Letters Live with Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Sandi Toksvig

Photo: Finn Beales

Photo: Finn Beales

My first event and my first ever experience of the Hay Festival and I knew it was going to be amazing. Having followed Letters Live for more than a year and finally receiving a copy of Letters of Note at Christmas; the anticipation was immense. As we stood in the queue to the Tata Tent, Stephen Fry strode boldly by, we gazed in awe. The excitement was at fever pitch and we were not disappointed.

Heartthrob Jude Law read beautifully and my favourite of all the performances was his narrative of Sol Le Witt’s letter to Eva Hesse, where Sol tells Eva “you belong in the most secret part of you…if you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety” and ultimately “Stop it and just DO”. Law’s delivery of the letter was enthralling, he executed the grammar perfectly and with a theatrical edge that brought the content to life.
Fry narrated a timely and moving “Dear Mama”, an honest and touching coming out letter where the subject says that his homosexuality has taught him the “limitless possibilities of living”. Fry begun his narrative by warning listeners that he may cry, as he’s a soppy bugger. This emotional connection was felt throughout the reading and there were many a tear from the audience. Within the letter, the subject says that coming clean about his true soul means that he no longer has “to lie to the people who taught me the value of the truth”.
Sandi Toksvig was another star of the show, bringing the house down with theatrical and hilarious renditions of letters including “The Matchbox”, where Sylvia Townsed Warner describes all the things she likes most about the matchbox her friend has given to her as a gift. The humorous writer uses a brilliant sarcasm and over enthusiasm saying that the best thing about her matchbox was that it was empty.
Letters Live was an emotional journey, at one point tears of sadness and heartbreak and the next of joy and laughter. One cannot help but wonder if today we are more reserved about our feelings, as Charlotte Bronte once wrote with raw truth about her feelings since the passing of her sister Emily.
The show stars the most incredible performers and allows us to appreciate the purest form of the written word. I recommend it to anyone and cannot wait for next year.
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“What do we want? International law” Thomas Buergenthal, Brian Leveson and Richard Goldstone talk to Philippe Sands. 

A respectable panel of Judges chaired by Philippe Sands discussed the relationship between international and domestic law with a specific focus on criminal and human rights law.

Thomas Buergenthal’s personal experiences as “A Lucky Child” surviving Auschtwitz, served as a reminder of the origins of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). He expressed his “sadness and surprise” to learn that UK MPs had suggested repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). He stated that “every country has skeletons in their closet” and only International Law can hold countries to account when atrocities are committed against its citizens. 
Practicing Judge Leveson was comically careful not to contribute any political opinions during discussions and humorously restricted himself to the facts.
National sovereignty was the only argument raised in favour of the retreat from the ECHR and thus the panel discussed the way in which international law impacts the domestic courts. They highlighted that international law is put into effect through domestic enactment and that British judges are not directly bound by Strasbourg.
The panel stressed the need for the UK’s contribution to international law and the importance of mutual respect between the domestic and international courts. It was felt that a repeal would set a bad precedent, being a declaration of independence by the UK.
A memorable comment from this inspiring event was that “a country cannot exist alone as an island in the modern world”.