Hay Segovia 2014 – best weekend of the year

I was just watching this video, made by the IE University in Segovia, about this year’s Hay Festival, which took place at the end of September. The university is housed in the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, parts of which date back to the 13th century. One of the things that make Hay Segovia really special is that events take place in extraordinary historic buildings all over the town, including churches, monasteries, theatres and palaces. This year, the IE University was one of the main venues, hosting sold-out talks by Ferran Adria, Norman Foster, Mario Vargas Llosa, Javier Marías, Felipe Fernãndez-Armesto, Revel Guest and Chris Patten, among others. In Segovia, events usually only cost €3, or are free, and just about everything was full this year – with people queuing around he block for some things.

I really enjoyed chairing an event at the Palacio Quintanar – built in the 15th century and now a cultural centre and design school – where Roger McGough, Alvin Pang and Antonio Colinas read their poems to a packed audience. I also took part in a spoken word event in the magical garden known as the Romeral de San Marcos, along with Alvin Pang, Ann Bateson, Santiago Gamboa and Félix Valdivieso. I realise this sounds a bit odd, but the idea is that we zigzagged along the paths in the almost vertical garden – it is under an escarpment by the Eresma river –  stopping every couple of minutes for one of us to read or recite a poem or a brief extract from a book to an audience of around 50 people who were shuffling along behind us. Don’t ask me why, but this really works. I read a few bits from The Factory of Light, a wonderful book written by my friend Michael Jacobs, who died last January. Michael was a great friend of the Hay Festival and had participated many times over the years in Hay itself in Wales, as well as in Segovia, Granada, Mexico and Cartagena. There were so many people in Segovia that weekend who had known him – many of whom had met him at a Hay Festival somewhere in the world – and it was lovely and very poignant to remember him there, in a whirl of writers, books and parties, which Michael would have loved.

Again don’t ask me why or how, but this year there were vintage fire engines and classic cars to ferry the speakers to the many events and parties that take place over the few days of the festival, which certainly added to the fun and lent a bit of glamour too. The Hay Festival in Segovia is always a great weekend as you meet so many interesting people, attend stimulating talks and usually end up dancing the night away too. I can’t wait for next year.

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