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Economist Ha-Joon Chang with journalist Helena de Bertodano. T. Bryant
Seville embraces world of culture, literature, film and architecture
Hay Festival Forum

Seville embraces world of culture, literature, film and architecture

The cultural gathering featured 30 visiting guests from around the world who are considered "pioneers" in their particular fields

Friday, 22 March 2024, 16:09

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Seville became the stage for an international gathering of experts in the field of ideas, architecture, literature, film and culture last weekend, when the Hay Festival Forum returned to different venues in the Andalusian capital for the second consecutive year. Organised by Hay Festival Foundation Ltd, which was awarded the 2020 Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities, the festival has also been held in Castilla y León (Segovia) for over 19 successive years.

The three-day gathering offered 15 events, and more than 30 visiting guests, including Irish architect and academic Yvonne Farrell, South Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang and prestigious British journalist Helena de Bertodano, noted for her interviews with major international personalities. The festival also included talks by a variety of other leading names in literature, gastronomy and journalism, although the star of the proceedings was world-renowned British filmmaker Stephen Frears.

Director Sheila Cremaschi told SUR in English that the selection of participants at this year's event included "some of the most pioneering people in their fields".

"This is the second time we have held the festival in Seville, and this year is turning out to be even more special than we had imagined," she said.

Shaping habits and trends

The event kicked off on Thursday last week at the Seville hotel and catering school, where Portuguese chef Fabio Bernardino held a workshop on the Mediterranean diet. The event focused on how culture is everything that shapes people, from our everyday habits to our tastes and preferences.

Other activities on Thursday included a talk at the Fundación Valentín de Madariaga y Oya given by Reinier de Graaf, an architect and partner at the prestigious Dutch firm OMA (office for metropolitan architecture); while fans of Stephen Frears took advantage of the screening of some of his most celebrated films. The films were introduced by renowned Spanish journalist Marta Medina, who commented on Frears' "incredible portrayal of prominent women in his films".

The activities continued on Friday with talks given by Greg Clark, an urban planner and writer who has advised on the development of more than 300 cities; architect Yvonne Farrell, co-founder of the Irish company Grafton Architects, and winner of the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize; and acclaimed flamenco singer Nano de Jerez, who spoke about how his long career developed at a time when flamenco as an artform was undergoing a process of evolution and expansion.

The main activities of the weekend took place on Saturday, which began with a cocktail reception on the rooftop patio of the Hotel Inglaterra, offering panoramic views of Seville's most iconic sites.

Guests included two of Britain's most outstanding contributors to television and film: Alan Yentob, a British television executive and presenter who has held senior roles at the BBC, including head of music and arts and controller of BBC1 and BBC2; and Stephen Frears, who arrived in straw hat and T-shirt, clearly agitated by the high temperatures that hit in Seville at the weekend. Frears was immediately approached by a fan who asked him to sign her copy of his movie, High Fidelity, which she claimed she had watched "more than 20 times".

Alan Yentob, Stephen Frears and organiser Sheila Cremaschi (2r).
Alan Yentob, Stephen Frears and organiser Sheila Cremaschi (2r). T. Bryant

The final activities of the weekend were held at the Cajasol Foundation headquarters, one of which featured economist Ha-Joon Chang, who spoke about the branch of economics which seeks to improve processes of growth in low-income countries. Interviewed by Helena de Bertodano, he claimed that "95 per cent of economics is common sense made to look difficult".

The changing film industry

The most attended event, however, was Stephen Frears talking about his incredible career in the film industry. When asked about his thoughts about how the film industry has changed over the years, the socialist director talked about the "enormous changes" that have taken place since he first began making films about the British social class system. He spoke fondly about his early movies, such as My Beautiful Laundrette, which was based on Thatcherite Britain.

"The UK prime minister is a bit of a joke. He is completely ineffective. He can't do anything. We then remember there was this woman called Margaret Thatcher who got things done. She obviously had virtues that I did not realise at the time, but she was a monster," he said, breaking into a smile.

He went on to discuss his arrival in Hollywood and some of the incredible actors he has worked with, such as Jack Black, who he described as "wonderful".

His tales received a standing ovation, and the 83-year-old director was obviously moved by the respect and admiration he had received during his few days in Seville.

Hailed a "resounding success", organisers have announced that the festival will return to Seville again in 2025.

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