Live updates from Hay Festival 2017 as it happened


Sun, 04 Jun 2017 21:14:00 +0100
Bill Bailey closes Hay Festival 2017 performing to a packed crowd.
Photo: Chris Athanasiou


Sun, 04 Jun 2017 21:03:00 +0100

Ken Loach came to Hay Festival with a stirring plea for a radical renewal of British public life. He said Britain was now more divided, less equal, and more in danger than at any point in his lifetime.

“You cannot engage with making films, with writing books, with making plays, music, comedy without confronting this, putting your head above the parapet. Yes, you’ll get it shot off, but that is where you have to stand,” he said. “It is the job of the left, of radicals, to give people hope, not to promote despair, and that what we have to tried to do: to give people hope,” he said.

He was making Hay’s annual Raymond Williams lecture, and ended with a stirring plea for his listeners to vote for a change in the General Election on Thursday. “It there is one reason we have to make a change on Thursday, it is because these people are using hunger as a weapon. It is intolerable that we starve our fellow citizens for pedantic, bureaucratic reasons,” he said.

Photo: Chris Athanasiou


Sun, 04 Jun 2017 18:43:00 +0100

“It’s not coincidence that the word ‘post-truth’ was word of the year in 2016, a period when the Western world was more divided,” said broadcaster Evan Davis at Hay Festival. This is the subject of his new book, ‘Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It’.

People are taken in by untruths for several reasons, explained Davis. First, if enough money is spent on a lie, people will trust the money over the words. Second, there are certain mental shortcuts humans are prone to taking, and if a lie plays on those, it can take us in – at least in the short term. Third, lies might not be true in themselves, but what they’re saying about the person telling them is informative. “Bullshit subtly sends messages about who you are and what side you’re on,” he said.

“The biggest single thing that makes us suspend all our critical faculties and accept nonsense is that we want to belong to a particular group,” he continued. “This allegiance is what stops people thinking.”

Allegiance to a group becomes ever more important the more divided society becomes. Rather than looking at preventing lies, we should instead be looking to mend the rifts between each other. The key to that, concluded Davis, is open-mindedness. “All of us need to be more open-minded. Not gullible, but trying to give the benefit of the doubt to everyone else.”

Words: Jasmin Kirkbride/Photo: Sam Hardwick

Once there was magic!

Sun, 04 Jun 2017 17:23:00 +0100

The wonderful Cressida Cowell gave the Hay Festival a sneak preview of her new book -- the Wizards of Once -- which will be published in September, and will tell the story of warring wizards, warriors and a forest “darker than space itself, as twisted and as tangled as a witch’s heart” in a Britain of long ago. The stars of the book are Zar, a wizard whose magic hasn’t developed yet, and a girl warrior called Wish.

The event ended with her receiving the Hay Festival medal for Fiction from Director Peter Florence.


Sun, 04 Jun 2017 15:13:00 +0100

Tales of derring-do, envy, greed, revenge and death peppered the joint session by co-authors William Dalrymple and Anita Anand of the book, ‘Koh-I-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond’.

Before the 1720s, almost all diamonds came from India, panned from the sands of extinct rivers. From there, they travelled to Afghanistan, China and, in this case, to the Tower of London and then worn by Queen Victoria.

In ancient India, gems were a highly regulated part of courtly life, and diamonds were worn by only the highest rank, representing power and wealth. At one time, the Koh-I-Noor adorned the Peacock Throne – “more like a kiosk of solid gold, inlaid with treasures”.

Such were the tragedies and deaths that accompanied the infamous diamond that it acquired a sinister mystery. Anita Anand gave the audience a canter through all the disasters that befell those who even momentarily possessed the jewel. Finally the rock became a “rock star” displayed at Crystal Palace in the 1851 Great Exhibition, devised by Prince Albert. Such was the disappointment and mocking from the public when they discovered the diamond was not sparkling (because of the traditional Asian way in which it had been cut) that it was removed in disgrace. To satisfy the public’s desire for a diamond that looked like a diamond, it was recut, against expert advice, with the result that it was reduced in size by half.

Photo: Sam Peat

Simon Jenkins

Sun, 04 Jun 2017 13:56:00 +0100

For Simon Jenkins, cathedrals are custodians of culture. They still remain very much as they were when first built a millennium ago and hold a phenomenal power of peace. From Lichfield cathedral’s “vulgarity” to the “simplicity” of Rippon cathedral, Jenkin’s illustrated lecture presented captivating images of intricate masonry, workmanship and designs, as well as the colour used in certain cathedrals such as Exeter.

Julia Leigh

Sun, 04 Jun 2017 13:52:00 +0100