From Thursday next week, a large chunk of Britain’s intelligentsia will be converging on Hay-on-Wye to hear, speak to and debate with some of the country’s—indeed the world’s—leading thinkers.
The Hay festival has long been a staple of the literary calendar, and this year Prospect’s editor Bronwen Maddox will interview the economist Dambisa Moyo, the Libyan novelist Hisham Matar and discuss the media coverage of popular uprisings with Jeremy Bowen and Adam Michnik. Prospect will also be running events at Booth’s Books.
Another interesting development at Hay in recent years has been the emergence of a philosophy and music festival, which runs alongside the longer-established literary festival.
“How the Lights Get In” (see Prospect’s preview of it back in 2009) started “almost by accident,” festival director Hilary Lawson told me when I caught up with him last week. It was born of a desire to give philosophy a better hearing, to move it away both from dry academia and Monty-Python style caricature. Combining debates and discussion with music events, Lawson told me, is in part designed to attract a “broad church” and to give the festival a “bohemian and relaxed” character, where people feel encouraged to engage with the speakers and the ideas, and are still “propping up the bar at 10 o’ clock at night having an argument.”
Highlights this year include “Blinded by the Light?”: a debate about whether 2,000 years of mankind’s existence has been guided by the wrong metaphor. For centuries, “light” has been associated with knowledge, progress—indeed, Enlightenment—but could it be that “darkness” is in fact a more interesting and fitting metaphor? Is the potential of the unknown more important than the idea that we can see things how they really are?
There will also be a lively debate on the value of neuroscience (see the new issue of Prospect, published next week, for Raymond Tallis’s latest spirited contribution to this), and an interrogation of the very modish and politically loaded concept of “happiness.” Full details of the programme can be found here—well worth a look.