Tue 26 May-Sun 5 June
Now in its third year, How The Light Gets In has seemingly grown in both confidence and stature in 2011. With a fantastic programme of philosophical talks, debates and discussions; alongside live music, DJs and comedians, the slyly scheduled festival – which runs concurrently to the Hay Festival at the other end of town – once again championed a vibrant exchange of knowledge, ideas and intellectual thought at the compact but perfectly formed festival site in the heart of Hay-on-Wye.
Attending the first weekend of the festival, I found myself immediately wrapped up in the warmth, charm and buzzing atmosphere of the neat and compact festival site. An acoustic tent provided entertainment throughout the day as crowds milled around waiting for their next slice of debate and discussion, while the tea tent provided welcome refreshment – as did the main bar which stocked a great selection of real ales. A massage tent was on hand for those who wanted a little more relaxation, and a sushi bar and an irresistible Garden Kitchen provided ample temptation for a hungry stomach. It was impressive to see so much squeezed into the small grounds of The Globe – an old converted chapel which played host to talks during the day and live bands and comedians during the evenings.
With the chance to pick and choose from a varied programme of individually priced events, audiences were able to dip in and out of the festival as they pleased. And with audiences coming and going as they liked, there was a clear effort to poach those already attending the Hay Festival at the other end of town; tempting them with an alternative and equally fascinating programme of talks and discussions ranging from neuroscience to humanism and the future of robot intelligence.
Despite the festival’s billing as a philosophy and music festival, there was certainly no need to be intimidated by the festival’s philosophy label. Beyond the philosophy-heavy talks on morality, tragedy and Friedrich Nietzsche, there were also plenty of fascinating discussions on topics such as the global power of China, the importance of multiculturalism in Britain and the power of the Qur’an in modern day society. With such a broad range of fascinating topics, there was a talk for everyone to enjoy.
And with each talk handing over a healthy chunk of time to questions from the audience, it was extremely heartening to see such a cross section of young and old audience members engaging in the debates and offering their own ideas and interpretations. Bonnie Greer’s talk on Converging Cultures inspired a lively debate about the success and/or failure of multiculturalism in Britain, while other talks were just as voraciously debated.
Of course, How The Light Gets In is also as much a music festival as it is a philosophy festival, and this unique mix of music and philosophy was carried off with aplomb with a lineup of fantastic music that included the likes of United Vibrations, Mount Kimbie, Camille O Sullivan and The Correspondents.
My visit to HTLGI was timed perfectly as I managed to see the fantastic talents of The Correspondents, Mount Kimbie and Ghostpoet in just one short weekend. The up-and-coming Mount Kimbie were particularly worthy of note. Their glitchy electronic wizardry on Saturday night at The Globe was a delight for the ears. While similarly, late on Saturday evening in the basement of The Globe, Ghostpoet – In my opinion one of the most exciting new British acts – blew away a hot, sweaty and energetic HTLGI audience with a stirring set packed with coursing drums and unique beat poetry.
How The Light Gets In is a unique festival heavily invested in the promotion and exchange of ideas with a uniquely energetic, optimistic and pragmatic vision for the future. With a youthful energy and creative skip, How The Light Gets In is much more than a simple exercise in selling books. A triumph over its elder and more high profile cousin, How The Light Gets In certainly doesn’t deserve to be overlooked.
Catch up on talks from the festival here…