UK’s council planners overworked, underpaid and abused, experts say

Kevin McCloud and Hay festival panel speak up for beleaguered town planners

Council planners are the most understaffed, underpaid, overworked, abused and depressed workers in Britain, which is a cause for concern because they are responsible for creating and determining the quality of environments we live in, according to a panel of experts at the Hay festival.

“The average chief planning officer earns the same salary as a Tesco bakery manager and has done for the past 15 years,” Kevin McCloud, the presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs, told an audience at the literary festival in Wales.

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Fourth most published book in English language to go online

Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789) by Rev Gilbert White inspired generations of naturalists including Charles Darwin

A book that influenced Charles Darwin and is reputedly the fourth most published work in the English language is to be made available online in its entirety.

The 1789 book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by the Reverend Gilbert White, has inspired generations of naturalists with the vivid descriptions of the flora and fauna - as well as the weather and crops - the author encountered in the countryside around his Hampshire home.

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Rebus: Rankin’s gritty Scottish detective to make stage debut

Author has worked with playwright Rona Munro for complex cop’s stage bow

Rebus, the abrasive, hard-drinking and brilliant Edinburgh detective created by Ian Rankin, is to be the star of a new stage play.

The author has collaborated with the playwright Rona Munro for a new crime story to be solved by the dour detective, the protagonist of 24 books that have sold more than 30m copies across the world.

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Mary Beard to host TV version of Radio 4’s Front Row

Cambridge classicist to anchor new Friday night series of live arts debates on BBC Two

Mary Beard is to be the new regular presenter of the TV version of Radio 4’s Front Row, with the BBC returning live arts debate to a Friday night slot.

The Cambridge classicist has been named as the anchor for a series of six programmes that will be broadcast after Newsnight at 11pm, promising “cultural debate, critical reviews and interviews”.

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Oldest complete Latin ​​Bible set to return to UK after 1,302 years

British Library secures loan of giant Codex Amiatinus Bible from Laurentian library in Florence for exhibition on Anglo-Saxon England

One of the greatest of all Anglo-Saxon treasures, the oldest complete Latin Bible in existence, is returning to the UK for the first time in 1,302 years.

The Codex Amiatinus is a beautiful and giant Bible produced in Northumbria by pioneering monks in 716 which, on its completion, was taken to Italy as a gift for Pope Gregory II.

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Soho loses notoriety as London’s criminal gangs look east

Clip joints and phone thefts are still common in the capital, says author of a book on city crime around the world Soho was once known for being the underbelly of London’s gangland, but criminals – much like the wave of gentrification – have moved east to trendier spots like Dalston and Shoreditch, according to the author of a book on global criminality. Conor Woodman spent four years exploring the criminal underbellies of cities around the world, from the pickpocketing gangs of Barcelona to elaborate scammers in Mumbai who con tourists at the airport. Continue reading...

Students take Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels as fact, says historian

John Guy tells Hay festival that applicants cite author in interviews and says blur between fact and fiction is troubling One of Britain’s most respected Tudor historians has expressed concern that prospective students imagine Hilary Mantel’s novels are fact. John Guy told the Hay literary festival in Wales that Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels needed to be enjoyed for what they were: fiction. Continue reading...

Trees talk to each other, have sex and look after their young, says author

Peter Wohlleben’s book has become bestseller in Germany but he tells Hay festival audience it has annoyed scientists Trees are social creatures that mother their young, talk to each other, experience pain, remember things and have sex with each other, a bestselling author has said. If that persuades you to go and hug the nearest tree, then great, said Peter Wohlleben. Just avoid a birch: “It is not very sociable. Try a beech.” Continue reading...

Paddy Ashdown ‘horrified’ by parallels between UK and 1930s Germany

Former Lib Dem leader tells Hay festival he fears for his country and criticises Theresa May for refusing to take part in live debate Paddy Ashdown has said he sees horrifying parallels between 1930s Germany and what is happening in the post-referendum UK.
The former Liberal Democrats leader told the Hay festival in Wales on Tuesday that he feared for his country, with a huge number of people left “voiceless” as Labour moved further left and the Conservatives further right. Continue reading...

