Words take over Walled City

By bogotapost January 29, 2016

Hay Festival Cartagena 2016As the famed Hay Festival prepares to hit Cartagena once again, Azzam Alkadhi hears from some of those involved and finds out what’s in store

The 2016 edition of Cartagena’s literary Hay Festival will run from January 28-31, bringing together big names from the world of literature, philosophy, cinema, music and economics.

This festival, which originated in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, in 1988, now takes place on five continents, and has become an integral part of Colombia’s cultural calendar.

Hay Festival Director, Cristina Fuentes, explains that it is “a celebration of thought, creativity and freedom. We need to talk, converse and imagine what tomorrow could be like.”

This is an idea shared by Colombian author, Daniel Samper, who will also be making an appearance at the festival: “Hay exists so that we can exchange words and ideas.”

British Ambassador Peter Tibber concurs, explaining that he was very proud to support this important literary event, which provides the opportunity for significant discussions.

Invited authors this year include British writers Hanif Kureishi and Lionel Shriver (We need to talk about Kevin), famed Japanese author Takashi Hiraide (The Guest Cat) and Libyan Hisham Matar. They will be joined by a whole host of renowned Colombian authors, including Piedad Bonnett and William Ospina.

It’s not all about literature, though. The festival has evolved over the years to attract people from all walks of life. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz will be joined on a round table by Ha Joon Chang and Thomas Piketty to tackle the rather complicated issue of how to balance the global economy.

There will also be sections dedicated to cinema and music. British director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity and Dangerous Liaisons) will be present, while Juanes and Fonseca will discuss both music and literature. And of course, multi-award-winning Colombian director Ciro Guerra (El abrazo de la serpiente) is also on the star-studded list.

A commemoration of two historical heavyweights will be a central theme on the literary menu this year, as Bernabé Aguilar Arigo, the Spanish Embassy’s cultural attaché, explains: “Alongside Hay Festival and the British Council, we are going to pay homage to Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, on the 400th anniversary of their deaths.”

Two anthologies will be presented, with Spanish-language authors writing about Shakespeare and English-language authors paying homage to Cervantes.

Non-fiction will have a heavy presence, with Israeli Yuval Noah Harari, author of bestseller A brief history of humankind, joined by controversial British journalist Johann Hari, twice named Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International, and author of Chasing the scream – about the war on drugs and how we treat addiction.

The multi-faceted event also includes the Hay Festivalito, an initiative for young children in local communities in and around Cartagena, and Hay Joven, aimed exclusively at students. And it’s not just Cartagena that will be touched by the Hay magic – January 27 will see the Hay Festival Riohacha, while the Antioquian capital will host Hay Festival Medellín: Cultura y Sostenibilidad, from January 27-29.

This unique literary fair is an event bursting with intellect, creativity, discussion and imagination. In the words of Daniel Samper, what makes this festival of ideas so special is “the fusion of what happens in the UK festival with the contagious joy of the Colombian people.”

For full programme information, visit the Hay Festival website.

By Azzam Alkadhi