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Bill’s Hay Festival blog

news editor8 June 2012

Professor Bill McGuire, UCL Earth Sciences

Literary festivals are always fantastic experiences; brimful of excitement, debate, discussion and the simple fun of meeting and interacting with a remarkable diversity of movers, shakers and shapers of society and culture.

The Hay Festival is unquestionably right at the top of the pile and looking down the list of a thousand or so participants, it quickly becomes apparent that it’s not so much a question of who is here but who is not.

An eclectic mix
Where else can you – as I did during my visit – chat with crime writer Ian Rankin in the afternoon, joke with Winnie the Witch children’s author – Korky Paul – over dinner, and have breakfast with 2007 Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger?

Fun as this all was, however, I did have a job to do, and was down to speak at lunchtime about my new book: Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes.

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What Makes Civilization? An Archaeologist’s Reflections on the Hay Festival

David Wengrow7 June 2011

I am just back from the Hay Festival, where I presented my new book What Makes Civilization: The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West (OUP, 2010) to a friendly and inquisitive audience. The book title had been suggested to me in a pub conversation by my colleague at UCL Anthropology, Danny Miller, who by coincidence was talking at the offshoot festival of music and philosophy down the road.

I have never spoken at anything like the Hay Festival before, but I had visited as a spectator, and remembered the buzz. So when the invitation to speak arrived I was delighted, and nervous. It is not your ordinary academic line up. On arrival I was ushered to the Green Room, where the likes of Simon Schama, Bob Geldof, Melvyn Bragg, and Rosie Boycott glide in and out. My own presentation was to take place at 8:30pm on Saturday evening, and clashed with a dramatisation of interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay starring Vanessa Redgrave and Ralph Fiennes (the latter, I suspect, being the prime motivation for my wife, Rinat, and her friend Kate tagging along).

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