Category Archives: Literature Festival

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

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’.

the-annunciation-of-the-virgin-deal-grayson-perry

©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 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.

Hay Festival Today

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Friday 22nd May

I have used information from the website with snippet thoughts of reflection and review, for you to find them easily I have made them a different colour.

Today the first part of the programme I had booked was the talk with Gloria Steinem.

Gloria Steinem talks to Laura Bates

THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE, BUT FIRST IT WILL PISS YOU OFF

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

In a special recording of the Hay Festival Podcast, the writer shares her Thoughts on Life, Love and Rebellion with the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project. For decades, people around the world have found guidance, humour and unity in Gloria Steinem’s gift for creating quotes that offer hope and inspire action. From her early days as a journalist and feminist activist, Steinem’s words have helped generations to empower themselves and work together.

It was interesting and enthralling and attended by over 7700 people!

Some take away quotations:

‘pay attention to the particular’

‘If you do one true thing, it stays true.’

Part of the discussion revolved around empathy and I discovered some scientific facts which I had not previously considered – which I think is important to pass forward in our current world, which due to the pandemic is increasingly moving online.

Empathy – relies on a release of hormone which only occurs in real life, that communicating digitally doesn’t allow this natural reaction to happen and this, I think can lead to digital communication being misinterpreted or cause more harm than good sometimes. So remember you can’t feel what they feel when communicating digitally!

Another reason why human interaction is necessary/essential for us.

Hay Gloria

 

After this, I dipped into the first event on the replay option.

Jane Davidson, Mark Drakeford, Sophie Howe and Eluned Morgan

#FUTUREGEN – WALES AND THE WORLD

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

Jane Davidson explains how, as Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing in Wales, she helped create the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015—the first piece of legislation on Earth to place regenerative and sustainable practice at the heart of government. Unparalleled in its scope and vision, the Act connects environmental and social health and looks to solve complex issues such as poverty, education and unemployment. She is joined by the First Minister for Wales, the Minister for International Affairs, and the Future Generations Commissioner.

#futuregen is the inspiring story of a small, pioneering nation discovering prosperity through its vast natural beauty, renewable energy resources and resilient communities. It’s a living, breathing prototype for local and global leaders as proof of what is possible in the fight for a sustainable future. Chaired by Guto Harri.

 

And then as I was still online I decided to rock up to the next event too before needing to recharge the laptop (which is a bit old and fully loaded and won’t recharge and work at the same time anymore, I kind of know how it feels)!

Naomi Oreskes talks to Nick Stern

THE BRITISH ACADEMY LECTURE: WHY TRUST SCIENCE

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

Do doctors really know what they are talking about when they tell us vaccines are safe? Should we take climate experts at their word when they warn us about the perils of global warming?  Oreskes shows how consensus is a crucial indicator of when a scientific matter has been settled, and when the knowledge produced is likely to be trustworthy.

Naomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University. Her books include The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future and Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. 

Sometimes the universe offers us time to sit with something, there is always a reason. I think this may have been mine… (obviously it was meant in the context of scientists, who like teachers are trained to be not address personal concern, not to add opinion or personal belief – personal values will undermine their objectivity as scientists/ teachers)

Talking honestly about our motivations – makes us more trustworthy. 

 

Following this event there was more, I may find some time to watch these before the videos disappears.

Dara McAnulty and Steve Silberman

DIARY OF A YOUNG NATURALIST

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. These vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling. “I was diagnosed with Asperger’s/autism aged five … By age seven I knew I was very different, I had got used to the isolation, my inability to break through into the world of talking about football or Minecraft was not tolerated. Then came the bullying. Nature became so much more than an escape; it became a life-support system.” Diary of a Young Naturalist portrays Dara’s intense connection to the natural world, and his perspective as a teenager juggling exams and friendships alongside a life of campaigning. “In writing this book,” Dara explains, “I have experienced challenges but also felt incredible joy, wonder, curiosity and excitement. In sharing this journey my hope is that people of all generations will not only understand autism a little more but also appreciate a child’s eye view on our delicate and changing biosphere.”

Steve Silberman is an award-winning investigative reporter and has covered science and cultural affairs for Wired and other national magazines for more than twenty years. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, TIME, Nature and Salon. He won the 2015 Samuel Johnson/Baillie Gifford Prize for his book Neurotribes.

