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For this year’s Forum we bring you six events focusing on the way we produce, supply and package the food we eat, the impacts those processes have on our planet and the ways in which the narrative is decided.
Who or what is to blame for us getting fat and ill in increasing numbers? Sugar or fat? Gut microbes or genes? Laziness or poverty? Whatever it is, it’s placing a devastating burden on our healthcare system, and scientists in every field are desperate to explain this epidemic and stave off a modern health disaster. Anthony Warner, author of The Angry Chef, lays out the best evidence available, rails against quack theories preying on the desperate, and considers whether we’re blaming our bodies for other people’s ignorance and cruelty. Kitty Corrigan is a journalist and travel writer.
The last year has seen an explosion of public outrage over plastics pollution, triggered by images of straws in turtles’ noses, whales dying after eating shopping bags, and the ugliness of a blue planet disfigured by a throwaway society. It’s sparked tougher regulation on single-use plastics and has shamed supermarkets into action. What would an end to plastic pollution mean in practice? And how do we get there?
Natalie Fee (author and campaigner, founder of City to Sea), Lucy Siegle (journalist and author) and Paula Owen (founder of Green Gumption) talk to award-winning environment journalist Martin Wright.
In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the ‘Knepp experiment’, a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.
One in three Britons now identifies as (at least) ‘semi-vegetarian’, while the number of vegans has risen by a heady 700% in less than three years. Whether driven by concerns over health, animal welfare or – increasingly – climate change, it’s fast becoming a norm. But, like most modern dilemmas, it’s not quite that simple. Advocates of mindful meat-eating point out that cows and other livestock can play a vital role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem on our farms, and – depending on how they are grazed – they might even help the soil store more carbon. So do you have to go vegan to save the planet? Or is there a more nuanced approach? Simon Fairlie (author of Meat: A Benign Extravagance and editor of The Land magazine) and Safia Minney (vegetarian entrepreneur, People Tree and Pozu) talk to Martin Wright.
Stacey Dooley is one of Britain's most loved documentary presenters and investigative reporters. Fashion conscious Stacey's life took an unexpected turn when she travelled to India in 2007 for the BBC3 series 'Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts' to live and work alongside the people in the Indian fashion industry making clothes for the UK High Street.
Upon her return to the UK, Stacey began campaigning against child labour, organising events to raise money for charities and even appearing on BBC2's Newsnight to raise awareness, and has since embarked on a series of investigations to become one of BBC3’s most celebrated presenters.
Through the course of her documentary making, Stacey has covered a variety of topics, from sex trafficking in Cambodia, to Yazidi women fighting back in Syria. At the core of her reporting are incredible women in extraordinary and scarily ordinary circumstances – from sex workers in Russia, to victims of domestic violence in Honduras. In her first book, On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back, Stacey draws on her encounters with these brave and wonderful women, using their experiences as a vehicle to explore issues at the centre of female experience. From gender equality and domestic violence, to sex trafficking and sexual identity, Stacey weaves these global strands together in an exploration of what it is to be women in the world today.
She won Strictly 2018.
Imogen Walford is senior producer of BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
This exploration of the evolution of policy and practice related to upland farming, the role science has played and related impacts on treasured landscapes will be accompanied by poetry and prose inspired by these places and activities. Fraser is Reader at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University. Elizabeth Jardine-Godwin is a writer and teacher who was Pwllpeiran Writer in Residence in 2013.
The superhero social entrepreneur, founder of the Big Issue and now member of the House of Lords, brings his new literacy campaign to Hay to launch the second edition of Literary Briefs: Chapters & Verse, championing 50 great books. Join him to talk about the power of libraries, stories and imagination, and to help build a new ‘Wider Reading Alliance’.
The new time-shift novel from the global bestselling author of Lady of Hay mines Erskine’s own family history. Her heroine Ruth discovers a hidden diary from the 18th century, written by an ancestor, Thomas Erskine. As she sifts through the ancient pages of the past, Ruth is pulled into a story that she can’t escape. As the youngest son of a noble family Thomas’s life started in genteel poverty, but his extraordinary experiences propel him from the high seas to Lord Chancellor of England. Yet, on his journey through life, he makes a powerful enemy who hounds him to the death – and beyond. Ruth has opened a door to the past that she can’t close, and meets a ghost in her family tree who wasn’t invited.
There are few issues where public debate is conducted with so much misinformation and irrational exuberance. So now for something completely different: a dispassionate analysis of what we actually know and what we don’t yet know about climate change. David J Helfand, Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University, carefully distinguishes facts from fictions and physics certainties from feedback uncertainties.
A spectacular two-part show, featuring the already classic seven-piece line-up the band debuted in 2018, who will play a long and generous set in two halves. Centred as always around the guitar and vocals of Mike Scott, The Waterboys feature electric fiddle maestro Steve Wickham of whom DJ Chris Evans says: "I've had Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on my show but the best guitar solo we've ever had was played on this man's fiddle"; Memphis soul man Brother Paul on keyboards; Aongus "funkiest man in Ireland" Ralston on bass; Jess Kav & Zeenie Summers on backing vocals; and top British drummer Ralph Salmins.
They promise an incendiary set comprising brilliant new material and the best of their recent and vintage work. The band's last three albums Out Of All This Blue (2017), Modern Blues (2015) and An Appointment With Mr Yeats (2011) re-established them as one of the crucial bands currently working out of these islands. Many of their songs including Fisherman's Blues, The Whole Of The Moon and How Long Will I Love You have become modern classics and they remain one of the most unmissable live acts in the world.