BIF Book Festival 2023: Leading authors tackling humanity and the natural world

There’s just under one month to go until Buxton International Festival starts on Thursday 6 July! From infectious diseases to re-wilding and surviving climate change, science and the natural world form a loose sub-theme at this years Book Festival. Our Book Director Vicky Dawson takes a closer look at some of these authors:

Some of you may have heard Radio 4’s Book of the Week last week, which was Jonathan Kennedy’s Pathogenesis. Jonathan is Director of the MSc and iBSc Global Public Health programmes at Barts and the London Medical School.

Dr Jonathan Kennedy argues that germs have done more to shape humanity at every stage, from the first success of Homo sapiens over the equally intelligent Neanderthals to the fall of Rome and the rise of Islam. The latest science reveals that infectious diseases are not just something that happens to us, but a fundamental part of who we are. We have been thinking about the survival of the fittest all wrong: evolution is not simply about human strength and intelligence, but about how we live and thrive in a world dominated by microbes. Jonathan argues, “if we Homo sapiens don’t strive to live in balance with the other living things on our planet, we face a very bleak future”. Jonathan discusses this fascinating read at BIF on 19 July.

Dame Kate Bingham – The Long Shot: The Inside Story of the Race to Vaccinate Britain

Now firmly part of the history of pandemics of which Jonathan’s writes is Dame Kate Bingham. The Long Shot: The Inside Story of the Race to Vaccinate Britain by Dame Kate Bingham and Tim Hames is the insiders story of a very special taskforce with a very urgent mission.

Dame Kate Bingham and Tim Hames at Buxton International Festival

Sometimes described as our Vaccine Tsar, Dame Kate was a venture capitalist with a first-class degree in bio-chemistry but under her leadership her team created the infrastructure for the trials, manufacture and distribution of 350 million doses across six vaccines, leading to international praise by scientists and the world’s media. Not Afraid to ruffle feathers, expect Kate Bingham to be a straight talker in this inciteful event from the heart of our most recent pandemic. They join us at BIF on 21 July.

Gaia Vince on climate change and migration

Gaia Vince was the first female outright winner of the Royal Society Science Prize for Adventures in the Anthropocene in 2015. The book became a deserved best seller and Gaia follows it up with Nomad Century: How To Survive the Climate Upheaval. Gaia Vince is an award-winning broadcaster and journalist currently to be heard on BBC Radio 4s Inside Science.

Nomad Century takes a positive look at climate change and suggests that the resulting migration from drought, heat and flooding can be successfully managed. Nomad Century is a book of ideas and solutions to the challenge of homo sapiens living in balance with both each other and with the other living things on our planet. See Gaia Vince discuss this latest book at BIF on 7 July.

Isabella Tree, the god mother of the re-wilding movement

Isabella Tree is the God-Mother of the re-wilding movement. Also a book that plays with ideas and offers solutions, Isabella Tree’s bestselling Wilding: The Return to Nature of a British Farm became an instant nature writing classic and now Isabella offers The Book of Wilding a practical handbook for re-wilding projects large and small.

With her husband Charlie Burrell, Isabella and Charlie are the inspirational transformers of the Knepp Estate in Sussex. Now a model of nature regeneration and conservation, Knepp is now a breeding hotspot for critically endangered nightingales, turtle doves, Peregrine falcons, ravens, red kites, sparrow hawks, lesser-spotted woodpeckers, skylarks, house sparrows and yellowhammers. See Isabella at BIF on 22 July, when she will be interviewed at by Julian Glover, Chair of the Government’s Designated Landscapes Review.

Buxton’s Mark Cocker: One Midsummer’s Day: Swifts and the Story of Life on Earth 

Mark Cocker may well be a Buxton lad, but he is also one of the nation’s most notable naturalists and writers. His latest book One Midsummer’s Day: Swifts and the Story of Life on Earth may have been written from lockdown Derbyshire, but the books grand title is indicative of its broad themes.

Much as Gaia Vince sees migration as hugely positive to the planet, Mark sees the migration of the much-loved swift as the perfect metaphor for living harmoniously on our planet. A loop straight back to Jonathan Kennedy at the start of this piece. See Mark at BIF on 22 July. If you care about both humanity and the natural world, there is lots to discover at Buxton International Festival in 2023.

Click here to see the full BIF Book Festival 2023 programme.