HowTheLightGetsIn Festival

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HowTheLightGetsIn Festival
HowTheLightGetsIn Festival 2018.jpg
HowTheLightGetsIn Festival 2018
GenrePhilosophy, music

HowTheLightGetsIn Festival is the world's largest philosophy and music festival, hosted by the Institute of Art and Ideas. It aims "to get philosophy out of the academy and into people's lives"[1] by bringing together philosophers, writers, academics, comedians and musicians for a festival of debate, talks, music, workshops, and late night parties.[2]

Speakers at the festival have included Ed Milliband, Noam Chomsky, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Philip Pullman, Diane Abbott, Robert Skidelsky, Stanley Fish, Steven Pinker, Brian Eno and Laurie Penny, among others. Held at the same time as the Hay Festival,[3] and based in a riverside setting by the banks of the River Wye, HowTheLightGetsIn attracts a footfall of over 30,000 each year.

HowTheLightGetsIn will return with its Hay festival in May 2020.

2020 Hay, 'Uncharted Territory'[edit]

HowTheLightGetsIn Hay 2020 will see the festival celebrating its 11th anniversary, and bringing London 2019's theme of 'Uncharted Territory' to its original home of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border.

Speakers confirmed so far include Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon, leading Brexiteer Penny Mordaunt, artistic director of the Young Vic Kwame Kwei-Armah, philosopher of ethics Simon Blackburn, theoretical physicist John Ellis, and columnist and activist Polly Toynbee. Music acts confirmed so far include composer Nitin Sawhney and singer and cellist Ayanna Witter Johnson.

Hay 2020 will mark HowTheLightGetsIn's first ever dedicated Children's and Young Adults' Programme, with a specially curated programme of talks for younger minds plus interactive workshops, games and faiground rides, and more.

2019 London, 'Uncharted Territory'[edit]

HowTheLightGetsIn returned to the grounds of Kenwood House on the weekend of 21–22 September 2019. The festival's theme, Uncharted Territory, reflected the turbulent and unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in today. Topics of discussion included fake news, the problematic sex appeal of the archetypal "bad boy", space exploration in the 21st century, gene editing, population control, and big data.

Speakers included Slavoj Zizek, politicians Natalie Bennett and Rory Stewart, theorist of surveillance capitalism Shoshana Zuboff, clinical psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, and economist and policy advisor Mariana Mazzucato. The music line-up included singer-songwriter Nerina Pallot, DJ Don Letts, and electroswing duo Sam and the Womp, while the hand-picked cast of comedians featured Tony Law, Olga Koch, and Sophie Duker.

2019 Hay, 'Tribal Truths and New Wisdoms'[edit]

HowTheLightGetsIn returned to Hay for its tenth anniversary year from 24–27 May.

Speakers included philosopher of language Saul Kripke, Change UK MP Anna Soubry, cognitive psychologist Donald D. Hoffman, novelist Janne Teller, economist and writer Linda Yueh, and Momentum founder Jon Lansman. Donovan, Anna Calvi, and British Sea Power headlined the music programme, while the comedy line-up was led by Lou Sanders and Phil Wang.

2018 London, 'Tribal Truths and New Wisdoms'[edit]

From 22–23 September 2018, HowTheLightGetsIn hosted its first ever London festival on the grounds of Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath.

The festival theme, Tribal Truths and New Wisdoms, set the agenda for a weekend of uncovering our flawed tribal beliefs and proposing fresh new solutions to pressing issues across politics, philosophy, art and science. Speakers included neuroscientist Steven Pinker, philosopher and author Rebecca Goldstein, Banksy's former agent Steve Lazarides, novelist Deborah Levy, Turner Prize architect Paloma Strelitz, and long-time Hawking collaborator Roger Penrose. The music line-up included pop duo Bloom Twins and singer-songwriter Rae Morris, while Ahir Shah and Olga Koch headlined the comedy programme.

2018 'Darkness, Authority and Dreams'[edit]

After taking a fallow year in 2017, the 2018 May festival took place from 25–28 May 2018.[4]

Speakers included political theorist Noam Chomsky, psychiatrist and former Government Drugs Adviser David Nutt, linguist John McWhorter, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, economist Deirdre McCloskey.[5] The music line-up featured Scissor Sisters' Ana Matronic, Hot Chip, The Correspondents, Nerina Pallot and Laura Wright.

2016 'The Known, the Strange, and the New'[6][edit]

Natalie Bennett and Patricia Lewis at HowTheLightGetsIn 2016

The 2016 festival took place from 26 May to 5 June.[7] Speakers were to include Natalie Bennett, Owen Jones, Ken Livingstone, Bernard Carr,[8] Kwasi Karteng[9] and Roger Scruton. The music lineup featured Ghostpoet, Fairport Convention, Gilles Peterson, C Duncan, Eska, and Tom Robinson.[10]

2015 'Fantasy and Reality'[edit]

Described as "Europe's answer to TED",[11] the festival for 2015 took place from 21 to 31 May 2015[12] and included performances and talks from Simon Blackburn, Mike Skinner, George Galloway, Natalie Bennett, Lawrence Krauss, Michael Howard, Lianne La Havas, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown[13] and Rae Morris among others. As part of the festival, the New College of the Humanities presented the IAI School. Aimed at 16- to 18-year-olds, the IAI School explored topics such as Free Will and Politics, Sex Ethics and Morality.

