Guest blog for Medsin UK – Global Health at Hay Festival 2017

Hay Festival’s 30th anniversary this year saw the greatest diversification of events ever with 800 debates, lectures and conversations over ten days. Hay Festival celebrates the arts, science, politics, comedy and music inviting writers and thinkers from around the world to a tented village in the Book Town of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh Borders. With over 250,000 tickets, Hay is the leading festival of ideas in the world.

Previous speakers have included Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, Bill Clinton, Toni Morrison, Stephen Fry and this year Bernie Sanders. The late-night concerts and comedy have included Noah and the Whale, Amy MacDonald, Bill Bailey, KT Tunstall and Dara Ó Brian.

Why is this relevant to Medsin? Every year the festival gives students free tickets to come and hear inspiring talks and brilliant stories from the world’s greatest thinkers. Hay Festival would be pleased to welcome you in 2018. Keep an eye on the website next spring for the full programme at

This year – as aid funding around the world is threatened by the rise of far-right leaders across more developed nations – global health has taken up a more prominent position on the world stage and so too at Hay.

This year’s global health headlines included Devi Sridhar, co-author of Governing Global Health – Who really runs the world? and Professor of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh talking about her book, the new WHO Director-General and what global health could look like.


The book, published this year by Oxford University Press, focuses on the rise of Public-Private partnerships specifically looking at The Global Fund and the GAVI Alliance as NGOs and the World Health Organisation and the World Bank as two governmental organisations. It has been lauded as making governance not just bearable but entertaining!


On a different side of Global Health, Professor Noel Fitzpatrick aka the Super Vet brought his energetic and passionate style of persuasion to Hay to convince people that there is a better way to make medical breakthroughs, reducing the dependence on vivisection whilst making research, more accurate and faster.


Fitzpatrick argues that instead of using virtually identical beagles and mice in labs to test cancer drugs, let them be tested on the dogs that come to his hospital (and others like it around the world). This would allow testing of the drug on dogs that already have the disease (removing the ethical dilemma of giving dogs cancer purposefully) and would test the drug in a more realistic environment that would give better data to discern whether the drug could then be used in humans. This is the idea of One Medicine, a branch of the One Health approach to global health that is spearheaded by vets around the world. Fitzpatrick and co. believe this is the future of drug development, his infectious enthusiasm leaves you hard pressed to find a downside.

David Nott is a surgeon based in Aberystwyth who volunteers in disaster and war zones who this year delivered the Patrick Hannan lecture on BBC Radio 4 at Hay. He spoke about his most recent experience in Aleppo, Syria, PTSD and previous work in Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan. You can listen to his lecture below.

For Hay Festival’s 30th anniversary 30 Reformations on institutions and orthodoxies were commissioned and some of the global health related highlights included Rosie Boycott (Chair of the Mayor of London’s Food Policy Unit) on food, and Tahmima Anam on Borders. You can see their talks, and many more, on the link below.


All Hay Festival talks are available online on the Hay Player and many for free on the BBC website.

I hope you can join me at the Festival 24 May – 3 June 2018



All photos in this article belong to the Hay Festival


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