HowtheLightGetsIn2016: Philosophy and Music Festival at Hay


The Philosophy & Music Festival at Hay
26th May to 5th June

Set on the edge of the Black Mountains alongside the Wye in the famed book town of Hay, HowTheLightGetsIn has a magical location. But that is the backdrop for the real magic to come. “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” goes the Leonard Cohen song from which the festival gets its name. And HowTheLightGetsIn brings its own special form of magic to everyone. There is no other place on the planet where you can meet as many of the world’s leading thinkers and dance until your feet ache.

At HowTheLightGetsIn festival 2016 you can join a debate about the nature of the universe with the world’s top scientists, laugh until your sides hurt with the UK’s best comedians, dance by the river to the finest beats, dine with our speakers in Open Platform events or indulge yourself with four course long table banquets. You’ll want to find time to fit in Cabaret at the Hat, view the Black Mountains from the top of our ferris wheel, find yourself spellbound at our riotous Spiegel Circus and enjoy some well earned relaxation and revival at the Spa. All in preparation of course for our nightly themed parties with the hottest bands and the country’s leading soloists. With over 700 events, the range, choice and depth of the programme at HowTheLightGetsIn is unmatched. Yet, even though we have grown tenfold since we started, we’ve kept the intimate scale. Our venues are small enough to encourage real conversation, electric enough to make the dancing spin.

Our heart, though, is in ideas. When we began just six years ago philosophy was something of a joke. Locked in an ivory tower arguing over the meaning of words, to many it resembled the medieval church and had a similar level of relevance to our lives and culture. Our aim was to change this state of affairs.  Its goal then and now was to return philosophy to big ideas and put them at the centre of our culture. Not in aid of a more refined cultural life but as an urgent call to rethink where we are.

Ideas are alive and evolving and at the edge there is rarely consensus. That’s why ideas matter – because they are in dispute. When they turn into knowledge and are recylced in textbooks they are in a sense already dead. That’s why debates are at the heart of our programme and why HowTheLightGetsIn is not about dusting off agreed areas of knowledge and conveying them to the public. Instead we try to stand at the edge and look forward in search of new and better ways to hold the world in an attempt to address the challenges that face us.

HowTheLightGetsIn is not just another literary festival or music festival. There’s something special in the air. It’s alive with ideas in every field of endeavour. Our programme has many names you will recognise but HowTheLightGetsIn is not about status or celebrity. We are about ideas and wonder and creating a space where everyone’s imagination can flourish. Find the bands you’ve never heard of, discover ground-breaking ideas that have yet to make their mark, contribute yourself and your thoughts, and magic will come your way.

Two featured events:

The Weird and the Wonderful (debate): In Europe, belief in organised religion continues to decline as science advances. Yet strangely interest in everything from ley lines to solstice rituals is increasing. Should we dismiss this as empty fantasy? Or is there in nature something essential to ourselves, beyond science and beyond monotheistic religion?

LSE sociologist and author of New Religious Movements Eileen Barker, comedian and Dawkins collaborator Ariane Sherine, and environmental activist Alastair McIntosh find meaning in spirituality.

The Shame Game (debate): The shaming exposés and twitter scandals of today can seem as backward as the stocks or the pillory. Yet the fear of shame can bring the powerful to heel. What is our curious shame about shame? Might shaming be our best tool for change? Or should we always be fearful of the tyranny of mob?

Comedian Robin Ince, Sugar Daddy Diaries Helen Croydon, theologian and Žižek collaborator John Milbank uncover the strangeness of shame.

Full event programme may be found here.

Location & Travel information.

Site address:

Globe at hay
Newport Street
Hay on Wye



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(Sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell)

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