Thurs 31 May-Sun 10 June
words: MICHAEL MILLS
There was another festival on in Hay-on-Wye last week. HowTheLightGetsIn – a bijoux festival dedicated to philosophy and music – may be a mere whipper snapper compared to its older brother, but it’s still capable of drawing in its own crowds; 36,000 were expected across the 10 days. It’s where the cool kids hang out. Well, let’s face it, it’s where the kids hang out full stop. Say what you like about the Hay Festival, anyone there under the age of 35 has probably been brought by their parents.
HowTheLightGetsIn is a cosy affair, tucked into a collection of tents in the grounds of Hay’s Globe art and social venue. Even without a ticket, you can, most of the time, wander between the open venues, grabbing a coffee, listening to some contemporary music and being slightly scared by the fashion choices of some of the more outré attendees. It is Hay after all.
The talks are a fascinating blend of mental rigour. Radio 4’s Quentin Cooper and guests discussed the quest for a Theory of Everything, while the panel on Radical Openness asked how the modern age has taken the right to know everything about others as read. Robert Rowland Smith’s lecture on Endarkenment, conversely, stressed the importance of not knowing, so you’d be quite forgiven for throwing in the towel and going for a splash in the mud. There was music too, including sets from Alexander Comana of Cardiff band Among Brothers, cabaret chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan and Charlotte Church. Anyone hanging about on the first Friday evening was in for a special treat, as Will Young of all people stepped out of the crowd and gave an impromptu set.
With its complex discussions of politics, philosophy and economics, there is the worrying thought that one or two future party leaders may be hiding amongst the crowds, but there are also a good number of people who just want to be a bit smarter. It’s a celebration of the intellectual, of the challenging. The wonderful realisation that just thinking about things is fun. A discussion on privacy in the digital age may seem heavy going for a Sunday lunchtime, but like launching into a hard gym session, you always feel better for it and never regret having done it. All that and a pie stand too. You can’t really argue.