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May 23, 2013updated 29 Jan 2016 11:29am

How The Light Gets In 2013

By Spear's

Hay, Wales 23 May-2 June HowTheLightGetsIn, the world’s largest philosophy festival, returns this May with a packed programme of debates, solo talks and live music geared around this year’s theme: Errors, Lies and Adventure

Hay-on-Wye, Wales
23 May-2 June

HowTheLightGetsIn, the world’s largest philosophy festival, returns this May with a packed programme of debates, solo talks and live music geared around this year’s theme: Errors, Lies and Adventure.

The festival has put paid to the idea that the public want dumbed down culture. With an unashamedly highbrow programme tackling the latest theories in everything from philosophy and art to science and politics- all set against a backdrop of live music and DJ sets from some of the UK’s most exciting emerging talent- visitor numbers have been growing at a breakneck pace – tripling each year. Last year’s event attracted over 35,000 visitors to the site.

In addition to debates with leading figures including Stephen Frears, Ian Blair, Will Hutton, Shirley Williams, AS Byatt, Jim Crace and Terry Pratchett amongst over 150 others, this year’s music programme includes the likes of Man Like Me, Jeffrey Lewis, Electro Swing Circus, Sam Lee, Emily Barker, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Serafina Steer, Phildel, Stealing Sheep, Young Husband, The Hut people, Andrew Weatherall, Deepgroove, Jamie Anderson, James Welsh, Utah Saints, The Boxettes, Nerina Pallot, King Charles, Nick Mulvey and Richard Walters.

The debates this year include:

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
Cory Doctorow, Will Hutton, Shirley Williams. Katie Derham chairs.
The economic and political dominance of the US is under threat from the rise of the East. Are we seeing the end of an empire that led the world throughout the 20th century? Can post-imperial America remain a vital force in world affairs, or will it couple waning economic influence with cultural decay?
Columnist and former Observer editor Will Hutton, SDP founder Baroness Shirley Williams, and novelist and activist Cory Doctorow imagine a changed world.

The Prejudice of Intellectuals
Jim Crace, Hannah Dawson, Catherine Hakim. Julian Baggini chairs.
We openly discriminate in favour of intelligence – at school and at work – while we often seek to deny or limit the role of physical beauty. Might this be a mistake? Should we accept the many different qualities of individuals and prize them equally, or would this undermine our society and lead to ruin?
LSE Sociologist and Erotic Capital theorist Catherine Hakim, historian of ideas Hannah Dawson and acclaimed novelist Jim Crace debate the values of the mind and the body.

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The Art of Life
Stephen Frears, Hermione Lee, Ray Monk. Katie Derham chairs.
From Thomas Cromwell to Abraham Lincoln, the legacies of historical icons are controlled by the writers and historians who shape their reputations. Yet since Foucault declared that history itself was a fiction, the very notion of historical truth has been in doubt. Is it an error to believe that authentic accounts of human lives are possible, and if so, what responsibilities are left to those who speak for the dead?
BAFTA-winning director of High Fidelity and The Queen Stephen Frears and biographers Hermione Lee and Ray Monk contemplate the limits of life writing.

Death of the Hero
Ian Blair, Angie Hobbs, Susan Neiman. Rana Mitter chairs.
Heroes are out of fashion, along with traditional masculine values of grit, perseverance and honour. Will this lead to a more benign culture or is it a fundamental mistake? Do we need new forms of heroism to inspire the modern world? Or should we guard against all heroes and all icons as sources of collective stupidity?
Philosopher and Director of the Einstein Forum, Susan Neiman, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Ian Blair, and classical philosopher and broadcaster Angie Hobbs seek out new heroes.

Mind, Madness and Power
Oliver James, Frank Furedi, Richard Bentall.
Psychiatrists and their critics alike claim their opponents’ theories are flawed, their institutions corrupt, and their practices dangerous. Does anti-psychiatry echo the terminology, power structures and paradigms of the psychiatric profession? Do we need new ways of helping the mentally ill beyond the confines of the therapist-patient relationship?
Psychologist, author and broadcaster Oliver James, outspoken sociologist and author of Cultures of Fear, Frank Furedi, and clinical psychologist Richard Bentall debate the limits of psychotherapy.

At the World’s Edge
Terry Pratchett, AS Byatt, Terry Eagleton. Mary Ann Sieghart chairs.
Fantasy tales are often seen as a peripheral part of culture, with little to contribute to our lives other than throw-away entertainment. Is this an error? Might fantasies be central to how we perceive the world, and even gesture towards the limits of our understanding? 

Mary Ann Sieghart asks philosopher Terry Eagleton and eminent novelists AS Byatt and Terry Pratchett to explore reality’s edge.

Why has the festival proved such a remarkable success? Philosopher and founder of the festival Hilary Lawson says: “There are many names you will recognise in this year’s programme but we are not about celebrity. The festival creates a space where real human interaction can take place. It sounds easy. But it’s rare. Our venues are intimate. Our speakers mix with our audience and go to the same parties. We talk, dance, play and bring life to the world of ideas and maybe just a little meaning to our lives in a world that is so often rather emptier than we would like.”

This year’s full programme is available here

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