25th May 2024: HXR support “People Power for Climate Justice” discussion at Hay Book Festival

Posted by: Hils - Posted on:

Two doctors from Health for XR carried banners onto the stage at an event at the Hay Book Festival on Saturday 25th May, during the discussion event “People Power for Climate Justice” between Dr Lynne Jones, Psychiatrist and Aid worker, and Farhana Yamin, Lawyer and climate activist, and a key architect of the Paris agreement. 

The Hay Festival had announced the previous day that it was dropping its key sponsor, Baillie Gifford, an investment company that invests billions in fossil fuel companies This was in response to author boycotts and threats to boycott the festival because of these investments. The action was carried out in order to raise awareness of the fact that although Hay had dropped them as a sponsor, Baillie Gifford’s investments continue. 

Dr Jones said: “The action my colleagues took was deliberately planned as a peaceful, non disruptive act of communication. It was directed at Baillie Gifford investments in fossil fuels which, even if they are only a small percentage of their portfolio, still contributes billions to the destruction of the environment and displacement. The action was not directed at the  Hay festival, which provides a welcoming space for discussion of these issues.The action was greeted warmly by the audience.”

Click here for video of Lynne speaking

Dr Chris Newman said:  “There is an ongoing need for symbolic protest to keep climate change in the forefront of our minds. The significant tail risks of climate change remain uncomfortably high, and first impact those least to blame. Baillie Gifford is certainly not the worst offender, and the outcome of the protests is not what I would’ve wanted, but hopefully it will spark a debate about the funding of cultural institutions.”

Dr Kathy Fallon, retired GP, said  “As a doctor, I am very concerned about the health impacts of escalating climate chaos – for example, nearly 3000 excess deaths occurred in the UK  from heat related causes during the unprecedented 40 degree heatwave of Summer 2022. This is only going to get worse. Conversely, everything we need to do to reduce the risks from the climate emergency is actually good for health. The situation with regard to sponsorship of arts events is not straightforward, but we must challenge the status quo.”

Farhana Yasmin’s essay is in The Revolution Will Not be Litigated People Power and Legal Power in the 21st Century eds K Redford and M. Gevisser, ORBooks 2024 

Lynne Jones was discussing Sorry for The Inconvenience but this is an Emergency: the Nonviolent Struggle for our Planet’s Future, Hurst 2024


Since the action took place there has been much debate in the media about the appropriateness of targeting book festivals and investors such as Baillie Gifford and we share links to some of the discussion here.

Sustainability by numbers: Burning book festivals is not a climate solution link

The Guardian: Growing sponsorship row leaves UK summer arts festivals in turmoil link

The Guardian: ‘I wouldn’t call it a victory’: Fossil Free Books organisers on Baillie Gifford’s exit from literary festival funding link

Baillie Gifford has since announced it is ending its sponsorship of all literary festivals. However it has yet to divest from fossil fuels.