Hay Festival Cartagena celebrates 15 years with most ambitious programme yet and new book

More than 140 speakers and performers include Nobel Prize-winners economist Joseph Stiglitzand former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos; novelists and writers Margaret Atwood, Etgar Keret, Muriel Barbery, Valeria Luiselli, Alberto Manguel, Javier Cercas, Marina Perezagua, Inua Ellans, Alys Conran, Paolo Giordano, Nicole Krauss, Leonardo Padura, and Marta Peirano; poet Ida Vitale; historian Bettany Hughes; director Fernando Trueba; musician Santiago Auserón; and more…

Hay Festival Cartagena has today announced its 15th programme, 30 January-2 February 2020, with global literary stars, Nobel Prize-winners and internationally acclaimed performers leading a line-up that encompasses 140 speakers in 160 events over four days. 

The Festival will see writers and readers come together to give voice to some of the biggest issues of our time; from climate change to widening inequality, activism to #FakeNews. Meanwhile, award-winning performers will keep the show going until late.

A book celebrating 15 years of Hay Festival in Colombia will be launched at the Festival, comprising 15 transcripts of essential conversations alongside photos from the Festival’s archive. 

Two other editions in Colombia – Hay Festival Medellín (29 January-1 February) and Hay Festival Jericó (25-26 January) – will run alongside the Festival, with line-ups to be announced later in the year, and presented in seven municipalities of the Bolivar region. These are the first Hay Festival events of 2020, kicking off a global calendar of editions that also encompasses Mexico, Peru, Spain, the USA, the UK, and, for the first time, the UAE and Croatia.

HAY JOVEN for students, HAY FESTIVALITO for young people, and a series of events in communities across Colombia, in partnership with Plan International, ensure that events reach the broadest possible audiences. Attracting more than 50,000 people, the Festival enjoys wider cultural impact across Latin America thanks to regional media partnerships with RCN TV and Radio, El País, El Tiempo, Arcadia and an international collaboration with BBC Mundo. 

Tickets go on general sale Wednesday 20 November at hayfestival.org/cartagenawith students eligible for up to 10 free tickets each.

Cristina Fuentes La Roche, international director of Hay Festival, said: “In 2020, Hay Festival marks its 33rd year globally and 15th in Colombia with one of our most ambitious and genre-crossing programmes yet. We welcome some of the world’s finest writers, thinkers and influencers, from Margaret Atwood to Joseph Stiglitz, Ida Vitale to Gloria Esquivel, to showcase their art and tackle the biggest issues of our times, to entertain and inform. We will imagine the world as it is, and as it might be. Join us.”


Icons of world literature take centre-stage as Booker Prize 2019-winner Margaret Atwood talks about her life in writing; Israeli writer Etgar Keret talks about his Sapir Prize for Literature 2019-winning work, Fly Already; bestselling French novelist Muriel Barbery presents her latest book, Un étrange pays; and Spanish writer Javier Cercas presents his Planeta Prize-winning novel Terra Alta.

Acclaimed Colombian writers present new work alongside rising stars of the country’s literary scene, including Juan Esteban Constaín, Evelio Rosero, Margarita García Robayo, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Gloria Esquivel, Héctor Abad Faciolince, Juan Cárdenas, Melba Escobar, Ángela Becerra, Maribel Abello and Willliam Ospina.

Award-winning writers from across the globe discuss their careers and latest work including Canadian writer Alberto Manguel and poet Laureate Dionne Brand; French author Muriel Barbery, film director Philippe Claudel, and author writer Alice Zeniter; Mexican star Valeria Luiselli; the Planeta Prize-winning Spanish writer Javier Cercas and authors Marina Perezagua and Marta Orriols; US bestseller Nicole Krauss; Bolivian writer Rodrigo Hasbún; Italian novelists Paolo Giordano and Edoardo Albinati; Peruvian Karina Pacheco; Ireland’s Marina Carr and Mary Costellol; Argentina’s Guillermo Martínez and Dolores Reyes; Cuba’s Leonardo Padura; Uruguayan Cervantes Prize-winnerIda Vitale; Portuguese poet Ana Luisa Amaral; Britain’s Inua Ellams and Creative Wales Hay Festival International Fellow Alys Conran.

Colombia today comes into sharp focus as former Colombian president and Nobel Prize-winner Juan Manuel Santos talks to Moises Naim and activists Jonathan Luna and Isabel Cristina Zuleta give an account of their work.

Journalists and historians put some of the biggest issues of our time into context as Joseph Zárate talks internet privacy with Marta Peirano, and director of El País América, Javier Moreno, debates media today with colleagues Guillermo Altares, Inés Martín Rodrigo and Sergio Vilasanjuan, alongside conversations with Alberto Vergara, Leopoldo Martín Nucete, Bettany Hughes, Andrea Wulf and Marie Arana. 

The global economy is analysed as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz talks to Moisés Naim about how the capitalist model can be rethought to avoid abuses of the system, while Cambridge professor and development economics expert Ha-Joon Chang talks inclusive economies. 

Colombia’s changing climate comes under the Festival spotlight as anthropologist and Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic SocietyWade Davis talks Magdalena: River of Dreams; journalist David Wallace-Wells presentsThe Uninhabitable Earth; director of Science at Kew Gardens Alexander Antonelli talks plant-based solutions to global issues in the Kew Platform; and the Festival’s global project to communicate cutting-edge climate science with art – Trans.MISSION II – explores the problems around socio-ecological systems in the regions of Boyacá and Cundinamarca, in partnership with NERC.

Science writer Jennifer Ackerman talks The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think; French physicist Christophe Galfard presents How to Understand E=mc2; and chemist Philip Ball talks Beyond Weird: Why Everything you Thought you Knew about Quantum Physics Is Different.

For younger book lovers, Hay Festivalito and Hay Communitario feature free workshops, talks and activities with writers and illustrators from around the world, including Octavio Escobar, Luisa Noguera, Gloria Beatriz Salazar, Clara Grima, Meritxell Martí, Menena Cotín and Raquel Franco.

Filmmakers discuss their craft in talks with La casa de papel script coordinator Javier Gómez; Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba; and documentary writer Diego Rabasa. Meanwhile, admired performers discuss their work and keep the party going into the night: Radio Futura’s Juan Perro performs and the Festival closes with a performance from Walter Silva.

Explore the full programme here.