Muñoz Molina, Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo and Ai Weiwei: the Hay Festival brings together people who do not think alike

Despite what it may seem from all the headlines they generate, not all festivals related to culture are about music. Literature, art and thought also have their special events, with big headliners, main stages and large capacity. One of them is the There is Festival of Segovia which, between September 15 and 18, will celebrate its seventeenth edition with a program that brings together more than one hundred renowned guests. Although the bulk of activities will be concentrated on those three days, from the 6th there will already be some events because, although the Castilian city is its official headquarters, its tentacles even reach the border with Portugal.

María Sheila Cremaschi is the director of the festival, which on this occasion has tradition and innovation as its main focus. One of the goals of the person in charge is to capture the attention of the youngest and, according to what she tells this newspaper, the key lies in new technologies, robotics and algorithms. "It's not that they're not interested in culture, you just have to find out what it is. So there are a lot of events this year that touch on these issues."

The performance of visual artist Kate Daudy and Nobel Laureate in Physics Konstantin Novoselov is, for her, the most obvious example. It is titled Everything is connected and is starring 268 Castilian sheep owned by shepherd Rafael Montes. "The sheep are grouped according to the word 'yes' or 'no' that they have written on their backs with an organic product," explains Cremaschi. "But when they enter the playpen that we are going to set up in the Aqueduct, both groups mix. And then we apply Einstein's Unification Theory to exemplify with an algorithm how you can live with people who do not think the same," he says. .

Likewise, it highlights the actions related to architecture in which creators such as the Japanese Sou Fujimoto, the Spanish Juan Herreros and the Norwegian Martin Braathen participate. "All of them have worked with the modification of the urban space using traditional architectural elements to create something new" and he cites the work of Fujimoto in Budapest as an example. "In the city there is a park that had some old museums of all life and they have modernized them. He has made La Casa de la Música, which has been in existence for three months and has been opened to 600,000 people. It is spectacular from the point of view architectural, but also from the point of view of innovation".

Literature also has a place in the more experimental side of the program. For example, the writers Hanan Issa, Xita Rubert and Yara Rodrigues Fowler – the latter also known for designing a robot that encouraged Tinder users to vote in the 2017 UK elections – will participate in a talk about the realities of the new generations with Ludovic Assémat. Also present on the poster are Joana Marcús, an author who began her career on the Wattpad platform and now publishes on the Crossbooks label, and Iria G. Parente, a writer who co-signs the most successful youth novels with Selene M. Pascual. of the moment. Both will talk with their editor, Rosa Samper, in the colloquium From the network to paper. "In total, there are ten or twelve events aimed at young audiences. I don't know what their response will be, but you have to try," says the festival director.

Some time ago, María Sheila Cremaschi had a conversation with Frederick Studemann, editor of the Financial Times books, which ended up giving rise to an event. "He told me that today is a remix of the 70s and 20s. And I replied that it sounded a little scary because of what came after, so we thought of a talk in which this reality was analyzed with personalities who could bring different points of view. The FT Weekend Debate will take place on Saturday, September 17, and will be attended by political scientist Ivan Krastev, president of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia; Gayle Allard, professor at IE Business School; Pilita Clark associate editor and business columnist at the Financial Times; the former mayor of Madrid and judge Manuela Carmena and the best-selling author and political leader Emilio del Río.

In that group there are people with divergent ideas, but if the festival program is observed in its entirety, radically opposed political positions are discovered, such as those of Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, former spokesperson for the Popular Parliamentary Group in the Congress of Deputies. and the aforementioned Manuela Carmena. Is it an attempt by the festival not to position itself politically? Cremaschi says yes. "We have always tried to allow all the democratic voices to express their ideas in a certain dose" and he points out that from the organization they invite members of almost all the parties but not all of them attend. "For example, Yolanda Díaz is invited but she does not confirm us until the beginning of September and the Minister of Culture Miquel Iceta has replied that it will not be possible for her. But in any case, of the 120 guests, the politicians will not be more than six" . However, he also acknowledges and points out that culture is never neutral. "Everyone looks at politicians but we should see what the authors write and their ideology. There will be a bit of everything." Alvarez de Toledo, who last year he published his memoirs politically undesirableis going to talk with the deputy of the Madrid Assembly Hana Jalloul (PSOE) and the columnists Adrian Wooldridge (Bloomberg) and Simon Kuper (Financial Times), about meritocracy and elitism.

