Welcome to the Hay Festival Podcast where we release remixed conversations with the world's greatest writers and thinkers from our festivals around the world.
Series 6 brings you highlights from recent Festival events along with back-stage conversations with some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers on their personal interests and influences.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas became an instant classic when he recorded it on vinyl in 1952. Snow falls gently, anticipation fills the air, and Thomas' lyrical account of his childhood Christmases in a small Welsh town comes to life with humour and wit. Seventy years on and with the support of Literature Wales, Hay Festival has commissioned Wales’ National Poet Hanan Issa to offer her own contemporary response to the famous work. Enjoy...
Broadcaster and historian Janina Ramirez talks to Kavita Puri about reappraising women’s roles in medieval history with her new book Femina. She then joins Poppy Evans for a chat about life outside of work, including an elaborate burial plan to confuse future archaeologists.
Physicist Jim Al-Khalili discusses his guide to leading a more rational life The Joy of Science with Glyn Morgan, before chatting to Poppy Evans about teaching, technology and his everyday life.
Rebecca Mead’s reflection of leaving America to return to her native land, Home/Land raises poignant questions about place. She discusses these with lawyer Philippe Sands, before joining Poppy Evans backstage to talk about culture, swimming and shadowing Margaret Atwood after the 2016 election.
Damon Galgut’s 2021 Booker Prize-winning novel charts a country in transition and a family in crisis. He discusses The Promise with author Elizabeth Day, as well as talking to Poppy Evans about everyday observations and rituals.
Wildlife writer and broadcaster Kate Humble talks about her debut cookbook Home Cooked with photographer Andrew Montgomery and Kitty Corrigan, before discussing everyday life, her failings at crafts and impostor syndrome with Poppy Evans.
Writer Liz Hyder discusses her new book The Gifts and how fiction illuminates the world with Sophie Haydock and Rebecca F John, before catching up with Poppy Evans about her time working at Hay Festival, and where she finds inspiration for her books.
Comedian and writer David Baddiel joins Simon Schama to talk about his book for people on the right side of history, Jews Don’t Count, before speaking to Poppy Evans about the cassette tape that led him to comedy, writing practices and saying yes to new opportunities.
Labour MP Jess Phillips tells Hugh Muir the inside story of Westminster with her book Everything You Really Need to Know About Politics: My Life as an MP. Afterwards Phillips speaks to Poppy Evans about childhood and life outside of parliament.
Writer Joanne Harris talks to Sophie Raworth about her latest novel A Narrow Door before joining Poppy Evans off-stage to talk about her many eclectic interests outside of work; including writing amulets, staying in hotels and lucid dreaming.
Classicist and comedian Natalie Haynes reimagines the story of Medusa, putting the woman back at the centre of the story with her trademark passion, wit and feminism. She then joins Poppy Evans to talk about the crush that led her to comedy, knitting and other influences in her life.
Global health expert Devi Sridhar delivers the John Maddox Lecture at Hay Festival with her new book Preventable: The Politics of Pandemics and How to Stop the Next One. She joins Poppy Evans for a chat about becoming a personal trainer, eating cake and reading romantic fiction.
Gardener, broadcaster, and novelist Alan Titchmarsh talks to Alex Clark about his latest novel The Gift before heading backstage to discuss his earliest gardening memories, designing a garden for Nelson Mandela and more with Poppy Evans.
Award-winning neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan talks to writer Oliver Balch about her book The Sleeping Beauties and travelling the world to investigate so-called mystery illnesses, before joining Poppy Evans backstage to talk about storytelling and the influences on her work.
Leading mathematician Marcus du Sautoy discusses his book Thinking Better – The Art of the Shortcut with neurologist Hannah Critchlow at Hay Festival 2022, before joining Poppy Evans backstage to talk more about his influences
Poppy Evans talks to bestselling author and illustrator Cressida Cowell about the influences behind her writing, from childhood adventures on an island to Shakespeare’s ambiguity, with a sneak peek of her new book series, Which Way to Anywhere.
Series 5 brings you excerpts from some of the most memorable events from our archive.
The historian selects letters that have changed the course of global events or expressed a timeless idea – whether passion, rage or humour – from ancient times to the 21st century. Some are noble and inspiring, some despicable and unsettling, some are exquisite works of literature, others brutal, coarse and frankly outrageous; many are erotic, others heartbreaking. His correspondents range from Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great to Mandela, Stalin and Picasso, from Fanny Burney and Emmeline Pankhurst to Ada Lovelace and Rosa Parks, Frida Kahlo, Leonard Cohen, Lincoln, Trump and Suleiman the Magnificent.
The writer and actor’s life is full of riotous adventures: Jennifer talks accidentally enrolling on a teacher training course with a young Dawn French, dressing up as punks and scaring people on the underground, bluffing her way to each BBC series, and shooting Ab Fab with Joanna Lumley.
