In 1988, in the small town of Hay-on-Wye, better known as the “The city of books” in Wales, the Hay Festival was born. It is a non-profit festival with the aim of making the arts more approachable to the general public and it captivated attendees with its proposal of promoting culture through dialogue and cultural exchange. After 30 years, more than 15 cities from all over the world already have their own version of the festival.
Sheila Cremaschi received the proposal to bring the Hay Festival to Spain. She accepted immediately and started to organise the festival that would be held for the first time in 2004 in Segovia, city in which the festival has become a staple. The Spanish version of the Hay Festival, with which the Banco Sabadell Foundation collaborates, has already reached its 17th edition and recently received the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities for its outreach efforts. We had the immense privilege of chatting to Sheila Cremaschi, who runs the Hay Festival Segovia since its inception, to know the challenges and goals towards which she and her team are working.
The Hay Festival celebrates literature, critical thinking and the exchange of ideas. This year, it focuses on tradition and innovation, two concepts that could seem opposites, but that the festival challenges us to understand them as dualities. “Everything is connected. All innovation includes everything else that came before it; therefore, with no tradition there would not be any innovation”, Sheila reflects.
And there could not have been a better motto for the schedule we were able to enjoy in this 17th edition, in which the festival has featured prominent figures from the worlds of culture and science, such as writer Antonio Muñoz Molina, historian Antony Beevor, Nobel laureate physicist Konstantin Novoselov, ecologist Josef H. Reichholf or actors Leonor Watling, Víctor Clavijo and Carles Francino.
We also had the chance of enjoying the best emerging talent with proposals such as the meeting between the leading Australian film-maker and architect Liam Young and the young researcher Piera Riccio, PhD student at Ellis Alicante and recipient of a study grant awarded by the Banco Sabadell Foundation. Both have invited us to reflect about the exploration of reality, imagination and artificial intelligence. Sheila told us that “with the help of Sonia Mulero, Banco Sabadell Foundation Director, and of Pablo Gonzalo, Telefonica Foundation Space Director, we have embarked upon a new road merging creation and new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics”.
One of the biggest challenges of the Hay Festival is to make the arts more accessible to all people. Sheila explains how she and her team work to tackle this goal: “We have three art exhibitions that will go on once the festival has ended during the entire month of October, all of them at historic locations in Segovia”. Moreover, she explains that “The Hay Festival must be a party, far removed from a traditionally academic event. We want to awaken emotion in attendees, just like a good theatre play”.
The Hay Festival continues after officially drawing its curtains until the month of October with more activities and programmes. Learn more about the festival on its website.