Charleston Festival: Climate change activist wins Maynard Keynes’ Prize

Mary Robinson. Picture by Jurgen Frank
Mary Robinson. Picture by Jurgen Frank

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, will be the first woman in the five-year history of the Charleston John Maynard Keynes’ Prize to receive the prestigious global award.

The prize recognises an outstanding individual’s contribution to society in the spirit of Keynes’ work and legacy.

Mary will be at Charleston Festival on May 24 to receive the award and to speak on the challenge of climate justice.

Also speaking at the festival will be Gina Miller, another woman who stood up for justice against all the odds and survived hate mail, death threats and abuse.

Women take centre stage at Charleston this year.

Other keynote speakers are Caroline Criado Perez and Cathy Newman who speak on gender gaps and Naomi Wolf discusses her new book Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalisation of Love.

The full programme is on www.charleston.org.uk and in brochures from outlets across Sussex.

This will be final festival for its founder and artistic director Diana Reich. She was a member of the Charleston Appeal Committee, which raised funds to restore and preserve the house, which had been home to a group of ground-breaking 20th century artists. From 1919 when Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant came to live at Charleston, discussion and debate had been central to the ethos of this community.

In order to avoid the house becoming a soul-less mausoleum, Diana determined that this exchange of ideas should continue, and the first festival was launched in 1990 in a dilapidated apple shed.

At that time there were only two other literary festivals in England – Hay and Cheltenham – and Diana had no idea whether or not people would turn up for this event in the depths of the country.

But as she saw the steady stream of cars making their way up the pot-hole strewn lane towards the house, she hastily sent for more chairs. That first festival had just nine sessions. Now there are around 40 events, with audiences up to 400.

A romantic Valentine’s concert from Ensemble Reza. Click here to find out more.