The IWA Recommends: Highlights of Hay

A portrait of Miguela Gonzalez, a member of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, who will be speaking at the IWA's event at Hay Festival. She is wearing a white shirt with red flowers and smiling at the camera.

Dylan Moore flicks through the Hay Festival programme with his highlighter pen

The Institute of Welsh Affairs is delighted to be hosting a high profile discussion about the future of Wales at this year’s Hay Festival.

And as you might expect, the lineup for our country’s premier festival of literature, arts and ideas is as wildly eclectic and hugely exciting as ever, with people from around the world making the annual bibilio-pilgrimage to the small market town on the edge of the Black Mountains to see Stormzy, Richard Osman, Tracey Emin, Dua Lipa, Margaret Atwood and many, many more.

Our event, hosted at The Hive and chaired by our director Auriol Miller, will bring together three of the commissioners tasked by Welsh Government with looking at options for Wales’ constitutional future – within or without the United Kingdom. Co-chairs Dr Rowan Williams and Professor Laura McAllister will explain the work they have led and the options set out in the interim report of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, as well as the ongoing public engagement campaign that seeks to hear from people across the country about what all of us want for the future. They will be joined by Miguela Gonzalez, who brings her perspective as a diversity and inclusion practitioner to the Commission. 

Wales: Independence and Other Options takes place on Tuesday 30th May at 7pm. Book here

And while Hay Festival has been a platform for Welsh writers looking to make their mark on the global stage since 1987, it is really encouraging to see a particular focus in this year’s programme on Wales’ small but lively indigenous publishing sector, which has long punched above its weight but still sometimes struggles for international recognition in the giant shadow of London, a world publishing capital just three hours down the road. Publishing in Wales Question Time will allow audience members to quiz an expert panel of publishers, authors and journalists on ‘all things writing and publishing’ following a discussion around the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, Welsh identity and language, diversity, and ‘how we can put Welsh publishing on the global map’. Introduced by Cyhoeddi Cymru – Publishing Wales, this event offers the rare and tantalising prospect of being chaired by ‘a media personality to be announced’. 

Syniadau uchelgeisiol, awdurdodol a mentrus.
Ymunwch â ni i gyfrannu at wneud Cymru gwell.

Publishing in Wales Question Time takes place on Saturday 27 May 2023 at 7pm Venue. Book here.

Also still to be announced are the guests who will take part in a discussion with Charlotte Williams, about Welsh identity, education, and creative and cultural representation. Appointed as one of Hay’s four Thinkers in Residence – a new development this year – our former cover star is committed to exploring the ways in which Wales and its multivarious Welsh identities are represented at the Festival. We can’t wait to join Charlotte as she unveils this special panel of guests in the Marquee on Thursday June 1 at 5.30pm.

Meanwhile, a whole series of other events demonstrate the rude health of Welsh writing and publishing. Tom Bullough and Julie Brominicks talk to Horatio Clare (Monday 29th May, The Hive, 11.30am) about ‘The Fabric of Wales’, an event centred around their books Sarn Helen (Bullough) and The Edge of Cymru (Brominicks), each of which consider the political, cultural and mythical history of Wales through deep engagement with our natural landscape and attempt to find ‘clarity, courage and possibility in the environmental crisis’. The great outdoors is also front and centre of new books by Jasmine Donahaye, Jay Griffiths and Rachel Hewitt who will explore ideas of diversity, equality, fair access and other moral matters of our relationship with the natural world with Gwen Davies in Women and Nature, on Wednesday 31 May at 4pm.

Yet another event at The Hive (this time on Friday 2 June at 2.30pm) is Memories of Wales, a conversation hosted by the editor of Wales Arts Review, Emma Schofield, between ‘two men deeply connected to the words of the country’.

But the scope of Hay goes far beyond the border running through it, as befitting a town officially twinned with Timbuktu in Mali.

Writer and historian Dai Smith will talk about his memoir Off the Track while Sam Adams’ Letters from Wales: Memories and Encounters in Literature and Life is a collection of his columns over 30 years in the poetry magazine PN Review, offering insights into the literary lives and culture of Wales.

But the scope of Hay goes far beyond the border running through it, as befitting a town officially twinned with Timbuktu in Mali. Llwyfan Cymru – the Wales Stage plays host to Gary Younge’s interview with Jeffrey Boakye, in which the author and broadcaster will present Dispatches From the Diaspora, a career-spanning collection of his journalism on race, racism and Black life and death from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States. The promo blurb mentions Mandela, Obama, Angelou and Tutu– names from the Black diaspora that need no further introduction. Younge’s tales about the ‘ringside seat’ he has often been afforded at the table of history promise that Dispatches from the Diaspora: From Nelson Mandela to Black Lives Matter will be heavily highlighted in the famous Hay programme.

Dispatches from the Diaspora: From Nelson Mandela to Black Lives Matter takes place on Friday 26 May 2023 at 7pm. Book here

The Wales Stage is also the venue on the following day, Saturday 27th May at 8.30pm, for an important discussion about the relationship between Europe and the free press. ​Veronika Munk, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the independent news platform in Hungary, Antonio Baquero, an investigative journalist in Spain specialising in global organised crime and corruption, and Irina Nedeva, senior editor at Horizon Radio in Bulgaria, will discuss the challenges they face on a continent where the killing and imprisonment of journalists in the course of their work goes ironically and tragically underreported. 

And nicely programmed just three hours before the IWA event – giving you time in between to grab something to eat or to read, preferably both – is a conversation whose title lies near to the heart of the values that bring the Institute of Welsh Affairs into such close alignment with the Hay Festival.

Democracy, Politics and Hope features an all-star line-up: the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet; historian and broadcaster David Olusoga; and Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of London. Chaired by Bronwen Maddox, CEO of the Chatham House think tank on the Baillie Gifford Stage (Hay’s equivalent of Glastonbury’s Pyramid), their conversation will examine how – despite living in a time of social discontent with how democracy and governance work – we are witnessing the explosion of civil society movements worldwide that provide both vision and hope for democratic politics to thrive into the future. 

Go and listen to them, and then come to hear the former Archbishop of Canterbury talk with the former captain of Wales’ women’s football team about how democracy, politics and hope can also be the potent mix that informs our future here in Wales. 

Democracy, Politics and Hope takes place on Tuesday 30 May at 4pm; Wales: Independence and Other Options takes place at 7pm. 

If you want to support our work tackling Wales’ key challenges, consider becoming a member.

Dylan Moore is Editor of the welsh agenda. He writes this in a personal capacity.

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