A landscape-oriented image that combined a black and white photo of author Helen Macdonald and colour photo of author Sam Lee.

This is an online event hosted by Unique Media. Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

Whether in the city or country, birds surround us: sound-tracking our lives, visiting our gardens and brightening the skies. Yet their habitats are increasingly threatened and their complex lives often overlooked. These authors share a fascination with birds and have spent hours in their company, studying their weird and wonderful ways, musing on the melodic beauty of their songs or reflecting on their place in human memory, love and loss.

Helen Macdonald, bestselling author of H Is for Hawk, discusses her new collection of essays, Vesper Flights, with passionate conservationist, renowned musician and folk expert Sam Lee, whose debut book The Nightingale pays homage to the songbird that has inspired artists, poets and musicians for centuries.

Featuring a special recording by Bill Bailey. Bill delighted bird watchers with his Remarkable Guide to British Birds, is known for his love of animals and for the small menagerie he has built in his West London home.

Chaired by journalist and nature enthusiast Kitty Corrigan.

This event is presented in partnership with British Library and is part of their springtime season on environment: The Natural Word.

Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, naturalist and Affiliated Research Scholar at the University of Cambridge, Department of History and Philosophy of Science. Her book H Is for Hawk won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize and Costa Book Award. Her collection of essays Vesper Flights was voted a book of the year in the GuardianFinancial Times and Daily Telegraph as well as being a Sunday Times bestseller and Radio 4 Book of the Week.

Sam Lee is a folk singer, conservationist, broadcaster and activist. His first album, Ground of Its Own, was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize in 2012. As a song collector he is dedicated to gathering, sharing and interpreting ancient oral music from Britain and Ireland. Sam’s singing has been heard in films and TV shows from Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword to Peaky Blinders. His first book, The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird, is published by Penguin.

Bill Bailey is perhaps best known for his stand-up comedy shows such as QualmpeddlerLimboland, and Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra, but he’s also entertained on television in programmes including Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the Channel 4 sitcom Black Books and QI. He is also a passionate musician, author and director and supports a number of charities. In 2020 over 11 million people watched as Bill was crowned the winner of Strictly Come Dancing.

Kitty Corrigan is a freelance journalist living in the Welsh Borders. Before moving to Hay-on-Wye from London she was Deputy Editor of Country Living Magazine for 16 years. She works for a variety of magazines and as a writer/editor for Hay Festival, with a special interest in rural and environmental issues.

Buy Helen Macdonald and Sam Lee’s books and get your event ticket for free (offer valid for UK postal addresses only)

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  • Vesper Flights




    Animals don't exist to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.

    From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes Vesper Flights, a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world.

    Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best-loved writing along with new pieces covering a thrilling range of subjects. There are essays here on headaches, on catching swans, on hunting mushrooms, on twentieth-century spies, on numinous experiences and high-rise buildings; on nests and wild pigs and the tribulations of farming ostriches.

    Vesper Flights is a book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make the world around us. Moving and frank, personal and political, it confirms Helen Macdonald as one of this century's greatest nature writers.

    'Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world... A powerful - and entertaining - corrective to the idea that the only hopes that matter on this planet are those of our own species' Observer

  • Buy the book
  • The Nightingale

  • 'Wondering and wonderful. The nature book of the year.' JOHN LEWIS-STEMPEL

    'This lovely book is almost as thrilling as the bird's immortal song - balm for a troubled soul and a glimpse of paradise.' JOANNA LUMLEY
    Come to the forest, sit by the fireside and listen to intoxicating song, as Sam Lee tells the story of the nightingale.

    Every year, as darkness falls upon woodlands, the nightingale heralds the arrival of Spring. Throughout history, its sweet song has inspired musicians, writers and artists around the world, from Germany, France and Italy to Greece, Ukraine and Korea.

    Here, passionate conservationist, renowned musician and folk expert Sam Lee tells the story of the nightingale. This book reveals in beautiful detail the bird's song, habitat, characteristics and migration patterns, as well as the environmental issues that threaten its livelihood.

    From Greek mythology to John Keats, to Persian poetry and 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square', Lee delves into the various ways we have celebrated the nightingale through traditions, folklore, music, literature, from ancient history to the present day. The Nightingale is a unique and lyrical portrait of a famed yet elusive songbird.
    'Sam Lee has brought the poetic magic that has long enchanted so many of his musical fans into the written word. Allow yourself to glimpse the world Sam sees, to be part of his love affair with the nightingale, and you will no doubt be delighted.' LILY COLE

    'A wonderful book.' STEPHEN MOSS

    'A magical marriage of the lyrical and practical: a book that makes us want to seek out the nightingale and then reveals how we can.' TRISTAN GOOLEY

  • Buy the book

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