From Shakespeare to Seventeenth Century cider: Birmingham comes to Hay

Why do theatregoers enjoy watching people die? How did cider knock French wine and the Dutch navy into a cocked hat in the 17th Century?

Academics from the University of Birmingham will provide an answer to these intriguing questions (among much else) at a series of lectures at the 25th Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts. This is the first time the University has worked with the world renowned literary festival to present a series of lectures.

Top academics from University of Birmingham’s College of Arts and Law will lead talks highlighting some of the most interesting and topical research areas in the humanities.   

The Hay Festival runs from 31 May to 10 June 2012, with a packed programme of debates and conversations with poets and scientists, novelists and historians, artists and gardeners, comedians and musicians, film makers and politicians.

 Professor Wendy Scase, Head of the English Department, will examine the origins and purpose of the Vernon Manuscript, a unique treasury of literature written in the dialect of the West Midlands over 600 years ago, and its effect on the story of English.

 Modern audiences’ continuing enjoyment of Shakespearean tragedies will be discussed by Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, in a talk chaired by The Culture Show’s Clemency Burton-Hill and focusing on Richard II, Othello and King Lear.

 Dr Gideon Nisbet, Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, will explore the conditions that made homosexuality an easy norm in Ancient Greece, and the art, stories and poetry this led to, alongside the Guardian’s chief art writer Charlotte Higgins and Professor James Davidson from the University of Warwick.

 It will be revealed by Claire Preston, Professor of Early-Modern Literature, how apples were the national fruit in 17th Century England and Herefordshire cider was the patriotic tipple, believed to be able to nourish the nation, establish the Empire, and win wars.

 Dr Niall Livingstone, Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, will look at what the surviving Greek tragedies and comedies tell us about the Classical world, joined once again by the Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins, as well as Dr Fiona Macintosh and Professor Oliver Taplin from the University of Oxford.

Professor Michael Whitby, Head of the University’s College of Arts and Law comments: “We’re delighted to be able to showcase some of our most interesting research at one of the UK’s premier cultural festivals.

The programme of lectures covers a wide range of topics that we hope people will find both interesting and thought provoking. Culture and literature not only enrich people’s lives, they also have tremendous relevance to modern day society.”

Professor Michael Dobson Director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham adds:

"As the choice of a World Shakespeare Festival as the core of Britain's Cultural Olympiad in 2012 demonstrates once more, literature and drama are recognized as this country's greatest gifts to world culture. With Stratford on its doorstep, the University of Birmingham has always been prominently involved in public engagement with Shakespeare in particular, and we are delighted to be sharing that engagement at the country's pre-eminent literary festival".

For more details, a full programme of events and to book tickets visit:

For further information

Ben Hill, PR Manager, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 5134, or 07789 921163