Hot Lists Tuesday, May 22nd

Lineup Breakdown: What you need to know about Hay Festival 2018

Hot Lists Tuesday, May 22nd

Lineup Breakdown: What you need to know about Hay Festival 2018

We’re twisting the usual Lineup Breakdown format to accommodate what is a bumper crop of world-renowned thinkers, writers and Jake Bugg who are going to descend on the border town next month.

There are hundreds of talks at Hay Festival this year. Most of them will leave you intellectually nourished, morally curious and contemplating if it’s too warm to be wearing a cardigan. Our advice is go see the people you like, go see the people you don’t like - but absolutely try and pick out two or three people who you’ve never heard of, talking about something interesting enough that it raises your eyebrows as you read its title in the programme.

You will never regret it, and it will likely be one of the more compelling hours in your year. Hay Festival remains a by-word for free thought, at a time when - God knows - we need some of it.

That said, if you just want a bit of a giggle there’s also some great stand-ups in town and some intimate music sessions from the likes of Laura Mvula.

This is our hand-picked list of events that jumped off the programme (apologies in advance, Dara O’Brien) - for the full listings head to the Festival website here.


Brexit/Trump/What-The-Hell-Is-Going-On-In-The-World-Right-Now - AKA POLITICS

There’s plenty of big-hitting current and former politicians in town – some on the mid-term campaign trail (Michael Gove), others trying to push a few autobiographies (Gordy Brown)– but often the more interesting angles on politics come from anyone other than the politicians. Here’s a few of them:


Michael Wolff - Fire and Fury

Sunday, May 27 - 5.30pm

Michael Wolff is the reason we know Donald Trump is in bed by 6.30pm, eating cheeseburgers.

If his own reputation as an ink-stained newshound has been brought in to question since his book's publication, the salacious tell-all from inside the Trump White House remains among the most entertaining, defining and damaging political documents in recent memory.

More here.

 Luke Harding talks to Nik Gowing

Saturday, May 26 - 10am

Luke Harding was once the Guardian’s Snowden Guy – and gave a great Hay talk a few years back about meeting the whistleblower in Hong Kong and stashing his phone in a cocktail shaker. He’s now at the heart of another era-defining Great American Scandal having met with ex-MI6 agent, and ‘pee tape’ dossier author Christopher Steele and has written the book on the Russian links that could bring Trump down.

More here.


James O’Brien (the Christopher Hitchens Lecture)

Saturday, May 26 - 11.30am

One of the few broadcasters that can make hour-long podcasts about Alistair Campbell’s alcoholism and five-minute phone-ins with racist cabbies equally gripping listening. A talker worthy of the Christopher Hitchens Lecture slot, O’Brien is the rare whip-smart interviewer and general moral compass who is every bit as interesting as his subjects.

More here.


The Real McMafia – panel

Saturday, May 26 - 8.30pm

The author of McMafia – of recent BBC fame – Misha Glenny is joined by Buzzfeed’s investigations correspondent Jane Bradley, The Guardian’s foreign correspondent Luke Harding and chair Oliver Bullough to look at the shadowy yet very real realities of international money trails, shady power brokers and politicians and Russian organised crime raised in the primetime drama. File under ‘Truth: stranger than fiction’.

More here.

Jon Sopel – Notes from Trump’s America

Saturday, June 2 - 7pm

Jon Sopel’s had a busy year. The BBC’s North America editor has had front row seats for one of the most destabilising and enthralling political moments in Western history. Trump even called him a ‘beauty’, although to be fair he didn’t sound like he meant it.

Nevertheless Sopel is one of the best-placed people in the world to answer the question of what the hell is going on over the pond.

More here.


Donna Brazile talks to Helen Kennedy

Saturday, June 2 - 8.30pm

Any US political nerds will know that Donna Brazile featured heavily in some of those same reports Jon Sopel has been diligently filing over the last 12 months.

