Hay Festival Digital 2021

The British Council is delighted to support a specially selected programme of events at the 2021 Hay Festival.

From 26 May to 6 June, more than 200 acclaimed writers, historians, poets and pioneers will appear at Hay Festival 2021, broadcasting for free online.

The British Council is supporting a series of six events at the festival, including the opening gala event ‘A Night of Hope’, featuring HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, Stephen Fry, Elif Shafak, Simon Schama, Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Rob Brydon, and chaired by classicist Natalie Haynes.

Other events include journalist George Monbiot on how to live within our planet’s means, acclaimed Welsh-language poet Mererid Hopwood, winner of the Merky Books New Writers Prize Hafsa Zayyan, Caleb Azumah Nelson, and bestselling crime author Val McDermid on her new graphic novel.

How to watch

The events are available to watch live, free of charge on the Hay Festival’s website, and can be viewed for free for 24 hours after the live broadcast.

Audiences can register for an event in advance to receive updates (see links to individual events below).

The events in our series are selected from the Hay Festival programme for adults. To see Hay's programme for children and young people, please see here.



Wed 26 May, 8pm – 9.30pm (BST / UTC+1)

Featuring HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, Richard Eyre, Jessica Raine, Stephen Fry, Theresa Lola, Romola Garai, Charly Arrowsmith, Louise Brealey, Sindhu Vee, Rob Brydon, Elif Shafak, Juno Dawson, Clemency Burton-Hill, Simon Schama, Rufus Mufasa, Hafsa Zayyan, Margaret Busby, Hollie McNish, Karl Nova, Guvna B, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and more. 

On the opening night of Hay Festival 2021, writers join forces for an evening of celebration and remembrance as performers share the poems, books, plays and speeches that have inspired them over the past year.

Register to watch

Fri 28 May, 3pm – 3.50pm (BST / UTC+1)

Hafsa Zayyan and Rivers Solomon talk to Sameer Rahim

Two great young writers discuss their novels that explore the roots of racism around the world. We Are all Birds of Uganda, co-winner of the Merky Books New Writers' Prize, moves between two continents to explore racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong. Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of fiction that wrestles with the history of racism in America.  

Register to watch

Sat 29 May, 10pm – 10.30pm (BST / UTC+1)

Caleb Azumah Nelson talks to Candice Brathwaite

Two young people meet at a pub in south-east London. Both are black British and won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong. Both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them.

Caleb talks to the author of I Am Not Your Baby Mother. Candice's new book Sista Sister is published in July.

Register to watch

Sun 30 May 2021, 12pm – 12.50pm (BST / UTC+1)

Mererid Hopwood, introduced by Dylan Moore 

How have poets imagined language and how do these imaginings help us understand an essential tool of literature? 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's 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. 

Register to watch

Sun 30 May 2021, 8pm – 8.50pm (BST / UTC+1)

George Monbiot talks to Fatima-Zahra Ibrahim

For hundreds of years, we have lived as if the Earth were infinite. We exploited new frontiers, exhausted their resources, then moved on. It's a pattern repeated in forestry, fisheries, mining and agriculture. Now we are transferring this destructive approach to technology, imagining there is an infinite capacity for renewable materials. In reality, there is no substitute for consuming less and living within this planet's means. What are the ethical and economic shifts required to accept the finite nature of our world?

George Monbiot is an author, journalist and environmental activist. He is in conversation with the co-director of Green New Deal UK and Winner of the Global Citizen Prize UK’s Hero Award, 2020.

Register to watch

Tue 1 June 2021, 8pm – 8.50pm (BST / UTC+1)

Val McDermid and Kathryn Briggs talk to Louise Welsh

Queen of crime Val McDermid teams up with illustrator Kathryn Briggs in a graphic novel set at an open-air music festival (remember those?). At first, a spot of rain seems to be the only thing dampening the fun – until a mystery bug descends and, before long, illness is spreading at an electrifying speed. Can journalist Zoe Meadows track the outbreak to its source, and will a cure be found before the disease becomes a pandemic? This heart-racing thriller imagines a nightmare that seems only too credible in the year of COVID-19.

They talk to psychological thriller writer Louise Welsh.

Register to watch

#HayFestival2021 #CultureConnectsUs 

For information on the full Hay Festival Digital programme see hayfestival.org.

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