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Hay Festival highlights – including Vince Cable on Money and Power

Until last year, I’d never been to the Hay Festival, much though I’d have loved to go to the beautiful Welsh town. I drove through it when I was in Brecon and Radnorshire for the by-election in 2019 and would love to spend more time there.

Anyway, the pandemic has meant that the annual festival has had to go online and is free to access. Although when I say free, there is a danger that you end up buying many books.

Last year, I registered for so many events and enjoyed them all. This year’s event starts this Wednesday, 26th May, and goes on until 6th June.

The beauty of this is that if you are working from home, you can have the events on in the background – but they are available to listen to for 24 hours afterwards.

I also have a subscription to the Hay Player (only £15 for the year) and many events end up there after the Festival is over.

I’ve spent some time this morning browsing through this year’s events. On 3 June, from 1-1:50 pm,  our Vince Cable will be talking about his book Money and Power: The World leaders who changed economics. From the programme:

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Hay Festival provides food for thought for so many more people

The beautiful Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye is in the constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire. Jane Dodds, the Welsh Lib Dem leader lives there and every year they hold a book festival.

This year the pandemic has inspired them to take the festival online and make it available to people for free. Most things are now fully booked, but I managed to register for about 9 events.

So far I’ve seen one of the pioneers of the feminist movement, Gloria Steinem discuss gender inequality with Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates.

Yesterday evening, the BBC’s Jon Sopel described the surreality of Donald Trump’s White House. Remember when it came out that Donald Trump had had a very sweary response to the appointment fo Robert Mueller? Sopel described the tortuous discussions at the BBC about whether he could use the word. He did in the end, and his story was better for it.

He talked about how for all Trump’s shortcomings, he understands his base and what he needs to do to keep them on board. There are lessons for us all in that, as we see our government adopt the same brazen tactics.

A night out at the Trump hotel i Washington ended up with Sopel and his wife gawping at Trump and his wife Melania, after he became President, who were having dinner in the same restaurant.

This evening, I listened to author Elif Shafak talk about her vision for a new, more egalitarian world after the pandemic. As part of a series of lectures, she talked about the importance of knowledge, wisdom and empathy and the role of storytelling in bringing people together.

We can’t, she said, just go back to normal.

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My highlights of the Hay Festival

Living in mid Wales, we are able to pop along to the Hay Festival, and take in a day of culture, politics and new ways of thinking.

On Saturday June 4th, I did 4 contrasting bite size chunks of life – past and present. The day started with Erwin James, a convicted double murderer, sentenced to life imprisonment 32 years ago, and former Guardian columnist. He started his session by saying that for the first 12 months of his sentence, he was locked up for 23 hours a day, which forced him to think about whether he was made to be a criminal or life had made him that way.  He produced no conclusions, save that he had a good childhood to 7 years old, and after his mother was killed, his life careered down the path of criminality, culminating in his conviction. He has chosen never to speak about his crimes in detail,  respecting the families of the victims, and a constant theme in his talk was that he will never be able to make up for taking the lives of two people.  He has a book out (as do most authors at the festival) called Redeemable, a title chosen because he feels all prisoners are redeemable. He even had a good word to say about Michael Gove, a Justice Minister who has commented on how society needs to value prisoners more and see them as assets to society.

Moving on to the next session and definitely not a good word to say about the Conservatives, nor any government of the past 20 years; Refugee Tales told the stories of refugees in the UK, experiencing multiple dawn raids, a dispassionate asylum system, and shocking treatment of children detained ( and we still do lock up child asylum seekers with their families in a place called Cedars – please don’t think that as Liberal democrats we have stopped this practice as this report explains.) A comment from a Welsh GP in the audience produced many nods when she stated that successive UK governments have aimed to have an asylum system that is as difficult and as incomprehensible as possible to deter people from seeking sanctuary.  The aim of this session was to raise the profile of a campaign to limit the detention period of asylum seekers – currently indefinite – to 28 days – just as it is for any other UK citizen.

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