 

Esther Duflo, chaired by Evan Davis

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES: BETTER ANSWERS TO OUR BIGGEST PROBLEMS

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The 2019 Nobel Prize-winning economist Esther Duflo shows how economics, when done right, can help us solve the thorniest social and political problems of our day. From immigration to inequality, slowing growth to accelerating climate change, we have the resources to address the challenges we face but we are so often blinded by ideology.

Original, provocative and urgent, Good Economics for Hard Times offers the new thinking that we need. It builds on cutting-edge research in economics – and years of exploring the most effective solutions to alleviate extreme poverty – to make a persuasive case for an intelligent interventionism and a society built on compassion and respect. A much-needed antidote to polarized discourse, this book shines a light to help us appreciate and understand our precariously balanced world. Her work has never seemed so urgent.

 

Fernando Montaño

HAY FESTIVAL CARTAGENA PRESENTS: UNA BUENA VENTURA

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

Colombian dancer Fernando Montaño is a Soloist of The Royal Ballet and the first Colombian to join the company. He arrived in 2006, was promoted to First Artist in 2010 and to Soloist in 2014. In 2019 he received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Bath University. He will dance accompanied by readings of excerpts from his memoir, translated as A Boy with a Beautiful Dream, about his humble origins and his amazing journey to stardom. At his lockdown studio in Los Angeles, Fernando is now developing a film adaptation of his book. From here he will dance the death of the Swan as a more contemporary version of this quarantine and the marimba dance, inspired by the ballet and folklore of Colombia. Writer Ella Windsor will also read her Foreword to his powerful story.

I watched this in the early hours of the morning as I finished this blog post. I danced for half my life (more than twice the number of years I have been writing), I have always loved watching autodocs about the dancers. I also love watching dance. The video of this session satisfied both. It was very touching and Fernando Montaño is humble of spirit and gloriously talented in body – his arms move with the fluidity of water – just watch! 

 

 

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The rest of today did not go according to scheduled plan so some of the events I had registered to attend I had to dip into the videos afterwards. The internet connection is as sketchy as dial-up used to be at the moment. No surprise with the whole town in isolation/lockdown. Unfortunately this also meant missing a Poetry Book Launch this evening – which happened in between the Hay events. I had hoped it would have been recorded, but I couldn’t find it – I have since heard from the poet and the publisher will release it so I will watch and blog about it then!

My evening was supposed to start with a live viewing of the 5th event which I have been looking forward to since I discovered (or Mr G discovered) Hay was online this year. I watched it and thoroughly enjoyed it as my own special late night Hay – which is, how I imagine many people will be tuning in. So I watched Stephen Fry live before this but I have kept the review in chronological order.

Simon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Monty Don, Lisa Dwan, Inua Ellams, Stephen Fry, Tom Hollander, Toby Jones, Helen McCrory, Jonathan Pryce and Vanessa Redgrave

WORDSWORTH 250: A NIGHT IN WITH THE WORDSWORTHS

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

A gala performing of William’s poetry and Dorothy’s journals begins our 250th anniversary celebrations with a superstar cast reading work that will include Intimations of Immortality, Daffodils, lines composed both Upon Westminster Bridge and Above Tintern Abbey, The Prelude and We Are Seven. Hosted and introduced by Shahidha Bari.

 

I was really looking forward to this group of readings and hearing extracts from Dorothy’s Journals. 

I spent a lot longer watching this session than the duration. Feasting on the words and the depth of analysis one expects from Hay. If you like Wordsworth, enjoy learning about classic poets or hearing a mixture of actors, poets and presenters reading, then this event is for you. ‘This Gala reading is part of a wider project which Hay Festival are developing with Arts Humanities Research Council and their boundless creativity programme.’

