Author Archives: Nina Lewis

Worcestershire LitFest 2020 The Launch

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The WLF Team have been busy organising the first online Worcestershire LitFest – we launch on Sunday 13th and as we are hosting events on Zoom – the whole world is invited!

Hay Festival Digital 2020 The Outstanding Moments

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I am delighted that Lockdown has brought Creatives out in force, there have been so many festivals, workshops and opportunities and it is also a way of supporting each other (those millions of self-employed, some of whom are artists) and a way of rallying together to lift spirits and improve people’s mental health during this isolation, during this fear of the pandemic, during this strange time that none of us have experienced before. And this week was the turn of Hay.

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The Hay Festival is one of the world’s top literary festivals, staged in the small town on the Wales-England border. ©2011 BBC 

It is well known to be a particularly pricey festival, it is epic and brilliant if you have a chance to experience it in real life – I have always loved Hay-on-Wye (famous for all the bookshops – Richard Booth is credited with transforming the town into a global attraction for second-hand book lovers after opening his first shop in 1962) and I love the Hay Festival, the tents, events, atmosphere, joy and buoyancy you will experience there cannot be compared to many things other than a sugar rush! Some others have said it more eloquently!

Memorable quotes at the festival: “The Woodstock of the Mind” – former US President Bill Clinton.

“In my mind it’s replaced Christmas” – former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn.

“One of the finest, most thought-provoking literary gatherings I’ve ever attended” – Junot Díaz, Dominican-American writer and creative writing professor. © BBC

HAY BANNER

However, it is not one I can afford to attend every year. I fully expected the events to be ticketed so waited expectantly for the programme to be released and was OVERJOYED (Yes! I’m shouting) when they provided it all for FREE! That in itself is astonishing.

I know they all wished it could be happening as normal, but let’s face it – there is not much that is normal anymore. I honestly didn’t feel like I was screen bound and experiencing a digital festival. It had the real Hay feeling. It helps that they could use the HAY music and screens that would have been playing in the tents as we found our seats. Although HAY is a HUGE festival, the tents don’t take 100,000 visitors and they had an international audience of over 10,000 at the big events and on average I was watching with around 5000 other people, some of whom will never experience Hay and so have had a true blessing to get a little of the 2020 action digitally. Hay has over 250,000 during the course of the week, but I think data for this year will sky rocket that!

I know a whole team was involved in decision making but using Crowd Cast was a good move, chat can be turned off and the screen can (as with the entire internet) be full screen, our lounge furniture is infinitely more comfortable than auditorium seating (although it’s not bad), refreshments were free and MOST importantly sessions were short (suiting the human attention span) and there were intervals between. Perfect.

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I missed some events I wanted to see but hope to subscribe to the Hay Player later in the year when I have a cash flow that can be spent beyond mortgage, household bills and food.

The events I saw were well worth it and because the programme was open and unlimited I attended talks I wouldn’t have chosen, extending my learning and experience//field. It was a most enjoyable week, a busy one already – but busy right now, is good!

I had some particular favourite events and moments from the week. Some real highlights and gold-dust and I realise how subjective this list is – but here it is anyway, in chronological order because trying to do an actual Top 10 is an impossible feat and those who read on will notice it is a less-than-Top-10-Top-list!  The dates link back to the AWF blog reviews:

MY GOLDEN HAY

Friday 22nd May

Wordsworth 250: A Night in with the Wordsworths

ALL STAR CASTintroduced by Shahidha Bari with readings by Simon ArmitageMargaret AtwoodBenedict CumberbatchMonty DonLisa DwanInua EllamsStephen FryTom HollanderToby JonesHelen McCroryJonathan Pryce and Vanessa Redgrave.

 

 

 

Saturday 23rd May 

Jonathan Bate

THE POET WHO CHANGED THE WORLD: WILLIAM WORDSWORTH AND THE ROMANTIC REVOLUTION

 

 

 

Sunday 24th May 

Without hestitation…

Inua Ellams

AN EVENING WITH AN IMMIGRANT IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC – OR AT LEAST A HALF HOUR

and watching this multiple award winning poet win another one – The Hay Poetry Prize – was a very special treat! I love that he had no idea and thousands of people watched his expression of shock and felt his words of gratitude.

The film itself is amazing and another book for the birthday wish list. I am delighted that he was honoured/recognised by Hay, much deserved for this immensely hardworking poet.

 

 

 

Wednesday 27th May

Jackie Morris

PAINTING THE LOST WORDS

 

 

hAY JACKIE MORRIS HARE

Thursday 28th May

Claudia Hammond talks to Guto Harri

THE ART OF REST

 

 

I got a chance to try it the next day (which was extremely busy) I had 10 minutes of absolute rest and it powered me through a whole afternoon’s list of To Do.

 

And another absolute gem. The deliverer of gold-dust himself, Roger Robinson. I think if there was a Top 10 there would be a joint winner!

Peter Frankopan and Roger Robinson

THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE ONDAATJE PRIZE

 

 

An additional joy of this event was the feed – people who have never read Roger or heard him talk/read. Reading their reactions was like discovering rain has turned to gold. Such a rich experience. And I knew, having met the man, spoken with him, read him, I was buckled in and ready!

 

Saturday 30th May

Allie Esiri, Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West

SHAKESPEARE FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

 

 

 

This event, Inua Ellams and Roger Robinson were all re-watched. They just had to be!

 

What an incredible week of Digital Hay 2020 it has been!

 

RELATED LINK:

Hay Festival Blog

The Last Day of Hay – 31st May

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During the last weekend of Hay I was working hard on some deadlines of my own (more on that soon) so apologies for the delay in posting the last day of events (31st May). We also had an incredible mini-heatwave and the rain was already forecast, so the garden was calling too. You all got Hay Player though? £10 for a year, archived material from the mid-90s.

I had to watch the Shakespeare event from last night again because it was so enjoyable, delightful, well presented, theatrical and a such a feast that you need to have a second helping at least. It was a gorgeous event – and certainly made it to my Top 10!

Also there is something magical about Shakespeare in the morning!

Allie Esiri, Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West in SHAKESPEARE FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR.

 

William Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays, 154 sonnets and a handful of longer poems and you can discover them all here. Each page of this unique collection contains an extract, which might be a famous poem, quote or scene, matched to the date. Allie Esiri’s introductions give her readers a new window into the work, time and life of the greatest writer in the English language.

Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year is perfect for reading or sharing and brings you Shakespeare’s best-known and best-loved classics alongside lesser known extracts. Esiri’s entertaining and insightful thoughts on each entry will fill your year with wonder, laughter, wisdom and wit.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan 
ISBN: 9781509890323 
© Waterstones 2020

This is definitely on the birthday list! Get your copy here.

I also re-watched David Mitchell talks to John Mitchinson, mainly because the sound kept dipping out yesterday and it also clashed with an event I was involved in.

HAY DAY 12 DAVID MITCHELL UTOPIA

It was a fun discussion about the book Utopia Avenue, music and the writing process and I wanted to give it my full attention. 

 

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On Sunday afternoon I watched Hallie Rubenhold and Lisa Taddeo. It was an interesting interview/discussion on the politics of gender.

Hallie Rubenhold and Lisa Taddeo

EIGHT WOMEN

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

A conversation between the authors of two of the most successful non-fiction books of current times.

