“A dream team”: what the Hay festival will look like online | Books


Ia McEwan joked once: “I’m no longer doing research, I’m asking Hay’s audience. The main interest of the Hay festival is the festive pleasure of this audience and its dialogue with storytellers sharing great ideas. In the past three weeks, we have reshaped the program we had planned for in the past 18 months into only 80 online events and have experimented with technology platforms to continue this conversation.

I doubt we could have brought together the actors who will launch our Wordsworth 250 celebrations in real life. Simon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hollander, Helen McCrory, Jonathan Pryce, Vanessa Redgrave are a dream team, reading around Shahidha Bari’s nano-conferences. Nobel economists Esther Duflo and Paul Krugman can shine this year like never before, and if we need a little less talk of an evening, Royal Ballet superstar Fernando Montaño will dance the dying swan for us directly from his studio in LA, Helena Bonham Carter joins Shakespeare by Allie Esiri, Inua Ellams updates her magical evening with a coronavirus immigrant, Stephen Fry and Natalie Haynes tell different aspects of Troy’s story, and guitarist David Gilmour will play a Von Trapped family concert to celebrate the magnificent novel by Polly Samson about the Greek summer of Leonard Cohen A theater for dreamers.

If the heart of the program remains great discussions with great novelists such as Hilary Mantel, Maggie O’Farrell, David Mitchell, Anne Enright and Elif Shafak as well as non-fiction stars including Philippe Sands, Hallie Rubenhold and Steve Silberman, we’ve also found a deeper resonance in some of the conferences commissioned last year. Examination of antimicrobial resistance by former CMO Dame Sally Davies could not be more relevant, nor could Afua Hirsch’s interrogation of factual journalism.


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