I have to say it was a real treat. A gala of this standard was bound to be – I mean, just look at that list! I particularly enjoyed Toby Jones reading, Tom Hollander could have read Wordsworth to me all night, his reading surprised me, it found all the depth of Wordsworth’s words. I know he’s a trained actor – but… so am I and I don’t read poetry like that! As did Stephen Fry and Jonathan Pryce – who really got the words speaking – this is as much to do with the poetry as it is their narration. Not just voice, but emotional understanding of the text. Embodiment of Wordsworth’s mind almost as character, or at least that it how they make me feel when they read it. It is late and I have been listening to readings for hours! There was also a wonderful moment when Helen McCrory reading from Dorothy’s Alfoxden Journal had to read about sheep in a field as she was being accompanied by a sheep bleating! 

As our Nation’s Poet Laureate I was interested in Armitage’s bookcase. Lots of people are in front of books that I speak to – we’re writers, it is no surprise and I know there are readers out there too (thank goodness) but there is also a fashion to grab what books you can and create that shelf-full-of-knowledge-shelf – I see it a lot on TV at present, so I find it amusing and don’t pay any attention to the backdrop. But here I did. I admit I listened to his readings first and then replayed that section and had a closer look. I also enjoyed Inua Ellams bookshelves with basketballs. I love his poetry and was looking forward to him reading this evening. I know he’s also writing plays so we may see less of him in the poetry world – but am looking forward to his event later on this Hay week. 

Professor Shahidha Bari is a knowledgeable and passionate presenter who held the event together and hosted a live chat at the end.

This was a wonderful, thoroughly enjoyable event and one I wish was recorded and archived on my system forever. You can rewatch it for until tomorrow evening and then after that it is available for a small fee through Hay Player. 

And finally –

Stephen Fry…

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Stephen Fry

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Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The actor and author previews scenes from the third part of his Greek trilogy, which follows Mythos and Heroes.

 

This event was had a Q & A after the reading – due to technical issues there was a slight delay in which some of us who have been to Hay had a random-stranger-natter as we may have done if we were in Hay-on-Wye for real, the pre-event conversation was certainly worth a read, any conversation during an event (they wouldn’t have talking in the tents) tends to be technical issue queries or slightly adolescent commentary. So, it is worth knowing that the chat box on Crowd Cast can be closed click the small arrow at the top on the right. It is constantly moving throughout events and you may be there to listen to the speaker. 

I treated Stephen to a full screen, I knew this would be interesting and I know Fry often does Hay and speaks well and is certainly knowledgeable and able to handle a Q & A. 

He talked about Greek mythology, translations and modern retellings. He talked of those who blaze like stars and others who choose to lead a long, stable life. He seemed in no hurry to leave and I am sure he would have carried on batting the 100s of questions he had been asked. It gave me that same blessed feeling you have when a band gives you a really long set before an interval. The event was over an hour long I think. 

Very much worth a listen. 

If you are reading this within 24 hours of the original event times the videos should still be available here -after this you can pay to watch them with Hay Player.

Images Hayfestival.com © 2020

Hay Festival Goes Digital

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I have had the pleasure of attending online festivals since Lockdown began and I haven’t managed a timely blogpost for any of them. You will note that Hay events started on the 18th with the schools programme – the full programme is available and tickets for all events are FREE. You can watch missed events for 24 hours and after that pay a small fee to watch on Hay Player.

For those of us who have experienced it for real, it is not the same – however it has opened it up to a wider amount of global audiences and it is wonderful that access is free.

ENJOY!

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© Culturewhisper

Here is more information: Source hayfestival.com

HAY FESTIVAL DIGITAL #IMAGINETHEWORLD TAKING PLACE ONLINE 18 – 31 MAY

Hay Festival Digital #imaginetheworld runs 18–22 May with our Programme for Schools featuring fabulous authors including Cressida CowellPatrice Lawrence and Onjali Q Rauf. From 22–31 May, Hay Festival Digital takes place online with interactive events from more than 100 award-winning writers, global policy makers, historians, pioneers and innovators, celebrating the best new fiction and non-fiction, and interrogating some of the biggest issues of our time.

Attending Hay Festival Digital 2020 online is completely free and couldn’t be easier. Simply browse the programme below as you normally would and, if an event interests you, click the Register link to save your spot. Your virtual seat will be confirmed by email, and we will even email you again ten minutes before the show to remind you the event is about to start. You can chat with other audience members and ask questions of the speakers, just as you would at a real Hay Festival event.