Rubenhold’s Ballie Gifford Prize-winning The Five is a reclamation of the lives of the women murdered by Jack the Ripper, and is the subject of a recent Hay Festival podcast.

Taddeo’s Three women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.:

All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn’t touch her?
All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town?
All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?

Chaired by Stephanie Merritt.

 

 

I then caught up with this event, with Diana Beresford-Kroeger. I knew about the importance of trees and how they communicate. This aspect of nature has been in my research radar for a few years and has manifested in poetry for various nature//eco projects.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger

BLACK MOUNTAINS COLLEGE LECTURE 2020

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

The renowned Canadian botanist, biochemist and visionary has underpinned a quiet revolution in the way that we see trees. Her research includes the discovery of mother trees at the heart of a forest; the fact that trees are a living library, have a chemical language and communicate in a quantum world; the major idea that trees heal living creatures through the aerosols they release and that they carry a great wealth of natural antibiotics and other healing substances; and, perhaps most significantly, that planting trees can actively regulate the atmosphere and the oceans, and even stabilize our climate. In this talk she tells the story of how she came to uncover these startling insights of tree function and behaviour and explains why healthy intact forests are essential to the survival of humans on planet earth.

Black Mountains College asks: What is an education for the future? We know that the way we live our lives is broken and BMC  has designed an undergraduate degree dedicated to changing it.  Underpinned by neuroscience, the teaching methods, contextual learning, the collaborative culture and interdisciplinary curriculum will maximise the potential of students to re-engineer our society and systems for the better. Diana Beresford-Kroeger embodies exactly the kind of maverick inter-disciplinary thinking that BMC aims to foster.

Chaired by Owen Sheers and introduced by Ben Rawlence.

 

 

 

And I finished Hay with my ticket live to watch Sandi Toksvig close the festival.

It was everything I thought it would be entertaining, amusing, hard hitting, informative and necessary!

Sandi Toksvig talks to Lennie Goodings

BETWEEN THE STOPS

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The View of My Life from the Top of the Number 12 Bus: the long-awaited memoir from the star of QI and The Great British Bake Off.


HAY LAST DAY SANDI

Hay Festival The Final Weekend

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Once again I had the joy of catching events in real time. Starting with Hilary Mantel – which was an audio only event. Hay have been great at managing all sorts of event set ups digitally this year. It is wonderful to see people from all over the world too and over 10,000 people watching and that doesn’t include the overflow for these popular weekend events!

It will be released as a podcast next week if you miss the Overstream on You Tube or were unable to view. It was magical to hear her talk about her characters and the tricks of memories. Giving characters worthy opponents.

‘Finding an imaginative truth’ (Peter on using History). Hilary talks about the inventions used in the story, the personal and private life historic figures as well as dealing with multiple and differing accounts.

It was a fascinating and well structured interview. Love Hilary for admitting that she is a ‘paper cook’ (reading the recipes and not cooking them). me too! Although I don’t fancy most of the historical dishes I know of.

“If you knock on those doors your characters are always there waiting for you.”

Hilary Mantel talks to Peter Florence

THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The novelist discusses the final volume of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Both Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies won the Booker Prize. Spoiler alert – please save this gig for when you’ve finished the book…

You can hear Hilary Mantel discuss Bring Up the Bodies at Hay 2012 on HayPlayer

IT WILL BE RELEASED AS THE HAY FESTIVAL PODCAST ON THURSDAY 4 JUNE

This event will be audio only in a special edition of the Hay Festival Podcast
HAY Day 12 Hilary Mantel
Hilary, like Inua Ellams(Poetry) earlier in the week also picked up the Hay Prize for Prose, unfortunately as this was pre-recorded audio we didn’t get to witness her response, but she did send a message.
I was really looking forward to take a break today with this one, recorded and beamed again to over 10,000 people and Allie was live with us on chat, which was special – like Jackie Morris the other day.
Great idea for Shakespeare every day of the year. Allie was amusing and informative and she was reading from her book, I know a fair bit and still learnt more. This is a read anybody who enjoys Shakespeare will cherish. It is also clever how the calendar days and chosen text reflect significant modern events. I cherished this event.
Dominic West brought Shakespeare alive for us and made it look easy! Helena as Shylock was brilliant – I am so glad that they did it this way, after all in Shakespeare’s day boys had to play the female roles.
And they included sonnets!
I had to miss part of the live event due to overlapping double bookings (even in Lockdown)! But I planned to re-watch it all again anyway. It was a highlight event – superb!
And I now have another book to add to my Birthday wish list!
‘Shakespeare anchors us to our humanity.’

Allie Esiri, Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West

SHAKESPEARE FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

Take a journey through the year with Shakespeare, and join curator Allie Esiri and acclaimed actors for this illuminating celebration of the greatest writer in the English language. The show will include insights into Shakespeare’s work and times alongside dazzling readings of some of his best-loved – and lesser known – scenes, soliloquies and sonnets.

IF THE CROWDCAST REGISTRATION FOR THIS EVENT IS FULL. It was also streamed LIVE on the You Tube channel. 

 

 

I knew I would already be in a different place on the internet when this started but I decided to catch some of it live and then do a catch up watch later – because a new book from David Mitchell is a treat.

 

David Mitchell talks to John Mitchinson

UTOPIA AVENUE – EXCLUSIVE HAY PREVIEW

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

‘The great rock and roll novel – an epic love letter to the greatest music ever made and the book the music has always deserved’ Tony Parsons.

Utopia Avenue might be the most curious British band you’ve never heard of.

Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967, folksinger Elf Holloway, blues bassist Dean Moss, guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet and jazz drummer Griff Griffin together created a unique sound, with lyrics that captured their turbulent times. The band produced only two albums in two years, yet their musical legacy lives on.

This is the story of Utopia Avenue’s brief, blazing journey from Soho clubs and draughty ballrooms to the promised land of America, just when the Summer of Love was receding into something much darker – a multi-faceted tale of dreams, drugs, love, sexuality, madness and grief; of stardom’s wobbly ladder and fame’s Faustian pact; and of the collision between youthful idealism and jaded reality as the Sixties drew to a close.

Above all, this bewitching novel celebrates the power of music to connect across divides, define an era and thrill the soul.

David Mitchell’s novels include Number9Dream, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, The Bone Clocks, Slade House and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Q&A.

John Mitchinson is the founder of the innovative publisher Unbound.

 

 

 

I have been looking forward to this since I booked tickets but the buffering made it almost impossible to watch in real time. Considering it was a recorded event it didn’t feel like it and I enjoyed the readings and music.

Polly Samson and David Gilmour

A THEATRE FOR DREAMERS

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

A special performance and Q&A with the novelist and guitarist celebrating A Theatre for Dreamers.  1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia. Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.

Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels.

Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost – and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.

This event is prerecorded, but there will be a  live Q&A afterwards.

 

Hay Festival Today

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I always slightly regretted not studying Classics at A-Level, I already had 3, an AS and an exam retake and as I studied dance and theatre there really wasn’t any spare time back then. It is never too late and the A-Level Theatre Studies did cover Greek Tragedy and therefore I do have a good base with the playwrights. Although I had forgotten how dark and gruesome the plots were! Since starting to write poetry I have researched the Gods and Goddesses often.

I also realised that as a child I read books based on ancient texts, both at school and home, just not a memory that was resting at the front!