She headed the Democratic party during the 2016 election but is a polarising figure. An eloquent and provocative critic of the current ruling party, she is a popular interviewee on US TV – although she was also the woman who slipped questions to Hilary Clinton before her debate with Bernie Sanders, and is accused of selling out the Democratic party in her revelatory scoop on the email hacking scandal that ‘put Donald Trump in the White House’, released just days before a series of crucial elections last November.

More here.

Moscow and London – panel

Sunday, June 3 - 11.30am

While still a good way from a Cold War, there is undoubtedly a good deal of frost between the two great power centres at the moment. But these latest events come after a long period of Mayfair oligarchs and Chelsea mansions bought up with duffle bags of rubles.

This panel looks at the relationship between London and Moscow, and features ‘How I Became Putin’s No.1 Enemy’-author Bill Browder, Russia expert and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum and the woman who introduced the ban on Magnitsky visas, Helena Kennedy.

More here.



Because too much thinking will make your head hurt.


Jake Bugg solo acoustic

Thursday, May 24 - 8.30pm

You’ve probably spilled cider over someone dancing to Lightning Bolt – and it is a great tune – but Nottingham’s own troubadour has turned the volume down on his latest, mostly acoustic album with the help of Black Key’s Dan Auerbach. Which makes a little solo acoustic set just perfect to kick off the Festival with.

More here.

Laura Mvula


Saturday, May 26 - 9.45pm

The Birmingham girl who puts out tracks with Nile Rogers has two Mercury Prize-nominated albums, the stones to cover Lauryn Hill’s Ready or Not hook, and the kind of unique vocal to pull it off.

One minute, soaring orchestral R&B, the next, world-y electro pop, you’re going to want to (we really want to) see how she strips back her catalogue for the intimate stage at Hay.

More here.

Silent Disco with Gemma Cairney/Amy Lame

Saturday, May 26 - 9pm and Saturday, June 2 at 9pm

If you don’t know what silent discos are by now, have a little Google. But the ‘quirky’ nights out that gave birth to a thousand misplaced Student Union romances in the early-2000s have been given a second life – as a way of getting around rural councils’ noise regulations for late night events.

Gemma Cairney (BBC Radio 1), and Amy Lame (London’s nightlife zsar and BBC Radio 6 Music DJ) take to the decks/plug in their aux with the stated purpose of moving yo’ feet. 

More here. And here.



You used to have to study for years, read libraries full of books and travel the world to talk with authority on such complicated topics as the future of Artificial Intelligence, the intricacies of global economic reform and the changing role of religion within Western society. Now, you can just watch a 15-minute TED talk and blag your way through any dinner party/argument down the pub.

The best ones are insightful, inspirational and open a window on a niche area of technology, entertainment or design that shifts just slightly how you approach other subjects you may more commonly encounter in your day-to-day life. All these talks are guaranteed to hit at least two of those boxes.

Mariana Mazzucato – The value of everything

Monday, May 28 - 1pm

An actual TED-talker, the UCL economics professor looks at wealth and society and what needs to happen if we are to fix capitalism.

More here.

Alice Rawsthorn – Design as an attitude

Tuesday, May 29 - 10am

The D in TED stands for design. And few people talk about the subject as well as Alice Rawsthorn. She looks at how a new generation of designers, armed with new tech, can help solve some of the fast-evolving problems we face.

More here.


Mr Bingo – Alternative ways to make a living

Tuesday, May 29 - 7pm

One of which is, presumably, the graphic designer’s own sideline of sending personalised postcards to paying customers which feature insulting designs like ‘Your online dating profile picture is dishonest’ or ‘ Dear David, you are s**t with boats.’

Mr Bingo is very funny. But do not attend if you are easily offended. 

More here.

David Graeber – Bullshit jobs

Wednesday, May 30 - 11.30am

The London School of Economics anthropologist asks why three-quarters of people across the developed world work in the kind of service or admin jobs that, to quote the Festival blurb, ‘don’t seem to add anything to society’. Bullshit jobs, in other words.

