The thirty-second Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts will take place from Thursday 23 May to Sunday 2 June 2019.

The Festival brings together life-changing writers, fabulous stars of stage and screen, pioneers of science and technology, and future world leaders, for a party of ideas and stories.

The University of Birmingham’s College of Arts and Law will be hosting a series of five talks, showcasing some of our top academics and the breadth of arts and humanities subjects studied by our students. 

Tuesday 28 May, 10am - The Art of Political Rhetoric: Antiquity and Today

  • Dr Henriette van der BlomDr Henriette van der Blom, Senior Lecturer in Ancient History 

Focusing on republican politics in ancient Rome, the speeches of Cicero, and parallels between ancient and modern political speech, Henriette van der Blom explores what the study of ancient rhetoric contributes to current debates about political communication. 

Dr Van der Blom is Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, the founding director of the Network for Oratory and Politics, and the leader of a research project into the crisis of speech in modern British politics.


Wednesday 29 May, 11.30am - Storytelling about ‘Other’ Cultures

  • Ruth GilliganDr Ruth Gilligan, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing

Dr Gilligan is a bestselling author and who has published four novels to date, including most recently Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan (2016) which was inspired by the little-known history of the Irish-Jewish community.

In today’s multicultural world, fostering an understanding of cultures different to our own has become increasingly important. One powerful way to achieve this is by using storytelling to break down barriers and develop ‘radical empathy’.

Gilligan is a bestselling author and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. She is also an ambassador for the global not-for-profit Narrative 4, an organisation founded by a group of writers and activists who believe in the power of storytelling to break down barriers and foster ‘radical empathy’. 


Thursday 30 May, 4pm - Climate Change and Wetland Archaeology

  • Photograph of Dr Henry ChapmanProfessor Henry Chapman, Professor of Archaeology

Professor Chapman’s research interests centre on the later prehistoric period, and particularly the relationships between human activity and environmental change within past landscapes and focusing on wetland sites. He specialises in the use of digital technologies to enable the modelling and analysis of the wide range of information required for such study to engage with past sites and landscapes.

His current research is focussed on transforming the management of wetland, peatland and waterlogged sites by changing the practice of relevant organisations, including Historic England, and a wide range of archaeological providers and interested stakeholders. 

Henry has extensive experience in the media having worked on Channel 4's Time Team. He has experience in broadcast and print media, communicating his work on digital heritage, the North Sea mapping project and most recently the extensive new survey of the Stonehenge landscape. Henry has also appeared on a range of archaeology programmes as a presenter and expert contributor for Discovery, BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, and National Geographic.  


Thursday 30 May, 1pm - Heroes, heroines and gender inequality in children’s fiction 

  • Michaela Mahlberg and Anna CermakovaProfessor Michaela Mahlberg, Chair in Corpus Linguistics, Director, Centre for Corpus Research
  • Dr Anna Cermakova, Department of English Language and Linguistics

Fiction provides children with an important space to learn how to make sense of the world. It is also a crucial source for role models. Fictional worlds are not so unlike the real world - especially when it comes to gender inequalities. Based on their work with large collections of texts, Professor Mahlberg and Dr Cermakova from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Corpus Research will explore fiction from Dickens to modern children’s books to demonstrate how repeated language patterns reflect a gendered view of society.  


Saturday 1 June, 5.30pm - Nineteenth-Century Emigration in British Literature and Art

  • Dr Fariha Shaikh, Lecturer in Victorian Literature, University of BirminghamDr Fariha Shaikh, Lecturer in Victorian Literature

Dr Shaikh’s research focusses on the relationships in the nineteenth century between genre, form and globalisation. In particular, she is interested in the mobility and materiality of literature in the context of nineteenth-century settler colonialism. Dr Shaikh’s book, Nineteenth-Century Settler Emigration in British Literature and Art explores the relationships between text and mobility in the context of nineteenth-century settler emigration. 

She is in the early stages of a new project on literature and the nineteenth-century opium wars.