I really enjoyed my first event of the day (which was actually the first event of Hay) with Daisy Dunn. It was really informative, easy to follow and captivating to hear. I do not feel that I have been lectured at all, yet I am filled with knowledge. Daisy is someone who can make you feel passionate about this subject, we all left yearning to dig back in.

It was a wonderful journey around the ancient worlds.

‘The Gods as catalysts for drama…’

The Q&A at the end had some great questions and detailed analysis in Daisy’s answers.

HAY DAISY DUNN

Daisy Dunn

OF GODS AND MEN

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

The classicist mines her wonderful collection of stories from Ancient Greece collected in Of Gods and Men, to explore the tales of comedy and tragedy told by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Plautus and Euripides.

Daisy Dunn is a classicist, art historian and cultural critic. She read Classics at Oxford, before winning a scholarship to the Courtauld and completing a doctorate in Classics and History of Art at UCL. She writes and reviews for a number of newspapers and magazines, and is editor of Argo, a Greek culture journal. Her latest books are In the Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny, Of Gods and Men: 100 Stories from Ancient Greece and Rome, and Homer: A Ladybird Expert Book.

 

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HAY DAISY DUNN GODS MEN

Daisy Dunn offers a deeply researched collection of stories reflecting the eclectic richness and depth of the classical literary canon.

Striking a balance between the ‘classic classic’ (such as Dryden’s translation of the Aeneid) and the less familiar or expected, Of Gods and Men ranges from the epic poetry of Homer to the histories of Arrian and Diodorus Siculus and the sprawling Theogony of Hesiod; from the tragedies of Aeschylus and Euripides to the biographies of Suetonius and Plutarch and the pen portraits of Theophrastus; and from the comedies of Plautus to the the fictions of Petronius and Apuleius.

Of Gods and Men is embellished by translations from writers as diverse as Queen Elizabeth I (Boethius), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Plato), Walter Pater (Apuleius’s Golden Ass), Lawrence of Arabia (Homer’s Odyssey), Louis MacNeice (Aeschylus’s Agamemnon) and Ted Hughes (Ovid’s Pygmalion), as well as a number of accomplished translations by Daisy herself.

 

I then caught up with an event from yesterday, with Grayson Perry. I have been watching his ‘Art Club’ during lockdown and still one of my favourite poetry day trips was when a group of poetry/stanza friends all went to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to see the tapestries exhibition ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’.

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©2016 Artfund.org

He is a very inclusive artist and this event was wonderful. He talks about what many writers have discovered – that during lockdown, Art is to do with the making, the creating- the process and the benefits that gives us, as opposed to end products and selling work (although that end of the line is still important). Writers are finding that just carving out some time to do that in itself is a challenge during lockdown, which is strange because our normal writing lives resemble something of lockdown generally, but this is a complicated situation and the same part of our brains which deals with creativity also sorts our emotions – which are all over the place. This is why no creative person should beat themselves up if they are struggling to be creative in the pandemic.

He talked about the work he has made weekly during Art Club. It was a fun interview, could have watched for hours. From Alan Measles to creating a whole house/ environment, including a Ballad – well done, Grayson! A celebration of an ordinary life in an amazing building.

This book is gold-dust for any admirer of Grayson.

Waterstones  HAY GRAYSON 2

He talks about people’s decisions and being fascinated by people’s social signalling and I definitely agree that many Zoom meeting bookshelves will be full of unread tomes, or even fake books (probably) and everyone is obsessed by sitting in front of them.

I use 1 of 2 walls! Neither have been decorated and both are aged and not our taste/decor.

So much more was discussed – but if I tell you everything you may not watch the event. It’s available on Hay Player.

 

Grayson Perry & Jacky Klein

IN CONVERSATION

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

In her major monograph on Grayson Perry, now updated and expanded, writer and art historian Jacky Klein explores the artist’s work through a discussion of his major themes and subjects. Klein’s text is complemented by intimate and perceptive commentaries by Perry on individual pieces, giving unique access to his imaginative world and creative processes. This third edition not only has updates throughout, but also includes two new chapters, on the House for Essex, designed and built in 2015 with Living Architecture (a UK not-for-profit holiday rental company founded by Alain de Botton, which aims to promote, educate and enhance appreciation of modern architecture), and on Identity Politics,  covering new work made since 2013.

Grayson and Jacky talk about his inspirations and processes, work and passions – as well as his most recent projects and his life under lockdown, including his hugely popular new TV series, currently running on Channel 4 on Monday nights.

Clear, generous and insightful… In unravelling the mystique behind Perry, Klein shows why this unlikely artist is, in fact, most likely a national treasure – Financial Times

Lavish… Jacky Klein leads us into the warped world of this crossdressing potter with a keen intellect and a sharp social insight – The Times

 

I then watched Paul Dolan from earlier on today. I have a lot on the to do list today and not much hope at getting to any of the tents on time! Plus there was sunshine and our wifi doesn’t reach the garden. ‘Happy Ever After’ – a book about social narratives was originally going to share the title of this event.s

We should stop judging people – this was one of the greatest lesson I learnt when I was trained in Life Coaching and on the whole it is something I can manage (unless you’re a politician) – so Paul at Hay would have been talking about this – but due to COVID, decided to focus on the Healthy Narrative instead.

Paul Dolan

F**K THE NARRATIVE

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

There are many narratives about how we should live our lives. We should seek success, for example, and we are masters of our own destiny. We use these narratives as sticks to beat others with if they don’t conform. I will consider whether these narratives are good for us and why we care way too much about what others do. Dolan is Professor of Behavioural Science at the LSE and author of Happy Ever After.

HAY PAUL DOLAN

 

This was an interesting event. I knew it would be. A great interview with some in depth answers. Just love listening to a writer talk about their methods and writing discipline.

Chloe Aridjis and Daniel Saldaña París with Sophie Hughes

THE ECCLES PRIZE PLATFORM

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

The British Library and Hay Festival named Chloe Aridjis and Daniel Saldaña París as recipients of the 2020 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award, a highly prestigious annual prize of £20,000 for a current writing project exploring the Americas. Chloe Aridjis is a London-based Mexican novelist and writer. Her latest novel Sea Monsters was awarded the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Daniel Saldaña París is a Mexican author, poet, essayist and novelist, considered one of the most important in Mexican contemporary literature. In 2017, he was chosen as one of the authors of Hay Festival’s Bogotá39, a selection of the best Latin American writers under forty. Chloe and Daniel join translator Sophie Hugues to discuss their work and works-in-progress supported by the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award.

 

 

I saw this event was available to rewatch and so took a punt – in the light of the fact that this future is ours.

Lynda Gratton & Andrew J Scott talk to Guto Harri

THE NEW LONG LIFE: A FRAMEWORK FOR FLOURISHING IN A CHANGING WORLD

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

Smart new technologies. Longer, healthier lives. Human progress has risen to great heights, but at the same time it has prompted anxiety about where we’re heading. Are our jobs under threat? If we live to 100, will we ever really stop working? And how will this change the way we love, manage and learn from others?

Andrew J Scott is Professor of Economics at the London Business School and consulting scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Longevity. Through his multi-award-winning research, writing and teaching, his ideas inform a global understanding of the profound shifts reshaping our world and the actions needed for us to flourish individually and as a society.

Lynda Gratton is Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School where she teaches an elective on the Future of Work and directs an executive program on Human Resource Strategy. Lynda is a fellow of the World Economic Forum, is ranked by Business Thinkers in the top 15 in the world, and was named the best teacher at London Business School in 2015.

 

 

I get frustrated when I read the complaints in the chat box at Hay events, some people have no idea or appreciation of what a feat this is that they have moved the entire Festival online for FREE! A 20 minute programme is unlikely to include Q&A and if the guest is Spanish why should he not use his mother tongue? Did I mention I don’t judge people earlier?

So if YOU can manage to read subtitles and are technically adept enough to use full screen, go and have a listen/read to a philosopher of our time. Special and true.

Fernando Savater

IMAGINE THE WORLD IN THE TIME OF THE CORONAVIRUS: SOLIDARITY AND SCIENCE

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

The renowned Spanish philosopher, an expert on Ethics and a prolific writer, reflects from his Basque Country home about the immediate effects of the covid19 crisis on our psyche, how solidarity is probably the most relevant concept now for human beings, and how we need to trust the scientific method.

HAY FERNADO

Hay Festival Today

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There is something incredibly special about catching events live at the Digital Hay and that is exactly what I was able to do (in part) today. I spent ages booking tickets when they were released but you seem to be able to rock up and get in – so do not be put off if you haven’t heard it’s on until now, just go along and see. The tents are huge this year!

This morning I caught the first event on the livestream on You Tube, part of the overflow. The next scheduled event had really wonky connection and I ended up on You Tube again to follow that and I am about to see the master himself, Mr Roger Robinson!

Excited!

The unfortunate technical issues mean that at some point in the next 24 hours I need to find 2 hours to watch these teatime events again. I know that sounds pretty crazy on Lockdown, but my diary is bursting this evening and I have a deadline I am working with too. I WILL find the time to listen to them again because they are in my TOP EVENTS list of 2020. I feel incredibly lucky to have a bit of Roger in my life, I met him at Ledbury Poetry Festival and saw him read earlier on in Lockdown, around the time he won the Royal Society of Literature Prize. He is generous of spirit and inspirational as a documentary poet of our time. I could listen to him talk about his work for hours, so much passion, empathy and love.

 

I caught some of this event on the overflow You Tube channel. The theme of today’s Hay seems to be Death – which is something I can’t face at this time, but this one was obviously meant to be heard by me. Especially as it was full and appeared on the You Tube channel.

David Jarrett talks to Guto Harri

33 MEDITATIONS ON DEATH: NOTES FROM THE WRONG END OF MEDICINE

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

What is a good death? How would you choose to live your last few months? How do we best care for the rising tide of very elderly?

In a series of reflections on death in all its forms: the science of it, the medicine, the tragedy and the comedy. Dr David Jarrett draws on family stories and case histories from his thirty years of treating the old, demented and frail to try to find his own understanding of the end. And he writes about all the conversations that we, our parents, our children, the medical community, our government and society as a whole should be having.

Profound, provocative, strangely funny and astonishingly compelling, it is an impassioned plea that we start talking frankly and openly about death. And it is a call to arms for us to make radical changes to our perspective on ‘the seventh age of man’.

 

HAY THURS

The second event I was looking forward to was worth the wait – although I found the  lagging frustrating (I know I have mentioned it already). I knew some of the research behind this book and it is essential that the world begins to realise the importance of rest. It was a great event and I look forward to listening again soon.

Claudia Hammond talks to Guto Harri

THE ART OF REST

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The Art of Rest draws on ground-breaking research Claudia Hammond collaborated on – ‘The Rest Test’ – the largest global survey into rest ever undertaken. It was completed by 18,000 people across 135 different countries. Much of value has been written about sleep, but rest is different; it is how we unwind, calm our minds and recharge our bodies. And, as the survey revealed, how much rest you get is directly linked to your sense of well-being.

Claudia Hammond is an award-winning writer and broadcaster and Visiting Professor in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Sussex. As the presenter of All in the Mind she is BBC Radio 4’s voice of psychology and mental health.

 

Then one of my sought after events. I am delighted to have Roger Robinson back in my life, I met him at Ledbury Poetry Festival years ago. This is the 2nd event that I have managed to catch him at since Lockdown. He is so genuine, generous and giving – his list of poets you should read was huge – and sadly was also just as I lost internet connection, I made it back to watch end Hay credits! The internet/connection and lagging was still an issue, but it didn’t totally spoil it for me.

The Royal Literature Society were also there and among many links and comments they posted this:

winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize Roger Robinson said: “Winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize is great on many levels. Gaining wider recognition for the political issues that are raised in A Portable Paradise is one of the most important things for me, alongside more people reading about the struggles of black communities in Britain which hopefully creates some deeper resonating empathy.” RSL

 

To be honest just like some of my other top events, I would have re-watched it anyway! Certainly no hardship. I could post a lot more but I encourage you to go and WATCH it, see HIM.

If this is not a man/poet you have discovered yet, do your life a favour right now!

 

Peter Frankopan and Roger Robinson

THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE ONDAATJE PRIZE

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The chair of this year’s jury, Peter Frankopan, interviews the winner of the 2020 Ondaatje prize.

Roger Robinson is a writer and educator who has taught and performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, BBC, The National Portrait Gallery, V&A, INIVA, MK Gallery and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was associate artist. He is an alumni of The Complete Works. His workshops have been part of a shortlist for the Gulbenkian Prize for Museums and Galleries and were also a part of the Webby Award winning Barbican’s Can I Have A Word. He is the winner of the 2019 TS Eliot Prize and his latest collection ‘A Portable Paradise’ was selected as a New Statesman book of the year. He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize, The Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen. He is the lead vocalist and lyricist for King Midas Sound and has also recorded solo albums with Jahtari Records.

The shortlist was:

Jay Bernard – Surge (Chatto & Windus)

Tishani Doshi – Small Days and Nights (Bloomsbury Circus)

Robert Macfarlane – Underland (Hamish Hamilton)

Roger Robinson – A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press)

Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)

Jumoke Verissimo – A Small Silence (Cassava Republic)

 

 

 

 

Hay Festival Today

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Today I had the pleasure of watching some events and attending others, there was an internet connection issue (despite Mr. G installing Boosters – we think it has to do with Lockdown and every house using the internet)! So I am playing catch up a little.

I started with this event

Jackie Morris

PAINTING THE LOST WORDS

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

Join the Kate Greenaway Medal-winning artist as she paints images from the contemporary classic The Lost Words, her collaboration with Robert Macfarlane from her studio in Pembrokeshire.

Haymakers may also have attended the sublime Spell Songs concert at Hay last May and you can revisit her wonderful conversation with the poet, Mererid Hopwood at the Winter Weekend on Hay Player.

The painting she creates, a gilt hare, will be auctioned at the end of the week for the Hay Festival Foundation.

Jackie Morris grew up in the Vale of Evesham, dreaming of becoming an artist and living by the sea. She studied at Hereford College of Arts and at Bath Academy, and went on to illustrate for the New Statesman, Independent and Guardian among many other publications. As a children’s author and artist, she has created over forty books, including beloved classics such as Song of the Golden Hare, Tell Me A Dragon, East of the Sun, West of the Moon and The Wild Swans. She collaborated with Ted Hughes, and her books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Jackie now lives in a cottage on the cliffs of Pembrokeshire, which she shares with a small pride of cats and various other gentle creatures.