The robots are coming and it’s time to start thinking about why we work, and what we value in the working world.

More here.



Richard Dawkins – Science in the soul

Friday, June 1 - 7pm

It’s Richard Dawkins, Dawkins-ing. Go learn something.

More here.

Geoff Mulgan & Anthony Seldon - Artificial Intelligence and our future

Sunday, June 3 - 2.30pm

Two very smart men talking about how those robots probably won’t take over the world, and how we should probably work with them to solve some pretty big problems.

More here.

Why bother speaking foreign languages, everyone speaks English - panel

Friday, May 25 - 2.30pm

This panel looks at the greater social impact of your uncle ordering his Benidorm fish’n’chips by defiantly speaking slowly and loudly in English. It’s a interesting angle on Brexit, and Britain’s relationship with the wider world.

More here.


David Adam - Smart pills, brain hacks and adventures in intelligence

Saturday, May 26 - 11.30am

Nature magazine editor David Adam looks at the kind of advancements in neuroscience that could make us all smarter, including ‘smart drugs’ like in that Bradley Cooper film a few years' ago.

Adam himself cheated his was in to Mensa by using certain techniques to boost his own IQ, and he talks about some of the more and less successful experiments that have tried to do the same.

More here.



Akala gets his own section because he’s Akala.


Akala - Race and class in the ruins of the Empire

Saturday, May 26 - 7pm

Hay is about to get woke.

More here.

Poetry slam feat Akala

Sunday, May 27 - 8.30pm

Slam poetry is physical proof that there is more to the modern tradition of spoken word than this recent, horrific trend of rhyming TV adverts – or even worse, Kate Tempest. Hay has lined up some of the world’s best proponents, including poet and rapper Akala, to come and drop some lines on stage at this year’s festival.

More here.



From #MeToo to #TimesUp, in the 12 months since the last Festival the predominant cultural narrative has been one of gender equality, and in many cases revealing the distinct lack of it. As you would expect, this year’s programming features a number of feminist voices that reflect this crashing wave.


Rose McGowan

Saturday, June 2 - 1pm

The actress and activist, who was one of the first to ring the bell on Harvey Weinstein – while also being a vocal critic of the Time’s Up campaign at this year’s Golden Globes, talks to Bitch Doctrine author Laurie Penny.

More here.

Laura Bates

Saturday, May 26 - 1pm.

With her Everyday Sexism Project now six years old, Laura Bates has been among those voices pushing issues like banter/consent, workplace harassment and the pay gap to the top of the agenda for years now. She brings some context to the last twelve months, from Weinstein to the President’s Club.

More here.



Deborah Frances-White – The guilty feminist

Saturday, June 2 - 8.30pm.

Deborah Frances-White has racked up 22 million listens podcasting about what it means to be a 21st Century woman. But in a funny way.

More here.


Robert Webb – How not to be a boy

Friday, May 25 - 7pm

Flipping things a little, David Mitchell’s best bud published How Not To Be A Boy last year. Described as “part political manifesto on masculinity” Webb is an open and honest voice on the subject of gender conditioning in men.

More here.

Lucy Delap – Men and feminism

Monday, May 28 - 11.30am

A lecturer at Cambridge in Modern British History, Lucy Delap looks at the last time women tried to get men to listen, what happened then, and how men can respond now to the current crescendo of feminist anger.

More here.

The LSE Lecture - Women, peace and security

Saturday, June 2 - 4pm

How is the UN going to bring in womens’ experiences in to how it deals with conflicts and their aftermath around the world? Professor Christine Chinkin gives her take to Prospect magazine’s Stephanie Boland.  

More here.



Hay Festival’s raison d’etre, as some famous French writer probably once wrote. As always, there are some big name novelists in town, and this year there's big panel discussion to decide who’s the best ever.

