on-Wye is based within 520 square miles of beautiful landscape that makes up Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. The National Park is driving change to bring about a sustainable future, meeting our needs within planetary boundaries. Their Hay Festival series of gentle walks will take you into the town’s local environment while offering the opportunity to learn more about the Park’s work and its treasured landscape.
Please wear appropriate footwear and outdoor gear.
Join Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer and illustrator Celia Ivey as they share their children’s book, Little Big Sister. Eoin will read his beautiful story of a girl growing up with dwarfism, and Celia will provide a peek behind the scenes at how she brought the characters to life through art.