It is a great book and I am delighted to hear that every school in Scotland has a copy and there is a campaign to get it into every school in the country and it should be!

When these words disappeared I thought of using it as a basis and then discovered these two were already on it! Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris.

This event was a gorgeous experience. It was magic to watch Jackie create a new painting and also talking to us all in chat. Hay Festival have shared some photos publicly on Twitter so I have posted them here.

Music was playing and the whole session became meditative – some people were very emotional.

The most wonderful generosity is Jackie is letting Hay keep the painting for an auction and there is a hope so limited prints will be available too – keep your eye on the website for details.

Peter: Jackie is very kindly – astonishingly, spectacularly kindly – donating the finished painting to the festival. It will be auctioned to raise money for more digital Hay, and we will be producing limited edition prints and posters over the summer. Sign up to our newsletter for further news.

Jackie answered our questions throughout as well as a proper Q&A at the end.

Yes, there is a stuffed hare on my desk. It was roadkill. Very sad. I have far too many stuffed creatures in my house. They pose beautifully but all contain sad and tragic tales.

and later she pointed out…
And a badger skull.

She explained why she uses salt.
Salt. Breaks the surface tension of the water, spreads the pigment.

It was relaxing watching her painting and talking about her work.

Jackie hopes that the new generation will have the courage to express themselves, to
see what’s precious, realise that what they have to say is relevant. Trust that their voice is important.

I used moongold for this one. Seemed only right.

There’s no rules. I go over and over in layers, sometimes dry, sometimes wet. Two glasses of water, one to wash brush, one for clean water to mix with paint.

Some of the comments were also amazing so I am sharing a couple of these too.

Hello, I love your art and books. I am a primary school art teacher in central London. My year 5 class connect with your work and nature every year.At that age they often feel as if they are at the edge of a wood and are emerging into something less familiar and exciting. They connect to the feeling of change and loss. We share Artful Reading together. I read, usually your books and they listen,draw and dream. Thank you. – Arabella Davies

Thank goodness for Jackie Morris, her hares and moons and skies! — Caroline Slough

HAY JACKIE HARE 1

It was magic in action! Alchemy.

Jackie’s Q&A answers were fantastic and her list of independent bookshops was UK wide and seemed almost infinite! Amazing.

Feel blessed that I got there in real time to be a part of it!

 

I watched this event – which I knew some of the science/technology has shaped culture, I knew about our ancestors sleep patterns. And how fireflies communicate. It was interesting to hear about Ramirez’s research. The talk is humorous and light. She is an engaging speaker. It was great to hear about the Greenwich Time Lady and the fact that her family sold time for 100 years! And the artificial light phenomena and the retina – who knew!

I liked hearing about how and why the approach to writing changed for her.

Ainissa Ramirez

THE ALCHEMY OF US: HOW HUMANS AND MATTER TRANSFORMED ONE ANOTHER

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

In the bestselling tradition of Stuff Matters and The Disappearing Spoon: a clever and engaging look at materials, the innovations they made possible, and how these technologies changed us. In The Alchemy of Us, scientist and science writer Ainissa Ramirez examines eight inventions-clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, light bulbs, hard disks, scientific labware, and silicon chips-and reveals how they shaped the human experience. Ramirez tells the stories of the woman who sold time, the inventor who inspired Edison, and the hotheaded undertaker whose invention pointed the way to the computer. She describes, among other things, how our pursuit of precision in timepieces changed how we sleep; how the railroad helped commercialize Christmas; how the necessary brevity of the telegram influenced Hemingway’s writing style; and how a young chemist exposed the use of Polaroid’s cameras to create passbooks to track black citizens in apartheid South Africa. These fascinating and inspiring stories offer new perspectives on our relationships with technologies. Ramirez shows not only how materials were shaped by inventors but also how those materials shaped culture, chronicling each invention and its consequences-intended and unintended.

Ainissa Ramirez is a materials scientist and sought-after public speaker and science communicator. A Brown and Stanford graduate, she has worked as a research scientist at Bell Labs and held academic positions at Yale University and MIT. She has written for Time, Scientific American, the American Scientist, and Forbes, and makes regular appearances on PBS’s SciTech Now.

 

 

I enjoyed watching Roddy Doyle talk, although it was hard to hear about pubs – hadn’t missed that particularly until now. Hearing about the new book was exciting.

‘One of the best ways to tell a story is to get the characters talking.’

Roddy Doyle talks to Peter Florence

FICTIONS: LOVE – A PREVIEW

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

A festival special preview of the new novel published later this year by the Booker-winning author of Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha, and the Barrytown Trilogy.

One summer’s evening, two men meet up in a Dublin restaurant.

Old friends, now married and with grown-up children, their lives have taken seemingly similar paths. But Joe has a secret he has to tell Davy, and Davy, a grief he wants to keep from Joe. Both are not the men they used to be. Neither Davy nor Joe know what the night has in store, but as two pints turns to three, then five, and the men set out to revisit the haunts of their youth, the ghosts of Dublin entwine around them. Their first buoyant forays into adulthood, the pubs, the parties, broken hearts and bungled affairs, as well as the memories of what eventually drove them apart.

As the two friends try to reconcile their versions of the past over the course of one night, Love offers up a delightfully comic, yet moving portrait of the many forms love can take throughout our lives.

HAY 53

 

Finally I caught up with Carlo Rovelli. Another amazing talk – interesting. I hate that word in reviewing but it really was. His analogies of time and how it works. A great bit of programming between the science events.

‘We grow old together… we think this is structure of time itself. It isn’t…’

If physics had been this compelling at school… I may have kept up with the science club! He really does make difficult principles so clear and accessible, I filled myself with Rovelli’s knowledge.

‘The events of the world do not form an orderly queue, like the English – they crowd around chaotically like the Italians.’

Without heat we wouldn’t have a concept of time. MIND blown!

And then to learn this is a man who fell into learning physics! Curiosity and not wanting a boring life. These are the things that spurred him to learn all this.

Carlo Rovelli

THE ORDER OF TIME

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

The superstar physicist thinks about the nature of time and our emotions. He reflects upon his native Italy’s response to the coronavirus; and on what we really fear – the fact we may all die.

Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who has made significant contributions to the physics of space and time. He has worked in Italy and the US, and is currently directing the quantum gravity research group of the Centre de physique théorique in Marseille, France. His books Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Reality Is Not What It Seems, and The Order of Time are international bestsellers which have been translated into forty-one languages. Chaired by John Mitchinson.

 

HAY Carlo

 

Hay Festival Yesterday

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It has been a truly wonderful festival so far. I discovered the Hay Player is available for just £10 for a year and the films they have archived go back as far as 1995, so if you are in a position to invest/buy anything right now you could have all of this Hay material for less than one book costs! Over 8000 talks.

I started with Devi Sridhar, who is a great speaker (academic) and answered the questions well. It made a lot of sense to listen to analysis from a global health specialist who is not afraid to be declarative. She talked with sense about the public health response, global rules and the speed of research. Very informative, straight talk, if only she was a politician!

Devi Sridhar

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

An exacting analysis of the responses to the covid-19 pandemic from one of the world’s most respected experts. Professor Sridhar is chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, and co-author with Chelsea Clinton of Governing Global Health: Who Runs the World and Why? Chaired by Daniel Davis.

