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August 2018 / Diary / by Karen Heaney

HowTheLightGetsIn Festival

22-23 Sep | Kenwood House.

Billed as the world’s largest ideas and music festival, HowTheLightGetsIn is making its London debut. Over two days, the programme will bring together more than 50 debates and talks and 40 music and comedy acts across eight stages. A stellar line-up of speakers includes Steven Pinker, Tariq Ali, Deborah Levy and Mary Ann Sieghart, addressing a host of burning issues, from Trump’s foreign policy to our tribal ethics and the dangers of the tech giants.

Fabric asked festival founder Hilary Lawson what Londoners could expect from this intellectual powerhouse.

First of all, where does the festival get its name from?

It’s from the Leonard Cohen song Anthem: “There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in”. In every field of human endeavour you need to allow the light in. It encourages us to ask questions and forces us to think differently.

Philosophy isn’t an obvious focus for a festival. What made you think the idea would catch on?

When we launched at the Hay Festival seven years ago philosophy wasn’t really taken seriously. The predominant impression was still a bit like that Monty Python sketch about the philosophers’ football match. But all of us, on some level, want to know what we’re doing here. Of course, we did wonder initially how we would get people to attend, but people did. And now we get around 4,000 people a day at Hay.

What’s special about the London HowTheLightGetsIn festival? What will the vibe be like?

We had been thinking about London for a while. We’re delighted to be hosted by Kenwood House. It’s a fantastic venue. Being quite a long way from everything else, it will let people leave urban life behind.

Most importantly, we try to avoid being a ‘status’ space, the idea that you have to be a professional to say anything sensible. We try to create an atmosphere where there are no VIP areas – you could easily find yourself in the company of a Nobel Prize Winner. Music helps to soften the ambience and create a more relaxed atmosphere that promotes genuine conversation. We’re trying to create the same freewheeling atmosphere that we find at other events.

In an age where we spend far too much time in the digital space, festivals like this connect us – they offer something that’s missing from life.

Hampstead Lane, NW3 (howthelightgetsin.org/london)