Hay Festival and the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC, a part of UK Research and Innovation) have today unveiled the Colombian strand of their Trans.MISSION II collaboration, a global project pairing leading environmental researchers with award-winning storytellers to communicate cutting-edge science to new audiences.

At a time of unprecedented public interest in how human actions affect the environment, Trans.MISSION II pairs NERC researchers from Colombia, Peru and the UK with artists and storytellers in each country to create stories about ongoing research projects. 

In Colombia, writer and activist Juan Cárdenas joins with three teams of experts led by Professor Piran White, Dr Naomi Milner and Dr France Gerrard to create a piece of creative writing to communicate the socio-ecological systems within Colombia and their response to environmental change. The Colombian research is delivered with the support of Colciencias.

The final piece will be launched at Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias in Colombia on 31 January 2020. See here to find out more and book tickets.

Trans.MISSION II is the first international public engagement collaboration project for NERC. Earlier this month, the project’s Peruvian strand culminated at Hay Festival Arequipa with the launch of Glacier Shallap – Or the Sad Tale of a Dying Glacier, a short play from writer and actress Erika Stockholm, drawing on the work of Cabot Institute’s Professor Jemma Wadham and her team of glaciology experts in the High Andes. After Colombia, the final collaboration will launch in Hay-on-Wye, Wales (21-31 May 2020), with a focus on droughts and water scarcity.

An artist, illustrator or animator will then be commissioned to create an overarching piece – an animation, infographic or animated text – that will combine and communicate the common themes. These pieces will aim to inform, engage and inspire members of the public and future researchers in environmental science and the processes of research.

Andy Fryers, Sustainability Director at Hay Festival, said: “We are delighted to be launching this collaboration between Juan Cárdenas, Naomi Milner, France Gerard and Piran White at our Festival in Cartagena. Wherever we are in the world, Hay Festival is a home for storytellers, a space for writers and readers to come together and explore the biggest challenges of our time. Trans.MISSION II offers a new platform for collaboration between storytellers from two different worlds, artists and scientists. We hope that by building this shared space for engagement at the cutting edge of environmental research with NERC, we can find new ways to imagine a better future together.”

Alison Robinson, Director of Corporate Affairs, Futures & Change at NERC, said: “Our collaboration with the world-renowned Hay Festival is an excellent platform to communicate the importance of environmental science to a global audience. I look forward to this productive partnership going from strength to strength.”

Juan Cárdenas is a writer, creative writing teacher, and activist, who has worked extensively with Afrocolombian and indigenous communities mapping oral traditions. A recent project saw him collaborate with former FARC guerrilla members and community leaders to get them to tell their stories. Cárdenas is interested in nature and the environment and has campaigned for public policies on the matter in his native Colombia.

Naomi Millner is Lecturer in Human Geography at Bristol University, Piran White is Professor at the Department of Environment and Geography at University of York, and France Gerard is Senior Scientist at the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology and is working on three linked research projects under The Exploring & Understanding Colombian Bio Resourcesprogramme. This programme seeks to improve understanding of socio-ecological systems in the Colombian regions of Boyacá and Cundinamarca, and their response to environmental change, including climate, land use, and social or political change; and the underpinning role and value of biodiversity in these ecosystems.

NERC is the UK’s main agency for funding environmental science, covering the full range of research from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. Tackling major issues such as clean air, water and energy, extreme weather and the impact of our environment on human health, NERC scientists play a critical role in understanding how our planet works. 

Hay Festival addresses environmental concerns through its Green Hay programme of conversations and lectures, and by working hard to limit its own negative environmental impacts. Mains electricity at the Festival is 100% renewable, 80% of waste produced on site is recycled, and last year it was the first festival in the UK to offer a reusable hot drink cups system.

Trans.MISSION II follows 2018’s UK-only pilot, which saw three films released: Message from Antarcticaby polar researcher Emily Shuckburgh and illustrator Chris Haughton, Clean Air Starts at Homeby Aardman Animation Studios director Dan Binns and atmospheric chemist Professor Ally Lewis (voiced by Marcus Brigstocke), and the Weather Watchingseries by poet Nicola Davies and climate scientist Ed Hawkins. View them online at