HAY Devi

Then as a complete change of pace I went to listen to Hannah Rothschild talk about her new novel. I enjoyed listening to Hannah talking about her characters and wish there had been slightly more coverage of her book. She talked with honesty about her career, male heavy boards and the needs to diversify. Although I had to smile at her dressing down being an M&S suit! How the other half and all that. I found it mildly frustrating that Rosie Boycott interrupted answers throughout the interview.

There was a discussion about COVID/Social Distancing and the problems with theatres/museums. 70% of Theatres may disappear by Christmas unless the government can fund a rescue package. Which I have to say seems highly unlikely.

Regional museums and theatres are in real crisis – our Arts Centre has shut and our Museum of Historic Buildings is under threat also.

Hannah Rothschild talks to Rosie Boycott

FICTIONS: HOUSE OF TRELAWNEY

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

The new novel from the author of The Improbability of Love, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction, is a mischievous satire of English money and class. The seat of the Trelawney family for over 800 years, Trelawney Castle was once the jewel of the Cornish coast. Each successive Earl spent with abandon, turning the house and grounds into a sprawling, extravagant palimpsest of wings, turrets and follies. But recent generations have been better at spending than making money. Now living in isolated penury, unable to communicate with each other or the rest of the world, the family are running out of options. Three unexpected events will hasten their demise: the sudden appearance of a new relation, an illegitimate, headstrong, beautiful girl; an unscrupulous American hedge fund manager determined to exact revenge; and the crash of 2008. A love story and social satire set in the parallel and seemingly unconnected worlds of the British aristocracy and high finance, House of Trelawney is also the story of lost and found friendships between three women. One of them will die; another will discover her vocation; and the third will find love.

Hay Hannah

 

This was another interesting project to discover. They talked about the collective trauma that Europeans suffered (and recovered from). War, conflict and the importance of what it means to be European.

‘There is unlimited potential to do things differently.’

HAY EUR BOOK

Kapka Kassabova, Caroline Muscat, Zsofia Bán and Sophie Hughes

EUROPA 28

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

We celebrate four of the contributors to the Hay Festival Europa 28 project, part of the Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020. With so many flare-ups of nationalism and isolationism in recent years, there is a sense that Europe needs to be fixed, or, at the very least, profoundly reconfigured; whether it is to address the grievances of those feeling disenfranchised from it, or to improve social cohesion, or even continue to exist as a democratic transnational entity.

Bringing together 28 acclaimed women writers, artists, scientists and entrepreneurs from across Europe, this powerful and timely anthology looks at an ever-changing Europe from a variety of different perspectives and offers hope and insight into how we might begin to rebuild.

Kassabova is Bulgarian by birth and lives in Scotland. She is the author of Street Without a Name, Border and To The Lake: A Balkan Journey of War and Peace. Muscat is one of Malta’s leading investigative journalists. She contributed to and co-edited the book, Invicta: The Life and Work of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Bán is a Hungarian writer, critic and scholar. Her recent works include the novel, Night School: A Reader for Grownups, and The Summer of Our Discontent. Chaired by Hughes, a leading literary translator and the editor of the Europa 28 anthology.

 

DO NOT miss this one!

Ingrid Persaud and Jessie Burton

FICTIONS: LOVE AFTER LOVE – THE CONFESSION

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this event, the authors sharing their lockdown pleasure – a new dog and a box set. It was good to hear about the books and the readings. It was a wonderful interview.

Jessie Burton talking about Art and how to manage yourself within that was good. She was talking about Connie (her character) at the time. And Ingrid Persaud talking about appreciating the state of non-belonging and existing in space where you’re allowed to be the insider/outsider. Her book crosses three countries, as has her life. This is how my younger self felt as I moved around so often and didn’t feel roots set anywhere other than in the memory of childhood.

There were fascinating answers and discussion from both authors. On love, the burden of love, life, childhood, distance, relationships between characters, on writing, editing and a whole myriad of topics. A very rich event.

Jessie tells us to ‘trust the process’ something I have heard so many times in events in the past 3 months and something I know but I find hard to do. Important for writing well though. I could have listened to this for hours, it was magical! Lennie Goodings excelled in her role as chair/interviewer.

Although I appreciate the emphasis this year on COVID and science it feels like Hay when you watch authors talk about books. Fiction is healing. As Jessie said ‘never underestimate the power of reading and the comfort it can bring, just the act of a private meditation like that is still so valuable.’ And Ingrid has found it comforting to read during lockdown, ‘I can’t leave my own mind without reading.’ I know I could choose not to watch the other events, but I am curious – it’s not always a bad quality.

Ingrid Persaud and Jessie Burton

FICTIONS: LOVE AFTER LOVE – THE CONFESSION

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

A conversation with two extraordinarily gifted and compelling novelists.

Persaud’s Love After Love introduces: Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, who form an unconventional household, happy in their differences, as they build a home together. Home: the place where your navel string is buried, keeping these three safe from an increasingly dangerous world. Happy and loving they are, until the night when a glass of rum, a heart to heart and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart.

In Burton’s The Confession: One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever..

From the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse, The Confession is a luminous, powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves. 

Chaired by Lennie Goodings, author of A Bite of the Apple: A Life with Books, Writers at Virago.

 

After leaving the magic of this event (which for me is in my top 3 events so far along with An Evening with an Immigrant… Inua Ellams and A Night in with the Wordsworths) but as I had watched the first film on the Europa project I thought I would attend the second one too.

Which was an interesting discussion between the authors on identity, Brexit, lack of solidarity, xenophobia, social economic transformation, can we re-imagine this Europe after the pandemic. Local state trusting being better than national state, a collective fear and new boundary lines, individual responsibilities. Solace with these new online communities. Female leaders. The refugee crisis. They covered a range of ideas.

On talking about the anthology – the growth of mythical stories, stories that are close to our hearts, mean something to us. The pandemic as a moment of potential to create change. Deep participation. Connect together to thrive and grow. New social models are growing, providing the seeds of how we could redesign.

‘There’s no need for a story, life alone is enough.’ – Beckett opens a discussion to the narratives we have been given, the stories we tell ourselves. Who benefits? … The scars of Europe. Challenging the archetypes. Finding new ways to listen. ‘Freedom starts in the republic of the imagination.’

This event is definitely worth watching. Another one NOT TO MISS!

Leïla Slimani, Lisa Dwan, Hilary Cottam and Sophie Hughes

EUROPA 28 – A SENSE OF RENEWAL

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

We celebrate three more contributors to the Hay Festival Europa 28 project, part of the Rijeka European Capital of Culture 2020.

Moroccan-born Slimani won the Prix Goncourt for her novel Lullaby, and is the author of Adèle and Sex and Lies. Dwan is an Irish actor whose Beckett performances have toured the world. She has recently collaborated with Colm Toibín and Margaret Atwood. Cottam is a social activist and the author of Radical Help: How We Can Remake the Relationships Between Us & Revolutionise the Welfare State. They talk to Sophie Hughes.

 

I then watched this event on catch up. It feels like an honour to watch a Nobel Prize winner. Amazing to think that the image of the globe was embargoed, even though they knew before the image appeared that the Earth was round. I enjoyed learning more about the planets. I am fascinated by Cosmology, I have never seen a sunspot close up, or a map of the star neighbourhood! It was amazing. Technical, as you would expect from James Peebles.

