From Chernobyl and cholera to reworking Shakespeare, Birmingham scholars take to the stage at Hay

How are victims of Haiti’s cholera outbreak being supported six years on? What can a new generation of nuclear reactors learn from Chernobyl and Fukushima? And how can one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays become an even darker work of fiction?   

Some of the top scholars from the University of Birmingham’s College of Arts and Law will take to the stage to lead talks and debates showcasing their areas of research, at this year’s Hay Festival.

Dr Rosa Freedman and Dr Nicolas Lemay-Herbert present their research on the aftermath of the cholera outbreak in Haiti, which was bought into the country via Nepalese peace keepers in 2010. More than 800,000 people were infected resulting in 9,000 deaths; so far the UN has relied on legal immunity to avoid being taken to court over the issue.

Leading Shakespeare scholar Professor Ewan Fernie and Simon Palfrey are to present their gripping new novel , an unprecedented collaboration between two leading Shakespeareans, Macbeth, Macbeth which sparks a whole new world from the embers of Shakespeare’s darkest play.

Professor Fernie from the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham said:

 ‘It’s a real thrill to be speaking at Hay in 2016, four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, especially since Simon Palfrey and I will be reading from our pioneering new book Macbeth, Macbeth, which attempts to bring him back to life again.  Our story starts the day after the play has finished and then turns into Macbeth again. 

 ‘In case that doesn’t sound intense or ambitious enough, we’ve also attempted to cross Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy with Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. We’re pretty sure that it is one of the more unusual Shakespeare offerings in 2016 and we look forward to presenting it to our audience.’

Dr Frank Uekotter will discuss Britain and its hope for nuclear revival and examine the cases of Chernobyl and Fukishima, looking at what we need to learn from those disasters. He will explore the long path to a new generation of reactors.

Dr Scott Wisor will reflect on the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals and explore the myths and facts about global poverty, while looking at why the reduction in global poverty is due to growth in China.

Professor Russell Jackson will give a talk about speaking Shakespeare in the English speaking cinema; while Professor John Holmes, Professor Michaela Mahlberg and Dr Will Tattersdill will lead a talk examining how Victorian literature is read and consumed. They will look at the differences in how we read some of the classics, in their original form, such as magazines, or via modern day electronic devices.


For interview requests or for more information please contact Rebecca Hume, Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on 0121 414 9041 or email

For out of hours media enquiries, please call: +44 (0) 7789 921 165

Notes to editors

The 29th Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts takes place from Thursday 26th May to Sunday 5th June.

The Hay Festival brings together writers from around the world to debate and share stories, celebrate great writing from poets and scientists, lyricists and comedians, novelists and environmentalists, and the power of great ideas to transform our way of thinking.

The College of Arts and Law has over 5,000 students from the UK and across the world. It is a vibrant, international community with excellent facilities, a supportive learning environment, internationally recognised teaching and research, and exciting initiatives in new fields of study.

The College is home to world-renowned research centres, including the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage.

Full details of the University of Birmingham’s Hay Festival speaker programme are available at: