Hay Festival 2020

Hay Festival is one of my favourite events of the year. I’ve been going for over a decade now, and have only missed it a couple of times during that period. In the past I’ve written about Hay’s digital strategy and how it lags behind TED despite their speakings being of consistently higher quality. Admittedly this has improved in recent years with the launch of the Hay Player, but I am still amazed how few of my friends have heard of it when it comes up in conversation.

You can imagine that when I heard Hay 2020 would be an all digital event (and cutely named Hay-on-Wi-Fi) I was worried about them pulling it off. My concerns were misplaced, and the event turned out to be a complete success. Their chosen software provider Crowdcast did a great job, and despite navigating many different timezones, I only found myself waiting on a few occasions. In fact I would go as far to say that the in-person events are prone to much more disruption.

Should this replace the main event? Absolutely not. Should they consider running these streams in parallel so people from all over the world can attend online? Definitely.

One of the main advantages of providing streams for people to watch is that it allows attendees to watch a lot more stuff. I normally go to Hay over a couple of days, but even then the most you can see is probably six talks. Hay lasts for over two weeks and the quality of the speakers really doesn’t let up so there is always a degree of compromise. This year I went to 13 talks spread out over the entire festival, and while sitting at home is incomparable to being in a beautiful green setting, surrounded by books and far away from work – being able to watch so much more is a fantastic alternative. Speaker Highlights

Seen as I’m writing this post I figured I’d also share some of the highlights from the event.

Rutger Bregman talking about his desire to find ideas that unite people from both the right and left of the political spectrum. Jon Sopel talking about the editorial decision that allowed him to say “fuck” on the BBC News. Peter Lacy on the circular economy and huge amounts of food waste that occurs. Afua Hirsch on Ghanaian newspaper ‘The Ashanti Pioneer’. Samantha Power discussing the realpolitik of the crisis in Syria and why the erosion of trust in diplomacy takes a long time to rebuild. And most interesting of all, Jane Davidson talking about how Wales is creating legislation that will require all legislation to consider its impact on future generations.

I also found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with Elif Shafak’s call for a world of more wisdom and a little less news. And found myself smiling at Carlo Rovelli’s assertion that a stone is:

…not a thing, but a moment in time happening very slowly.

I can’t wait to be back in Wales for Hay 2021, and hope that I can follow along online when I am back at home in London too.

Daniel Bower

Product manager turned student. Currently researching algorithms, platforms, interoperability and kill zones at DDH. Read more about me.