Tag Archives: Simon Armitage

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 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…

Hay W Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry

TROY

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

INKSPILL 2018 A Poem From Simon Armitage

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This Poem of the Week from The Guardian was published in May 2018. Click the read to read ‘The Straight and Narrow’ by Simon Armitage, the Poem of the Week includes an analysis.

The Straight and Narrow

folded newspapers

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The article includes links to the following interviews/ webpages. “Swimming through Bricks”: A Conversation with Simon Armitage by Rob Roensch and Quinn Carpenter Weedon and Magic Realism in Fiction.