Updated: Nov 2, 2021
By Nina Davies
In May 2020, the Hay literary festival beamed directly into my house in Jávea and it brought the world with it. If you remember, at that time meetings with friends and family were out, cafés were closed and often uninspiring TV programmes were on offer. The libraries were closed.
For over a week last summer I was glued to my Chromebook. Sitting outside in my naya, I was transported as I listened to discussions taking place at Hay with some of my all-time heroes. Reading the comments and seeing the names and locations of the posters from all over the world was a pleasure in itself.
As soon as the programme for 2021 was available online I booked my talks – so many wonders, how to choose. This year was different, though: my family from Valencia stayed during one of the weekends, I had appointments, Cine Jayan was open again. So I missed some of the debates for which I had booked tickets but of the ones I did manage to attend there are four that stand out:
Benjamin Zephaniah talked about his book for children, Windrush Child. What struck me the most was the way he spoke about telling our stories, the emotion he conveyed when he talked about the importance of these stories, and I thought about Christopher North’s Book Circle memoir talk the previous evening – the most personal of all our stories.
Michael Sheen and Leanne Woods discussing the life, work and continued relevance of Raymond Williams was another emotional experience for me. The discussion was based on a new centenary edition of Williams’s collected writings on Wales. What made this really special was that Sheen also referred to the writings of another Williams, Prof. Gwyn Alf Williams, who was a great friend of mine and whose book When Was Wales? A History of the Welsh shaped many of my ideas about Wales and Welsh culture.
The remaining two of my “special” debates both involve the former Guardian journalist Gary Younge and were about contemporary politics. I found them to be thought-provoking and
inspiring, given by people I have admired greatly for a very long time. In the first debate Younge interviewed Noam Chomsky about his new book The Consequences of Capitalism. In the second debate Younge, introduced by Ian Goldin, gave the Aneurin Bevan Lecture, entitled "Not set in stone: Why we need fewer statues and more honesty”.
And for the princely sum of £15 you can subscribe to the Hay Player and all this year’s gems, plus the back catalogue.