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Hay Festival: The Events We Can't Wait For

Every year Hay Festival brings together thinkers, writers and creatives to talk about their work, and reimagine our world. The festival takes place in Hay-on-Wye, a book-filled town with a river running through its centre. As usual the programme is packed and varied, with some talks and workshops already sold out (all the more reason for you to start booking your tickets now!). So we thought we’d share some of the events we are particularly excited for!

On Change

A big part of Hay’s programming is political, investigative and forward thinking. They have a daily news review featuring leading journalists and special guests such as Laura Bates, David Olusoga and AC Grayling, who will be delving into the day’s headlines. 

We are particularly looking forward to hearing Grace Blakely, author of Vulture Capitalism, and former Treasury Minister Liam Byrne talk to Oliver Bullough about how we can come back from the ways in which capitalism and wealth inequality have shaped the world. They’ll be discussing their ideas for radical and meaningful change, so book your tickets here.

Poet Jackie Kay will also be talking about her new collection which reflects on several decades of her political activism, from her childhood in Glasgow childhood where she accompanied her parents on Socialist campaigns, to the feminist, LGBT+ and anti-racist movements of the 1980s and 1990s, to the intersection of Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter resurgency. Find out more here.

Later in the programme, doctor and aid worker Lynne Jones (Sorry for the Inconvenience but This is an Emergency), and lawyer and climate activist Farhana Yamin, a key architect of the Paris climate agreement, will be discussing the rise and extraordinary new methods of UK protests, and how movements can use (and sometimes break) the law to bring about social justice. Tickets are available here.  

In the difficult political climate that this festival is being held during, it feels exciting and vital to see solutions-focused conversations taking place.

On Queer Identities

As a queer press, we are always excited to hear narratives from within the queer community. And this year’s programme is full of them.

Radical cultural historian, writer and activist Dr Diarmuid Hester will be bringing to life the stories of seven figures including EM Forster and Derek Jarman, to talk about a queer sense of place and how this connects with who they were and how they loved. Book here.

Photographer Billie Charity and Boo La Croux, organiser of Hereford Pride, introduce their new book about the art of drag in a farming community, in conversation with Ben Andrews, an organic farmer from Hereford who set up a group to promote the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in agriculture. Book your tickets here.

Mendez, Irenosen Okojie, David Olusoga and Colm Tóibín are going to be reflecting on the work of James Baldwin and why his experiences as a gay Black man growing up in poverty are still so resonant today. Find out more about the panel here

Oranges are not the Only Fruit is a staple of queer literature, often the first book borrowed secretly from a library by teenage queers. It’s author Jeanette Winterson is going to be speaking about her gloriously gothic latest book, Night Side of the River, which explores grief, technology and hauntings. Book here.

On Nostalgia

Some of the writers I grew up reading are going to be at Hay Festival this year! Anthony Horowitz, whose Alex Rider series had me aspiring to be a teenage spy for many years, will be talking across his oeuvre, delving into character and mystery. Book your ticket here.

Probably the first writer to make me cry, Michael Morpurgo is going to be inviting a new generation of readers to discover the magic of Shakespeare. Along with a cast of special guests he is going to be bringing ten of his favourite Shakespeare plays alive for a young audience in warm and accessible retellings. Tickets are available here.

Jacqueline Wilson, who had us talking about difficult topics before the adult’s in our lives knew how to, is going to be sharing insight into how her writing career started, how she created the characters we spent our childhoods with, and her new book The Girl Who Wasn’t There. Book here to take a trip down memory lane.

On New Voices

As much as I love looking back at the stories that shaped me, it’s always so exciting to hear about the new voices debuting their stories. 

Nathan Newman’s new book How to Leave the House, features a dentist who dreams of being an artist and can’t stop painting mouths, a romantic entanglement between an Imam and a vicar, and a very embarrassing package. Nathan will be discussing their debut in conversation with Jack Edwards and I’ll be in the front row. Book here.

Award-winning poet Andrew McMillan has just published his first novel Pity, and he is going to be discussing the themes of it - community, masculinity and post-industrialisation - with Scottish poet and playwright Jackie Kay. That’s a conversation you don’t want to miss. Find out more here

Another poet turning their hand to prose is Gemma June Howell whose darkly comedic novel The Crazy Truth follows Girlo Wolf who longs to be a poet but is struggling with mental health challenges, trauma and economic poverty. Find out more here.

This is just a small selection of this year’s brilliant programme, which features novelists and short story writers, poets and politicians, scientists and architects. I will be there on the first weekend of the festival which runs from 23rd May - 2nd June, hearing from the writers and change-makers defining our generation, and writing it all up for t’ART. 

Take a look at the full programme, and book your tickets, here.

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