2014 'Heresy, Truth and the Future'[edit]

HTLGI 2014 attracted a footfall of over 35,000 across 450 events.[14] Speakers and performers included Roger Penrose, Brooke Magnanti, Bruce Parry, Doon Mackichan, Cory Doctorow, Owen Jones, David Nutt, Molotov Jukebox, Moulettes, Natalie Bennett[15] and Mr Scruff.

2012 'Uncharted Territory: Progress for a New Era'[edit]

The 2012 festival[16] sought to question existing notions of progress through an exploration of issues surrounding political, economic and ethical advance in the West. By acknowledging the uncertainty of the future and its values, do we need to establish new ideas of progress or is such a suggestion inherently flawed?

It was held in Hay-on-Wye and ran between 31 May and 10 June 2012. The festival staged almost five hundred sessions across the site's five venues.

Amongst the speakers on the festival's programme were musician Brian Eno, founder of Glastonbury festival Michael Eavis, literary theorist and critic Terry Eagleton and independent scientist and inventor James Lovelock. Musical highlights included performances from Charlotte Church, Emmy the Great, and Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard, as well as a twelve-hour painting marathon from artist Stella Vine to accompany a performance by alternative rock band The Chapman Family.

London's Open Gallery, an institution dedicated to the medium of video painting, also staged a series works by filmmaker Roz Mortimer entitled, ‘Sites of Memory’.

2011 ‘New Gods: Icons and Ideas in a Changed World’[edit]

HowTheLightGetsIn Festival 2016

The 2011 festival questioned whether the great narratives that have built and sustained the West are under threat and, if so, what are the new gods that will replace them?

Speakers at the festival included critical theorist Leela Gandhi, Times columnist David Aaronovitch, poet Simon Armitage, New Statesman culture editor Jonathan Derbyshire and screenwriter Jez Butterworth.[17]

Cultural highlights ranged from Ghostpoet, Mount Kimbie and The Correspondents, to comedy and the screening of documentaries from around the world with BBC Four.

2010 ‘Being Human’[edit]

The 2010 festival posed the questions: What is it to be alive? What is essential to our humanity and what is peripheral? What is truly important in life?

Author of Politics of Fear Frank Furedi, filmmaker David Bond, author Philip Pullman and Labour politician Jon Cruddas, were amongst the speakers on the line up.

The Open Gallery explored the boundary between the human and the natural. The Wellcome Trust[18] Identity Project presented an exhibition and two days of events on the topic of Identity. Notably, The School of Life[19] hosted a series of philosophy breakfasts with leading thinkers over the 10-day festival.

Radio 1's Huw Stephens and John Rostron, the duo behind the Sŵn Festival, curated a night of cutting-edge music, which was accompanied by live performances from Johnny Flynn, Cate le Bon and Radio 1's Bethan Elfyn.[20]


  1. ^ Pauli, Michelle (22 May 2009). "Enlightenment comes to the Hay festival". The Guardian.
  2. ^ "Hilary Lawson on error, philosophy and TED: "It's really a business conference organisation"". Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  3. ^ Pauli, Michelle (22 May 2009). "Enlightenment comes to the Hay festival". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  4. ^ "HowTheLightGetsIn 2018: Hay-on-Wye Philosophy and Music Festival". HowTheLightGetsIn 2018: Hay-on-Wye Philosophy Festival - The World's Largest Philosophy and Music Festival. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  5. ^ Marsden, Harriet (6 June 2018). "HowTheLightGetsIn festival review: A rare combination of fascination and fun". The Independent.
  6. ^ "The idea of a festival: How The Light Gets In". openDemocracy. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Open Democracy". Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Time and Consciousness". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Wealth, Justice and Prosperity". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  10. ^ "HowTheLightGetsIn 2016". Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  11. ^ "'Error, lies and adventure': Politics on video". 6 December 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  12. ^ AnOther. "What You Should Do at Hay Festival & How The Light Gets In". AnOther. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Whose England?". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  14. ^ "How The Light Gets In 2015". The Festival Calendar.
  15. ^ "Let's Get Heretical on Education: Competition Has Failed". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  16. ^ "A Summer Festival ...Of Philosophy?!". HuffPost UK. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  17. ^ "How did they get in? Hay Festival's success spawns its own fringe". The Independent. 4 June 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Review: How The Light Gets In festival, Hay on Wye". Wales. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2017.

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