The Pakistani activist and writer Malala Yousafzai won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in favour of the right of children, particularly girls, to education. Aged 17 when she received the award, she became the youngest ever person to receive a Nobel in any category. A BBC blogger since 2009, she has been a persistent critic of the Taliban in her country, which resulted in an attempt on her life when she was on a bus near her home in Pakistan in 2012. She studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall College, Oxford, and has an honorary doctorate from Kings College University, Halifax, Canada.
We open this episode with an excerpt from an event at Winter Weekend 2018 from Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. For more than 20 years, Ziauddin Yousafzai has been fighting for equality – first for Malala, his daughter – and then for all girls throughout the world living in patriarchal societies. Taught as a young boy in Pakistan to believe that he was inherently better than his sisters, Ziauddin rebelled against inequality at a young age. And when he had a daughter himself he vowed that Malala would have an education, something usually only given to boys, and he founded a school that Malala could attend.
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.
A gripping and triumphant tale of human compassion, All the Young Men is the true story of a young, single mother who finds herself driven to the forefront of the AIDS crisis and who risks everything to give victims back their humanity. In 1986, 26-year-old Ruth Corker Burks visited a friend in hospital when she noticed that the door to one of the patient’s rooms is painted red. The nurses were reluctant to enter, drawing straws to decide who will tend to the sick person inside. Out of impulse, Ruth herself entered the quarantined space and begins to care for the young man who cries for his mother in the last moments of his life. And in doing so, Ruth’s own life changes forever. Ruth goes from being an ordinary young mother in Hot Springs, Arkansas to an accidental activist, the only person willing to help the young men afflicted by the growing AIDS crisis in her deeply conservative community.
Think of any problem that we face and you may be surprised to learn that there is already a solution out there. We just need to know where to look – and have the courage to think big. Everywhere, people are devising ingenious ways to tackle everything from inequality and the climate crisis to the challenges of housing, technology and demographic change. Based on his podcast Reasons to Be Cheerful, Ed Miliband investigates transformative schemes and why they work. He demonstrates that a different world is possible and we can get there by implementing the best, most ambitious solutions on a large scale. The opportunity for change is immense. It’s time to Go Big. Natalie Haynes is an author and broadcaster.
The walker discusses her mesmerising and inspirational memoir: just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of thirty-two years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
Eric Ngalle Charles is a poet, author and playwright who has claimed asylum in Wales. His uplifting story describes how literature and creative writing helped him to overcome his hasty departure from Cameroon when he was 17, how he survived being a victim of human trafficking and living on the streets in Russia before eventually coming to live in Wales. He talks to author Jenny Valentine.
Leïla Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, which she won for the shocking thriller and global best-seller, Lullaby. She discusses her work and her novel Adèle with lawyer Philippe Sands.
Carole Cadwalladr won the Orwell Prize and the Reporters Without Borders Award among many others for her investigative journalism in The Observer into the subversion of the democratic process and the impact of big data analytics and interventions on the EU Referendum and the American Presidential Election of 2016. She discusses her work with Oliver Bullough.
Actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke talks to author David Mitchell at Hay Festival 2021 about his first novel in nearly 20 years: A Bright Ray of Darkness. A young man makes his Broadway debut as his marriage implodes – a blistering story about love, fame and the healing power of art.
Award-winning violinist, broadcaster, author and journalist Clemency Burton-Hill discusses the joys of classical music with Peter Florence at Hay Festival 2018. Clemency’s book Year of Wonder is a personal selection of 365 pieces of music for classical music geeks and novices alike.
For Series 4 of the Hay Festival Podcast we have asked some of the speakers who appeared at Hay Festival 2021 to select their own personal Hay moments from the festival archive.
For the last episode of this series, stars of literature, stage and screen come together to celebrate the unique power of words in our very special Hay Festival 2021 Gala. Join host Natalie Haynes for this evening of joy and celebration with guests including Stephen Fry, Louise Brealey, Hafsa Zayyan, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Rob Brydon, Clemency Burton-Hill, Juno Dawson and many more.
Poet and Professor of Languages Mererid Hopwood selects Ifor ap Glyn from Hay Festival 2017, who took Hedd Wyn as his theme for the Gwyn Jones Hay Festival Lecture, Rutger Bregman discussing his book Humankind with Lily Cole at Hay Festival 2020 and Daniel Williams, Leanne Wood and Michael Sheen discussing the work of Raymond Williams at Hay Festival 2021.
Artist, poet, rapper, literary activist and songwriter Rufus Mufusa selects Caleb Femi talking about his astounding debut collection to Max Porter from the Hay Book of the Month, November 2020, Kayo Chingonyi accepting the International Dylan Thomas Prize from Hay Festival 2018, and the award winning poet and linguaphile Mererid Hopwood from Hay Festival 2020.