International Man Booker Prize winner

Saturday, May 26 - 10am

Timing of the Man Booker Prize – the winner’s announced two days before Hay Festival – makes the week’s prestige interview all the more dramatic. Unless you’re a very specific literary groupie, you’re best buying a ticket now and settling in for whoever scoops the prize (past winners Han Kang and Laszlo Krasznahorkai are the favourites on the 12-book longlist).

More here.


Roddy Doyle

Saturday, May 26 - 5.30pm

Novelists are great with words, but not all them are that good when it comes to speaking them. Dublin author Roddy Doyle is. The former Booker Prize winner (Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha) and creator of the legendary Joey The Lips Fagin is back in town with his new book Smile, although you don’t need a reason to go listen to this guy riff for an hour.

More here.

Best Ever Man Booker?

Sunday, May 27 - 10am

This year’s actually the 50th anniversary of fiction’s biggest prize, and so Hay have assembled an expert panel to pick the best Booker winner in the world, ever.

More here.

Simon Armitage – We need to talk about Bob Dylan

Sunday, May 27 - 5.30pm

One of the country’s top poets takes on the contentious Nobel Prize for Literature award – and subject of many a hazy common room argument around Oxford – to Bob Dylan for his lyrics.

The guy has got an Ivor Novello for his own lyrics in Feltham Sings, he’s a Hay Festival favourite, and he’s a Terriers fan so you know he’s got a sense of humour.

More here.

Salman Rushdie

Tues, May 29 - 4pm

The Curb Your Enthusiasm co-star - and living literary legend - has always had a talent for recognising human absurdity. And there’s enough of that going around at the moment to make this a very interesting hour.

More here.


Margaret Attwood – the Handmaid’s Tale

Monday, May 28 - 4pm

The Handmaid’s Tale, was one of the outstanding TV shows of the last year and big amongst anyone who’s a fan of dystopian dread. The original novel was penned by Margaret Attwood in 1985, which featured much the same sense of dread and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. The Canadian author is in town to talk about her masterpiece with Festivala director Peter Florence, just in time for the new series which debuts on April 25 in the US.

More here.



Most nights at Hay sign off with a stand-up show. If you’ve ever witnessed the raucous, beer-swilling, no-holds-barred debauchery of a late-night comedy club, well, this isn’t that. But there are going to be some great stand-ups at the Festival this year enjoying an appropriate amount of polite applause.


David Baddiel – My Family: not the sitcom

Sunday, May 27 - 9pm

The veteran comedian gets about as personal as you can in his latest, lauded show. He talks about his Dad’s dementia, but there’s also golf and gay cats.

More here.

All-star Improv/The Early Edition

Various times, see links below.

Tuesday night’s got free cake and (not free) comedy in the form of an unscripted sesh with The Mash Report’s Rachel Parris, Marcus Brigstocke, and improv specialists Pippa Evans and Paul Foxcroft. Also, throughout the week Mr Brigstocke and Ms Parris will also be kicking off the day by satirising the tabloids and viral media stories in a series of 10am events. If you’re not too hungover.

More here. And here.

James Acaster stands up at Hay

Thursday, May 31 - 8.30pm

The funnyman from Kettering has just gone Big Time with four Netflix specials - but he’s still partial to a mustard jumper. Our pick of the comedy this year.

More here.

Bridget Christie – What now?

Saturday, June 2  -9.45pm

Stewart Lee’s Alternative Comedy Experience is arguably the Hay Festival of comedy experiences, and Bridget Christie did a 10-minute set on there dressed as an ant. Also she’s from just down the road in Gloucester.

More here.



Not a lot on the bill this year, but there one helluva double-header for cricket fans out there.  


Henry Blofeld talks to Simon Hughes, followed by Mike Brearley (seperate tickets)

Thursday, May 31 - 7pm, and 8.45pm

Test Match Special legend - and not the son of a Bond villain – Henry Blofeld finally picked up the bails this year. He shares some pearls of a lifetime sitting alongside the game’s best and brightest, and then - after a quick tea break -  Simon Jones has a chat with ex-England skipper and later psycoanalyst Mike Brearley.

More here. And here.

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