María Sheila Cremaschi works throughout the year in the organization of the Hay Festival in Segovia with the help of a team in Madrid, although the weight of the efforts falls mostly on her. It has the advice of people such as Sonia Molero, the director of the Banco Sabadell Foundation, "who is very keen on incorporating young people and finding out what they are doing" or the global director of the Hay Festival –Segovia is one of the international headquarters of the brand – Caroline Mitchell "who gives me some pointers and helps me land some top guests" but overall it's pretty lonely work. The process consists of "a series of conversations where I model what I need. And when the time comes for the celebration, I receive help and very good help from a team from Segovia, almost all of them volunteers, who help me with the logistics."

The event receives contributions from private sponsors such as Banco Sabadell, Fundación Telefónica or the Instituto de Empresa and public bodies, although in the latter case subsidies must be requested each year. On July 3, he signed the agreement with the Segovia City Council, which grants him 60,000 euros and the transfer of public spaces. "They always give us the same amount for 18 years and they can tell you no, of course. We have also received 68,000 euros from the Junta de Castilla y León, but nobody guarantees it for next year," says Cremaschi.

"All politicians, everyone, should support culture more. For the size of the festival and the category of those who come, what they give is very little." In 2020, the Hay Festival won the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities although, according to his impression, the appointment has not changed the economic relationship with the institutions at all. "I think they haven't taken it into account yet, they haven't reflected deeply on what it means to win an award of this importance. Europeans have increased their contributions because they have perceived it because this award is known everywhere."

Around this main axis of tradition and innovation orbit even more thematic blocks, which Cremaschi calls "hearts". One is the one that deals with the relationship of the human being with the rest of the animals. "We have to reflect on the relationship between man and nature and re-encourage these links. In this context we have Eva Meijer, writer and author of the doctoral thesis entitled When animals speak in conversation with the writer Jesús Ruiz Mantilla at the event Animal language and depression".

Likewise, the colloquium Ecology and animal welfare with Gemma Knowles and Clemens Schlettwein, who are setting up a shelter for dogs and cats in Garraf (Barcelona), in conversation with William Mut, an expert consultant in policies and promotion of productive investment, also stands out. For his part, Pedro Zuazua, journalist and author of A cat does not enter my house, will perform the show Días para ser gato together with the musician Pablo Moro.

"This year there is a very big heart from Portugal", adds the director of the festival. "Already last year we incorporated rural areas to the festival and it is the most exciting. We presented this edition in La Raya, a town of 50 inhabitants where some are from Zamora and others from Braganza". "The neighbors were waiting for us with food that they had prepared for us. We were a group of about 50, including journalists, poets and others, and a communal table was set up." The journey through the corners of Spain will have a stop in another remote place: Sabero, in the mountains of León. "It is very difficult to get there. You get off the train in León and from there to the town you have to hire a car that will take you more than an hour." But the reception of the people, who attend the organized activity in its entirety, compensates for the inconvenience, says Cremaschi.

The pandemic still conditions the operation of the festival. Last year only a third of the seats were put up for sale and the mask was mandatory, as well as the rest of the security measures. This year the capacity will only be 50%, because the director does not want to risk it. "There is still COVID-19 and I want to take care of people, so in this edition we are still not going to be able to check if we have recovered the influx of public from the pre-pandemic. We have managed to have crowds, in 2018 it was incredible". Undoubtedly, the presence of other relevant names from the world of culture such as the writers Antonio Muñoz Molina, Espido Freire or Inés Martín Rodrigo, the historian Antony Beevor, the artist Ai Weiwei (streaming) or the actors Carles Francino, Víctor Clavijo and Leonor Watling, in addition to those mentioned above, is a good claim to sell all the tickets. In addition, the businessman Pablo Isla, former president of Inditex who has just announced his new adventure as a film producerwill talk about culture and talent with Rodrigo Cortes. On the other hand, the elDiario.es journalist Ana Requena will engage in a conversation with the novelist Mónica Rouanet and they will talk about crime novels in a feminist key.

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