The award winning author of Bearmouth Liz Hyder selects Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane talking Lost Spells at the Winter Weekend 2020, the magnificent mathematician Marcus du Sautoy from Hay Festival 2013, and the incomparable Lemn Sissay performing his poetry at Hay Festival 2017.
Writer, novelist and columnist Tahmima Anam selects her very first Hay event back in 2012 with Helena Kennedy, Joan Bakewell, Martin Rees and Anita Anand, Shahidul Alam speaking at Hay Festival Dhaka in 2014 and the novelist, cultural commentator and founder of Palfest, Ahdaf Soueif talking to George Alagiah at Hay Festival 2017.
Writer, broadcaster and comedian Natalie Haynes has chosen Colm Toibin and Lisa Dwan giving a rehearsed reading of Pale Sister in 2018, Troy Story, the Trojan War from a female perspective, an event she presented with Chris Riddell at Hay Festival 2020, and star gazer Maggie Aderin Pocock’s event from the Winter Weekend in 2018.
Former BBC journalist, writer, presenter and director of the European Literature Network Rosie Goldsmith selects the incomparable Clive James from 2007, the Man Booker International Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk from 2010 and the David and Ben Crystal double act from the Winter Weekend in 2014.
The Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford and author of Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration, selects Adam Rutherford on the Book of Humans from 2019, Matt Hancock talking to Amol Rajan pre-Covid in 2018 and Jeanette Winterson giving the Raymond Williams lecture in 2016.
In Series 3 of the Hay Festival Podcast we celebrate the Hay interviewer. We have asked some of our regular interviewers to choose their own personal Hay moments from the festival archive.
Associate Editor for Culture at The Guardian Claire Armitstead selects poet, writer, musician and activist Akala, speaking about his memoir Native, Professor of Psychology Sarah-Jayne Blakemore on the secret life of the teenage brain, both from Hay Festival 2018, and the award-winning Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh from 2019.
Magazine Journalist Kitty Corrigan selects nature writer and farmer John Lewis-Stempel from 2015, award-winning British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak from 2013, and one of the major poets of the 20th Century and Nobel Prize winner for literature, the magnificent Seamus Heaney from Hay Festival 2006.
The author and editor of GQ selects the remarkable Tracy Emin speaking in 2017, Simon Schama on the Story of the Jews, an epic tale of endurance against destruction, from Hay Festival 2014 and Brigadier James Cowan, who commanded the Black Watch in Iraq and the multinational 11 Brigade in Helmand from 2011.
The Professor of Law and author of Baillie Gifford Prize winning East West Street and Sunday Times bestseller The Ratline selects President Jimmy Carter from 2008, the Director of Public Prosecutions, now Leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer speaking in 2012 and interpreter Amanda Galsworthy in 2013.
A reflection on poetry and the Great War, sampling the Josephine Hart Poetry Hour and our Armistice anthology, The Echoes Last So Long with actors Eileen Atkins and Dan Stevens and poets Margaret Atwood, Tishani Doshi, Mererid Hopwood, Ulrike Almut Sandig and Owen Sheers.
A very brief introduction to machine learning, neural networks, darkest fears and wild intelligence as dreamed into being by Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing. Garry Kasparov and Stephen Fry, Beth Singler, James Scott, Ian McEwan, Marcus du Sautoy, Nigel Shadbolt and Margaret Boden share insights into Artificial Intelligence, fiction and (then) fact.
In this first episode of the new series we glean insight and analysis of the historical and contemporary context of Global Health, zoonotic disease and pandemics from experts including Mary Dobson, Jeremy Farrar, Thomas J Bollyky, Devi Sridhar, Chelsea Clinton and Sally Davies.
Matthew Francis’ re-telling of the first four stories of the Welsh classic The Mabinogi is the first to situate it in poetry, and captures the magic and strangeness of this medieval Celtic world. Permeating the whole sequence is a delight in the power of the imagination to transform human experience into works of tragedy, comedy and wonder. Chaired by Daniel Hahn.
A compelling and hilarious rallying call for our times from superstar journalist and author Caitlin Moran tackling topics as pressing and diverse as a women-only language, flawed heroes, and the reasons the internet is like a drunken toddler, in conversation with Stephanie Merritt.
How did humans turn themselves from hustling African apes into the rulers of planet earth? The Israeli historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari looks at the secrets of our success and explores the themes of his bestselling debut Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind in conversation with Rosie Boycott at Hay Festival Cartagena in January 2016.
The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists talks about how she discovered Gabriel García Márquez. She responds to his statement “I am a journalist above everything else” in an intriguing exploration of how imagination turns historical fact into fictional truths.
Stephen Fry and the international human rights lawyer Philippe Sands discuss his award-winning book East West Street, a compelling family detective story and exploration of the legal principles that defined the Nuremberg War Trials. It's riveting and exacting and you'd expect that, of course. But it's also hilarious, and the laughter is the light in this deep darkness.