James Peebles

COSMOLOGY’S CENTURY

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

A spectacularly illustrated lecture by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist P. J. E. Peebles, tells the story of cosmology from Einstein to today. Modern cosmology began a century ago with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and his notion of a homogenous, philosophically satisfying cosmos. Cosmology’s Century is the story of how generations of scientists built on these thoughts and many new measurements to arrive at a well-tested physical theory of the structure and evolution of our expanding universe.

 

And on replay I caught the final event of Tuesday with poet Eric Ngalle Charles.

This was a great finish to a day filled with wonder and inspiration. I would have been exhausted had I been in real life Hay!

A world citizen with so much to teach us Gill said in the comments and that is so true.

Eric Ngalle Charles talks to Peter Florence

I, ERIC NGALLE: ONE MAN’S JOURNEY CROSSING CONTINENTS FROM AFRICA TO EUROPE

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

We celebrate the extraordinary autobiography of the Wales-based playwright and poet. Eric Ngalle thought he was leaving Cameroon for a better life… Instead of arriving in Belgium to study for a degree in economics he ended up in one of the last countries he would have chosen to visit – Russia. Having seen his passport stolen, Eric endured nearly two years battling a hostile environment as an illegal immigrant while struggling with the betrayal that tore his family apart and prompted his exit. This painfully honest and often brutal account of being trapped in a subculture of deceit and crime gives a rare glimpse behind the headlines of a global concern.

HAY Eric

Hay Festival Bank Holiday

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Bank Holiday Monday saw lots of Hay events which I was interested in. This digital version of the festival means I have been able to attend many more events than I would have managed in real life, both on a financial basis and time restrictions. I have enjoyed experiencing Hay for real and there is no way that can be recreated digitally but this year’s festival has taken on a new version of brilliance. I am particularly loving the international reach and those who are physically unable to attend the real festival being part of the events. When you catch the events live, it feels as special as watching the live stage and if you’re busy at the scheduled time you have a whole day to catch up!

The final Trans.MISSION II event was great. It focused on the DRY project in the UK, looking at grasslands and global warming and included a wonderful animation project showing the overarching project. Adaptation and transformation.

Sarah Ayling, Lindsey McEwen and Patrice Lawrence in conversation with Andy Fryers

TRANS.MISSION II: DROUGHTS AND WATER SCARCITY IN THE UK – LAUNCH OF THE TRANS.MISSION II ANIMATION WITH CHRIS HAUGHTON

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

Hay Festival and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) present Trans.MISSION II, a new global project pairing leading environmental researchers with award-winning storytellers to communicate cutting-edge science to new audiences.

The UK strand of the Trans.MISSION of the project features writer Patrice Lawrence and a team of experts led by Dr Sarah Ayling and Professor Lindsey McEwen. Using Dr Ayling’s work as inspiration, Patrice has a piece of creative writing to highlight the issues around UK droughts and water scarcity. Dr Sarah Ayling is a plant physiologist based at the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at UWE, Bristol. She has studied the effects of drought and the root environment on plant growth in the UK, USA and Australia. Prof Lindsey McEwen is Professor of Environmental Management within the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the UWE, Bristol, and Director of the Centre for Water, Communities and Resilience.  Patrice Lawrence is a British writer and journalist, who has published fiction both for adults and children. Her writing has won awards including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Children and The Bookseller YA Book Prize.

The story that Patrice has created is called “Day Zero and Chips” and will be launched on 25 May.

The overarching strand of the Trans.MISSION II project is a new animation by award-winning illustrator and author Chris Haughton. Chris has taken the three stories, written by Erika Stockholm (Peru), Juan Cardenas (Colombia) and Patrice Lawrence (UK) and responded with an illustrated animation, drawing together the main themes and commonalities that the research in these three countries is revealing.

I have always been interested in life in other parts of the world, cultural/revolutions and stories based in real experiences. This is a harrowing story where millions of families lost loved ones due to action from this time. I enjoyed hearing about Lan Yan’s relatives and a little of their stories too. Yan talks about herself as a witness to the history. Philippe Sands says writing the book is an act of civil courage, I would have to agree.

Courage, resilience and keep hope (lessons her Grandfather passed to them).

In all misfortune events you can always draw some positive energy (what her grandmother taught her).

It is a profound interview.

Lan Yan talks to Philippe Sands

HOUSE OF LAN: A FAMILY AT THE HEART OF A CENTURY IN CHINESE HISTORY

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

The history of the Yan family is inseparable from the history of China over the last century. One of the most influential businesswomen of China today, Lan Yan grew up in the company of the country’s powerful elite, including Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and other top leaders. Her grandfather, Yan Baohang, originally a nationalist and close to Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong May-ling, later joined the communists and worked as a secret agent for Zhou Enlai during World War II. Lan’s parents were diplomats, and her father, Yan Mingfu, was Mao’s personal Russian translator.

In spite of their elevated status, the Yan’s family life was turned upside down by the Cultural Revolution. One night in 1967, in front of a terrified ten-year-old Lan, Red Guards burst into the family home and arrested her grandfather. Days later, her father was arrested, accused of spying for the Soviet Union. Her mother, Wu Keliang, was branded a counter-revolutionary and forced to go with her daughter to a re-education camp for more than seven years, where Lan came of age as a high school student.

In recounting her family history, Lan Yan brings to life a century of Chinese history from the last emperor to present day, including the Cultural Revolution which tore her childhood apart. The little girl who was crushed by the Cultural Revolution has become one of the most active businesswomen in her country. In telling her and her family’s story, she serves up an intimate account of the history of contemporary China.

 

The lovely thing about Hay is the diversity of events. I dipped into this lecture next. Our family holidays used to be in Wales every year, so I enjoyed hearing the language again. Mererid Hopwood is so passionate about language, it is easy to feel buoyed by her enthusiasm. ‘Language is the blood of the soul, the vehicle of ideas’before the words comes the music, the babbling, every language has its own tune. 

Mererid Hopwood

THE ANTHEA BELL LECTURE: WHAT’S WALES IN WELSH?

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

What is Language? It’s not just words. That much we know. It’s grammar. It’s context. It’s meaning. It’s communication. It transacts. It conveys. It imagines. It thinks … Is it an external frame or an internal engine? And what is it then to live in a bilingual mind and a multilingual world? Hopwood is the only woman to have won the three main prizes for poetry and prose in the Eisteddfod – Wales’ national cultural festival. She has been Children Laureate for Wales and was awarded the Glyndwr prize for her contribution to literature. Her collection Nes Draw won the poetry section of the Welsh language Book of the Year Awards, 2016. She writes mainly in Welsh and has degrees in Spanish and German language and literature. Mererid has taught throughout her career and is now at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. Chaired by Guto Harri

HAY MERERID

I wrote a whole post about Libraries – what they mean to me – the new town/city pilgrimage I would take to discover them, the need for books, records, memories and the situation in worn torn countries. I also cherry picked some quotations from the event and then for the past hour the connection has been shaky and WordPress has gremlins in – although they may be mid-upgrade. I lost the text, have since closed the Hay site and do not have time to go and source the material again. If you can, just watch the event.