Here’s more information on how to register

All our events take place at the BST advertised. If you are accessing from a different time zone it will still be possible to replay for free up to 24 hours after the event. Following this all events will be available on Hay Player.

 

Programme

Review September 2018

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

September – that rolled around quickly!

This has definitely been a month of admin tasks and preparation, also finding my feet again since coming home to UK soil. It took a while for my head to leave Australia after my incredible summer trip to Perth Poetry Festival. It has also been a month filled by projects, book launches and celebrating successes – other people’s as well as my own.

Week 1 

Kicked off with being the Half-ender at YES WE CANT in Walsall. The gig I returned to the UK for! It was a cracking night and a pleasure to have been asked to perform.

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It was great meeting Rob Barratt and on top of that I had a winning Lotto ticket (£1 – before you all get too excited) and an order for a fab new Poetry T-shirt… looks like Mr. G will have to get me something else for Christmas this year!

Read a full review here YES WE CANT

I had 3 poems published in a new project – which you can read more about in Week 4 of this review. One of the poems was a piece I wrote in Australia, so it is exciting for me to see it already out there.

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I arranged meetings and made festival bids for ATOTC and 30-40-60. I was invited to a European Arts Festival in France. I looked at several applications, which I subsequently decided against for now.

I was busy managing INKSPILL, working with our Guest Writers. INKSPILL is our FREE online annual writing retreat which always takes place on the last weekend of October.

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Look out for more NEWS on this coming soon!

I had a meeting about Poetry Projects for October and performances in November. I have been asked to take part in two Remembrance events this year, which is an honour.

I went to a Workshop delivered by Emily Wilkinson who is working on The Ring, 21 Miles project. It was a wonderfully creative afternoon which gave me inspiration for poems, so far I have managed to create a poetry film of 9 Haiku which is currently entered in the 21 competition.

 

A new project LitWorld2 Journal – Pic a Pocket Poems and Flashes is underway. Created by Sarah Leavesley it will feature a weekly poem which has been produced with an image, photo poetry and flash fiction. I am curating the Facebook side of the social media campaign. I created the Facebook group ready and Sarah has worked on a publication schedule. It launches before the end of the month and posts will appear on Fridays.

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I am very excited about the overall project and delighted to be able to support Sarah on it.

Unfortunately by the end of the week I was quite unwell but I did manage to get to Birmingham for Helen’s Book Launch.

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Friday saw the first of this month’s Book Launches. Unable Mother By Helen Calcutt – published by V. Press was launched at Waterstones, Birmingham. It was a deeply moving experience, one you can read all about here UNABLE MOTHER

I had a well deserved (and needed – ill) rest over the weekend with Mr. G. Although I was still at the desk proofing an article and dealing with another which had gone to print. I also worked on some poetry for a project which has been simmering away for a while and needs to be sent next week.

Week 2: 

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I was still ill – so much so that I visited the Drs. & got meds. It meant I was not well enough to go to Licensed to Rhyme who were celebrating a 2nd Birthday, I didn’t make it over to Brum Stanza for Jacqui Rowe or PTS for Nellie Cole or SpeakEasy for Kevin Brooke or Hereford for H.Arts Gallery and new exhibition by Molly Bythell (my Ledbury PoArtry partner). Failed on five fronts but was successful at getting better. I spent some time in bed, in lots of pain but resting (which is unusually sensible for me). It was a shame to miss so much poetry but I couldn’t have managed any of the journeys getting across to any of these events so had no choice.

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Some exciting news hit my inbox, something starting in November and something else that I am in awe of and still grinning from.

Saturday saw the launch of ‘Don’t Oil The Hinges’ the new WPL collection from Heather Wastie. It was a great night and having missed 4 poetry events really made up for my week out in ill-health limbo! You can read all about it here Don’t Oil The Hinges

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On Sunday I attended a workshop in Birmingham Waterstones, The Accidental Memoir. It was interesting and gave me two new poems, one new technique and another book for the bookshelf/reading pile.

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The Accidental Memoir workshop was taken by Anthony Cropper and we worked through several exercises in the book he co-produced with Eve Makis.

The Accidental Memoir truly is for all: writers and non-writers, teachers and students, the perfect book for anyone seeking inspiration or imaginative ways to explore their own life story.

