‘One of the things I’ve loved most about Hay this year is the reminder that, however bleak or uncertain things may look in the world outside, there are still enough of us who believe that change is possible.’ – SJ Parris

‘One of the things I’ve loved most about Hay this year is the reminder that, however bleak or uncertain things may look in the world outside, there are still enough of us who believe that change is possible.’ – SJ Parris

I first came to Hay with my first novel back in 2002 just after my son was born, and I had such a great time I insisted on being allowed back to chair some events the following year, and I’ve pretty much refused to leave ever since. Now my son is a Hay devotee himself, so it always feels like coming home.

It’s a particular joy for me to be able to come here and talk about my series of historical thrillers featuring the real-life philosopher, heretic and spy Giordano Bruno. Bruno spent most of his adult life (until his death in 1600) on the run, defying the edicts of the Catholic Church who tried to tell him what he was allowed to read or write. His defining characteristic for me has always been his intellectual courage and the determination to write his books and spread his ideas questioning the Church’s accepted view of the universe. With every talk I give at Hay, every speaker I listen to and every author I interview, I’m reminded of how incredibly lucky we are to have the freedom to gather in such a beautiful place, and laugh together as we debate and disagree and exchange ideas. It’s also a reminder – as many Hay events make clear – that plenty of writers around the world don’t enjoy those freedoms; like Bruno, writers, journalists, scientists and thinkers so often have to consider what price they are willing to pay for their right to question aloud – exile, imprisonment or even death.

One of the things I’ve loved most about Hay this year is the reminder that, however bleak or uncertain things may look in the world outside, there are still enough of us who believe that change is possible. I’ve been moved and inspired by Billy Bragg and Caitlin Moran urging us to remain optimistic and keep believing in the power of words and collective action. I think Bruno would have approved.

 

Photo by Chris Athanasiou