John le Carré to make rare public appearance to discuss new novel

Author will take part in An Evening with George Smiley at Royal Festival Hall to mark return of his most famous character He first appeared in 1961 as a short, fat, quiet man whose bad clothes “hung about his squat frame like skin on a shrunken toad”. But that unassuming bespectacled man, with his deep love of the lesser German poets, was far from ordinary; he was George Smiley, one of the greatest, cleverest spies in fiction. Continue reading...

Shortlisted book features women able to kill men with single touch

Naomi Alderman whose sci-fi book The Power is shortlisted for Baileys women’s prize for fiction, hopes most readers won’t take it the wrong way A science fiction book imagining a world where women develop a power to hurt or kill men with a single touch has been shortlisted for a major literary prize. Naomi Alderman’s thriller The Power is one of six books shortlisted for the £30,000 Baileys women’s prize for fiction, an award which has been celebrating fiction written by women in English since 1996. Continue reading...

Libraries receive £4m fund as part of strategy to secure their future

Cash for community projects comes as report calls for sector to be more innovative and raise awareness of services on offer A new national strategy to help England’s hard-pressed libraries is to include a £4m innovation fund for projects that help disadvantaged communities. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published a five-year strategy for libraries, which it said would help them improve and thrive in the 21st century. Continue reading...

Julian Barnes: letting US authors compete for Booker prize is ‘daft’

Former winner says opening award to American writers, including ‘heavy hitters’, would limit chances of others Man Booker winner Julian Barnes has criticised opening up the UK’s premier literary prize to American writers, calling it “straightforwardly daft”. The novelist, who won the award in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending, revealed he was firmly against the controversial changes introduced in 2014. Continue reading...

Douglas Coupland seeks Van Gogh lookalikes for art project

Generation X author offers €5,000 prize to person who most closely resembles red-haired painter Do you have a serious, grimly determined face, red hair and a beard? Do people swear you’ve got the look of Vincent van Gogh? If so, you can help the novelist and artist Douglas Coupland as he explores genetics and globalisation. Coupland, best known as the author of the 1991 novel Generation X, is searching for the world’s closest lookalike to Van Gogh and is offering a €5,000 prize. Continue reading...

Donald Trump has ‘fascinating parallels’ with Caligula, says historian

Tom Holland tells Hay festival the notorious Roman emperor was a conscious populist like the US presidential candidate He has not yet made a horse his running mate, but Donald Trump can be compared to one of the most notorious of all Roman emperors, Caligula, according to best-selling historian Tom Holland. Holland told the Hay festival there were fascinating parallels between the actions and success of Trump and what was going on in Rome 2,000 years ago. Continue reading...

Exam board rules on punctuation are wrong, wrong, and wrong

Linguistics expert David Crystal tells Hay festival that school advisers ‘not aware of complexity of decisions they are asking kids to make’ Is that a tall, dark, and handsome man standing over there? Or a tall, dark and handsome man? The vexed question of commas, where to use them and where not to, was raised at Hay festival by the linguistics academic David Crystal. Both of the above are correct, he said, but he criticised the Department for Education for not realising that, and for allowing exam boards to wrongly penalise children. He said the current guidance for schools “leaves a huge amount to be desired, especially in areas of punctuation. Continue reading...

WI not just about jam and Jerusalem, author tells Hay festival

Maggie Andrews says members debated how to outwit Nazis and equal rights and were the acceptable face of feminism Jam-making by members of the Women’s Institute is normally seen as a fun and essentially benign activity – not a way of killing Nazis. Hay festival heard that during the second world war WI branches vigorously debated the consequences of a German invasion and jam was central. Continue reading...

Yanis Varoufakis tells Hay festival he admired Margaret Thatcher

Former Greek finance minister says while he protested against Thatcher he enjoyed how she ‘wiped the floor’ with opposition They might seem a million miles apart in terms of politics, but the radical socialist economist Yanis Varoufakis has revealed he is a secret admirer of Margaret Thatcher. Varoufakis, a former finance minister of Greece, lived in the UK for a decade as a student and lecturer. Continue reading...