John Simpson, Bettany Hughes, Paul Boateng, Edmund de Waal

MORE THAN BOOKS: WHAT IT MEANS WHEN LIBRARIES ARE LOST TO CONFLICT

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

As places where human knowledge, thought and experience are held, libraries are often vulnerable during times of conflict. Like places of education, they are frequently targeted in an attack on collective knowledge and freedom of thought, as was the case when IS destroyed the Iraqi University of Mosul’s library in 2015.

Renowned BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson leads historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes (whose latest book is Venus and Aphrodite), Book Aid International Chair Lord Paul Boateng and the award-winning sculptor and author of The Hare With Amber Eyes and The White Road. in a discussion on what it means when libraries become targets during conflict and how individuals and communities are affected.

 

 

 

Hay Festival – DO NOT Miss This!

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I posted Hay earlier but it was a review of events I attended on Saturday – some of which are now more than 24hrs old and only available through the Hay Player. I intended to make my posts within the same hours the events are still available for free.

Today I have visited the Hay tents a lot, I managed to catch a few events LIVE which is always special and is truly the way I intended to do it (which is why I sat online pre-booking tickets).

I watched the 2nd TRANS.MISSION II event this morning and learnt a lot more about political issues surrounding conservation efforts, which I didn’t realise was as damaging as it is, the borders they create. I enjoyed hearing again how scientists and artists have worked together. I love the fact that there are parallels to be found between this worlds. Again the videos are available on You Tube.

Naomi Millner, Ted Feldpausch and Juan Cárdenas in conversation with Andy Fryers

TRANS.MISSION II: THE HISTORY OF LIFE – UNDERSTANDING THE NATURAL RESOURCES OF COLOMBIA

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

Hay Festival and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) present Trans.MISSION II, a new global project pairing leading environmental researchers with award-winning storytellers to communicate cutting-edge science to new audiences.

The Colombian strand of the project features Colombian writer and activist Juan Cárdenas and a team of experts led by Dr Naomi Milner and Dr Ted Feldpausch. Using the research work as inspiration, Juan has created a piece of creative writing to communicate the socio-ecological systems within Colombia and their response to environmental change. Dr Naomi Millner is Lecturer in Human Geography at  the University of Bristol and is working on one of three linked research projects under The Exploring & Understanding Colombian Bio Resources programme. Dr Ted Feldpausch is an Associate Professor at the University of Exeter whose research focuses on tropical forest and savanna ecology. Juan Cárdenas is a writer, creative writing teacher and activist who has worked extensively with Afrocolombian and indigenous communities mapping oral traditions. 

The story that Juan created using the research is called “Espiral” and can be watched here

At a time of unprecedented public interest in how human actions affect the environment, Trans.MISSION II pairs NERC researchers from Peru, Colombia and the UK with artists and storytellers in each country to create new stories about ongoing research projects.

 

 

I came across PEN in 2016 when I wrote a poem, subsequently published on Reuben Woolley’s site I am not a silent poet – we sadly lost Reuben but his site and the fight it demonstrates still remains. PEN campaign for the rights of artists who have been  wrongly imprisoned, the organisation promotes freedom of expression and literature across frontiers.

I know about Human Rights and some of the issues involved in this discussion, but I also discovered a lot. This is not an area now for activist and political anarchists, we all need to be involved in human rights. We need active citizens, now more than ever. The Cemetery of the Companionless on the outskirts of Instanbul – as mentioned in Elif Shafak’s book 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds and in this event has shocked me, the information is still reverberating around my head!

 

Here is an article she wrote The Guardian.

Elif Shafak and Philippe Sands

THE ENGLISH PEN PLATFORM: GIVING VOICE

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

A conversation about writing into an authoritarian world, finding ways of telling truths and making the case for Human Rights. Shafak is the author of the global bestseller 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World. She writes in both Turkish and English. Sands is a lawyer, President of English PEN and the author of the Baillie Gifford Prize-winning East West Street. Introduced by Daniel Gorman, director of English PEN.

 

As I write this blog post I am listening to Afua Hirsch’s lecture which is eye-opening, particularly on issues around local journalism, government propaganda and national press. The erosion between news and comment. A retrospective on the damage that has already happened and the use or misuse of public money. I am glad I decided to check this event out – which is another reason for HAY creating these events for free is a bonus. People may discover something or somebody they really needed in their lives.

Afua Hirsch

THE CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS LECTURE

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

What is the future of journalism in our newly wrangled world? Hirsch is Wallis Annenberg Chair at The University of Southern California. She is the author of Brit(ish) and Equal to Everything, and hosts the About The British Empire podcast on audible. She writes for the Guardian, and broadcasts internationally. Chaired by Rosie Boycott.

HAY Afua

James Shapiro’s discussion on Shakespeare in a Divided America was revealing and it was fascinating to hear how he became an expert on the subject following real life research rather than an academic route. I was very impressed with his Q&A, extended responses.

James Shapiro

SHAKESPEARE IN A DIVIDED AMERICA

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

Shakespeare’s position as England’s national poet is established and unquestionable.

But as James Shapiro illuminates in this revelatory new history, Shakespeare has long held an essential place in American culture. Why, though, would a proudly independent republic embrace England’s greatest writer? Especially when his works enact so many of America’s darkest nightmares: interracial marriage, cross-dressing, same-sex love, tyranny, and assassination

Investigating a selection of defining moments in American history – drilling into issues of race, miscegenation, gender, patriotism and immigration; encountering Presidents, activists, writers and actors – Shapiro leads us to fascinating answers and uncovers rich and startling stories.

Shapiro, who teaches English at Columbia University in New York, is author of several books, including 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (winner of the BBC4 Samuel Johnson Prize in 2006), as well as Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? He also serves on the Board of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

 

After this came my festival HIGHLIGHT so far, though I think it will still be my highlight moment at the end of the May/the festival!

Inua Ellams

What I loved before this event started was the number of people in the comment box who have never seen him read/perform. Some had checked the NT (National Theatre) production ‘The Barbershop Chronicles’ out and come from there. This is no longer available for viewing – but if you ever get a chance. I discovered Inua Ellams late on, by late on I mean he is a poet who was not on my radar for a few years, then it took a few more years to see him anywhere within 200 miles as where I live! I eventually met him in Birmingham and subsequently have caught him perform at several festivals. He is a humble, spirited man – and he keeps basketballs on his bookcases! I thought he had moved from poetry to writing plays but through this event I discovered he had worked on this script for a while and wrote it not long after I met him. This is one of the reasons it was difficult to catch him on the poetry circuit, he was busy touring his show!

The event starts with a big surprise  –  I won’t spoil it for you (although it is probably all over the media by now)… I will add it once the event moves to Hay Player – what else can I say…

watch!

Inua Ellams

AN EVENING WITH AN IMMIGRANT IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC – OR AT LEAST A HALF HOUR

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

The multi-award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams introduces extracts from his celebrated autobiographical one-man show and discusses the latest twists and turns in his life with the online audience. Littered with poems, stories and anecdotes, the show tells his ridiculous, fantastic, poignant immigrant-story of escaping fundamentalist Islam, experiencing prejudice and friendship in Dublin, performing solo at the National Theatre, and drinking wine with the Queen of England, all the while without a country to belong to or place to call home.

HAY Inua Ellams

It was a JOY!
As was witnessing Inua’s surprise at being awarded the Hay Medal 2020 for The Half God of Rainfall.