University experts line up for Hay Festival

21 May 2018

Hay Festival
Image credit Elisabeth Broekaert

The value of learning languages in Brexit Britain comes under the spotlight as part of Cardiff University’s Cardiff Series at this year’s Hay Festival.

Professor Claire Gorrara chairs a panel discussion which will consider whether speaking only English could hinder Britain’s attempts to forge a brave new world of trade and commerce.

Cardiff Series talks also include the rise of “angry populism” in the Trump era, learning lessons from recent terror attacks on the UK, understanding the genetic disorder Huntington’s disease, and exploring the power of lightning.

Cardiff University experts are involved in other Hay debates and talks, from Welsh women in public life, to the power of the Welsh diaspora, to the launch of a new bilingual collection of poetry.

This year’s Hay literary festival runs from 24 May to 3 June 2018 in the Powys town of Hay-on-Wye.

Professor Gorrara, from the University’s School of Modern Languages, says that many politicians and commentators believe speaking only English is enough for Britain in the post-Brexit world of trade and commerce.

“Evidence points to the cognitive, cultural and economic power of language learning in Britain. Britain is always and already multilingual – why can’t we see and recognise this?” she said.

The panel will consider questions such as: What are the cultural and political benefits of language learning for Britain’s ‘soft power’? How could a greater focus on language learning support Brexit Britain’s economic aspirations?”

Why Bother Studying Modern Languages – Everyone Speaks English is on Friday, 25 May at 14:30.

Professor Martin Innes, from the University’s Crime and Security Research Institute, has been studying reactions to terrorist attacks, particularly in light of the four major attacks on UK soil in 2017.

He will consider what can be learnt about ourselves, society and the perpetrators in a talk entitled Terrorism as a Teachable Moment on Wednesday 30 May at 14:30.

The rise of Donald Trump can be seen as part of a broader trend in “angry populism” which has seen UK voters back Brexit and the success of right wing populist parties across Europe.

Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Director of Research Development and Environment at the School of Journalism, Media and Culture, will examine this shift in how we talk about, and are governed by, emotions.

"Trump challenges conventional understandings of the presidency as an institution characterised by reason and experience,” she said.

“Instead, he has ushered in an era of angry populism, where political life is now increasingly interpreted through the lens of the anger of Trump, as well as his supporters and his opponents.

“This highlights the shift towards a negative emotional politics which has significant consequences for the tone of public debate."

The Emotional Politics of Donald Trump and the Rise of Angry Populism takes place on Friday 1 June at 17:30.

Dr Emma Yhnell, from the School of Medicine, will talk about her research into brain training for people with the rare genetic disorder Huntington’s disease.

Dr Yhnell said it was vital to raise awareness and understanding of the “devastating” neurodegenerative disease.

Her talk Huntington’s Disease takes place on Thursday 31 May at 10:00.

Dr Daniel Mitchard’s talk on lightning promises excitement with live demonstrations and images of exploding piggy banks to look forward to.

Dr Mitchard will give a brief tour of lightning research from generating powerful lightning bolts in Europe’s only university-based lightning laboratory to the role of new materials in protecting commercial aircraft from direct strikes.

Me and my Lightning Machine takes place on Tuesday 29 May at 19:00.

Hay Festival
Image courtesy of Matthew Keenan

Cardiff University experts are also contributing to other events at Hay, including Professor Laura McAllister, from the School of Law and Politics, who takes part in an Institute of Welsh Affairs debate, Wales Women and Public Life, taking place on Thursday 29 May at 17:30.

Dr Rachel Minto, from the University’s Wales Governance Centre, will join panellists to discuss the untapped potential of the Welsh diaspora, particularly in the context of Brexit (Thursday 31 May at 16:00), and Professor Damian Walford Davies, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, chairs the launch of a new bilingual collection of poetry by National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn (Wednesday 30 May at 19:00).