This innovative concept was developed as an Arts Council project to help people tap into their own lives. Working with diverse groups from refugees to the elderly and prisoners, it has been a resounding success in unearthing stories that otherwise may never have been told.

Harper Collins © 2018

https://www.harpercollins.ca/9780008302030/the-accidental-memoir/

 

Week 3

This week I missed several Book Launches and Free Verse (London Book Fair), which I read at last year with Stephen Daniels for V. Press.

A lot of groundwork for INKSPILL started this week. I had an invitation to be part of a panel which I really wanted to do but the date in October is already booked up, I am hoping to be considered for the next one. I still feel angst when dates clash, October is an exceptionally busy month in the poetry calendar and there are several overlapping events.

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I worked on promotion for the American A Tale of Two Cities reading, happening at the Sprinkler Factory, Massachusetts on Friday 28th. Very excited to hear how it all goes and hopefully by next year there will be some bigger plans in progress for this project.

I had several project poems to complete and managed to meet deadlines on these. We have all seen the workings of the next part of this project and I will be sharing it with you when I can.

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I also did a lot of editing and FINALLY made some submissions. I made the first of several films creating a montage of the Perth Poetry Festival, which will go live before INKSPILL (27th/28th October).

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This week also saw my Jinney Ring Sculpture Trail Workshop. This is the 2nd year I have facilitated poetry on the Trail and with some exceptional sculptures our inspiration was easily tapped.

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Unicorn – Priscilla Ham

It was a great morning and the techniques/forms I chose to explore were enjoyed by participants. We are now working on our poems for two months and the next stage will be preparing an exhibition at the Jinney Ring which will be up by December.

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An invite to perform next month dropped into my Inbox.

I spent the weekend writing to deadlines and working on the next new project for October.

Week 4:

Another week of preparation for INKSPILL and other writing deadlines and missed events like Poetry Bites. I started to promote National Poetry Day (4th October), I am sad to miss an event in Birmingham with Liz Berry, Roy McFarlane & Jane Commane.

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This event is also the night the new Birmingham Poet Laureate will be appointed. Still cannot believe Matt Windle has finished this two year role, but we all know how time like this flies! Birmingham Literature Festival National Poetry Day

I am delighted to be booked to perform alongside former and current Worcestershire Poets Laureate, as part of the Autumn Malvern Festival for National Poetry Day.

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/national-poetry-day-2018-change/

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Back in July I had an invite to read at Livres à vous – A Festival of the Arts in Voiron, France. I wasn’t sure it would be possible and it took a while to make the decisions about travel. Coach and train is fairly cheap but takes a long time and I have to be available for work most days. Today I booked my tickets to fly.

When I was Worcestershire Poet Laureate I completed a project called Twin Town between Droitwich and Voiron and some of the poets involved in that will hopefully be there. I am looking forward to it.

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My poetry film entry for The Ring was found and several poems Unlocked and .. submitted for the competition. You can see all the entries here https://thering21miles.wordpress.com/.

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A last minute booking came in to work with Year 7 pupils at Blessed Edwards in October,  fortunately I was free to accept. This will involve 4 poets looking at 4 elements and group writing with the pupils. I am doubly excited as I got FIRE! My Leo-heart burns!

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The first week of October is looking packed. A week of several double bookings another event I was invited to do A Night with… panel interview/performance/ relaxed Q & A which looks really good – I hope to make it on a different date. This in turn clashed with a book launch and that isn’t viable either. I have an open mic with an amazing headline/line up and the NPD and Swindon Poetry Festival to look forward to.

This week I wrote 4 new poems based on Masks and performed them at 42.

I took another 2 bookings for December. Wrote lots. Edited lots. AND…became the newest Director of Worcestershire LitFest! WLF Welcomes a New Director

LitWorld2 Journal was also released. This is Sarah Leavesley’s Photography/Art/Poetry Project and the first poem to be published is by Kathy Gee.

I followed up the USA performance of A Tale of Two Cities – there was certainly a lot of pre-event news coverage and it seems to have gone really well.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/a-tale-of-two-cities-worcester-usa-uk-a-poetry-event-at-sprinkler-factory/

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I also got organised for Swindon Poetry Festival next week! Whoop! Ready to run at October full pelt now!

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