The Hay Festival has rapidly established itself as the king of British literary festivals and for good reason – nestled in the Wye Valley at the foot of the Brecon Beacons is the book lovers’ Mecca of Hay on Wye where second hand bookshops can be found two a penny around every cobbled bend. Hay is far more than a literary festival these days. Poke your head inside one of the packed festival tents and you’re just as likely to listen in on a discussion about Brexit or philosophy as you are to hear a booker-prize winning author. So why not tear yourself away from the 9 to 5 and treat your mind to a proper day out? Here’s our pick of the best events to choose from this year:
Carole Cadwalladr, Saturday 25 May, 4pm
Cadwalladr has won the Orwell Prize and the Reporters Without Borders award for her investigative journalism in The Observer into the subversion of the democratic process and the impact of big data analytics and interventions on the EU Referendum and the American Presidential Election. She discusses her work with Oliver Bullough.
Leonardo 500, Monday 27 May, 4pm
Hannah Critchlow, Catherine Fletcher Germaine Greer and Jerry Brotton celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of the incomparable Renaissance man – artist, scientist, inventor and lover. Brotton and Fletcher are Renaissance historians, Critchlow is a neuroscientist and Greer is a scholar and art historian. Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most inspiring figures of European history.
Robert Macfarlane in conversation with Horatio Clare,
Listen in on a conversation between two of Britain’s leading nature writers. Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, perhaps the most eagerly anticipated non-fiction book of 2019, takes us on a journey into the worlds beneath our feet. From the ice-blue depths of Greenland’s glaciers to the underground networks by which trees communicate, this is a deep-time voyage into the planet’s past and future, and into darkness and its meanings. Global in its geography, gripping in its voice and haunting in its implications, it is both an ancient and an urgent work. He talks to celebrated nature writer Horatio Clare whose popular series on European Winters recently appeared on Spectator Life. His work has covered everything from the migratory path of the swallow to probing the relationship between winter and depression.
Angela Gallop, Tuesday 28 May, 7pm
Never before has criminal justice rested so heavily on scientific evidence. Gallop is one of the world’s most eminent forensic scientists. During a career spanning more than 40 years, she has helped to drive change and transformation within the field. A specialist in cold-case investigations, Gallop has led forensic teams to find vital evidence in many of the UK’s most challenging cases, including the investigation that finally absolved the Cardiff Three, and the killings of Stephen Lawrence, Damilola Taylor and Rachel Nickell.
Emily Maitlis, Saturday 1 June, 7pm
Newsnight anchor Emily Maitlis gives us a peek behind the curtain of interviews with the most powerful and charismatic individuals of our age. Before and after the camera starts rolling, this is what really happens.
Ian McEwan, Saturday 1 June, 4pm
Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding… Acclaimed novelist Ian McEwan discusses his new novel, Machines Like Me, with Marcus du Sautoy.
Leila Slimani, Saturday 1 June, 5.30pm
Leïla Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, which she won for the shocking thriller and global best-seller, Lullaby. She discusses her work and her new novel Adèle with the Anglo-French author of East West Street, winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize. A journalist and frequent commentator on women’s and human rights, Slimani is Presidents Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture.
Arundhati Roy, Sunday 2 June, 2.30pm
Arundhati Roy talks to Pankaj Mishra about The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, an intimate journey across the Indian subcontinent—from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war. She is the author of The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize and has been translated into more than forty languages.