Back to life: HowTheLightGetsIn Festival returns to London

·3 min read
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Meet and mingle at HowTheLightGetsIn Festival. (themancphotographer.co.uk)

Of all the wonderful events we missed during lockdown, for many, festivals topped the list. So what better way to return to real life festivals than with one featuring philosophical debates, fascinating talks, live music, comedy and great food and drink, in the glorious grounds of Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath?

HowTheLightGetsIn was founded in 2010 by Hilary Lawson, and he's openly delighted to be back in the real world this month after lockdowns forced the hugely popular festival into the virtual space.

"This is a remarkable event for us, actually returning to a real festival!" he says.

The grounds lead down to a picturesque lake, and the festival will feature stages, tents and outdoor seating dotted through the trees. "It's in London, but you feel you're in the countryside."

HowTheLightGetsIn is the world's largest festival of philosophy and music, with over 100 events, featuring the world's leading thinkers alongside musicians, performers, comedians and artists.  

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The festival spreads through the grounds of Kenwood House. (themancphotographer.co.uk)

The theme this time is Dreams and Jeopardy, "to reflect the current situation we find ourselves in - what could the future look like now?" says Lawson. "And we'll look at the jeopardy the world is facing and how it can be overcome. 

"We've got an amazing line-up of topics and new ways of thinking about the world." 

One aspect that was missed online, he adds, was unexpected interactions - festival goers falling into conversation and the happy accidents of surprising meetings.

"In the digital world, nothing happens accidentally," he says. "This time, there will be all those opportunities for conversation and chance connections.

Music and comedy also play a big part, partly to avoid any danger of intellectual pomposity. 

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"We were always aware that if you're not careful, a festival like this could become a bit of a status game, a bit 'emperors new clothes,'" he laughs, "so we like the fact that you can be debating atomic physics or the future of sexuality and hear pop music drift into the tent - it makes people relax."

He is determined to make sure the talks and debates light up the issues, rather than obscuring them in intellectual waffle.

"So much academic conversation can be a sham, so from the outset we've been determined to get people to just be themselves and talk. We don't ask speakers to dumb down, but to be clear."

As the programme says, "HowTheLightGetsIn festivals are not about status or celebrity. We are about free-thinking and wonder, creating a space where everyone's imaginations can flourish."

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Food, music, comedy and food for thought are just a few of the experiences on offer. (themancphotographer.co.uk)

Wander from the boutique picture house cinema to debates on the future of sex and relationships, explore MP Thangam Debbonaire's political life, and meet the physicists asking whether our universe is one of many (and if it is, how would we ever know?).

There's stylish street food, craft beers, fine wines and homemade cake, alongside cabaret, comedy, dancing and performance all night. 

It's not just another festival. HowtheLightGetsIn is a playground for the soul.

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