Tag Archives: Sarah Ayling

Hay Festival Bank Holiday



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


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


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


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


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


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.