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Q&A with Hilary Lawson, Director of HowTheLightGetsIn Festival

29 May 2012 Tom Hunter

HowTheLightGetsIn is the world's largest philosophy and music festival and is run by the Institute of Art and Ideas. A great mix of lively debate and entertainment, this festival is definitely one to watch. London Calling's Tom Hunter caught up with the Director, ahead of the opening.

London Calling: How did you first come to conceive the HowTheLightGetsIn festival?
Hilary Lawson: HowTheLightGetsIn was conceived five years ago. I have always been passionate about taking philosophy out of the academy and into people's lives. Our visitors have really responded to the festival and we are now the largest philosophy and music festival in the world.
 
LC: The event is well known for the diversity of its speakers, is the same diversity true for the different people coming to the event?
HL: Absolutely! We have a real mix of visitors on site. The music programme attracts a young, trendy crowd, but increasingly, they stay on for the talks and debates too. In addition, writers, academics, scientists, artists, politicians and musicians join us. It's this mix that makes us feel unique and gives the site real energy.
 
LC: What can people attending for the first time expect to find?
HL: A lively atmosphere that encourages debate, a beautiful and quirky site and lots of smiling faces!
 
LC: What other projects keep the Institute of Art & Ideas team busy the rest of the year?
HL: We run an art and music festival called Crunch in November. This brings together leading artists, gallerists and curators for a weekend of art focused debate and discussion. It's a great way to stave off the winter blues!
 
LC: Do you think the rise of the Internet and our increasingly digital lifestyles has facilitated or hindered the creation and curation of live events like this one and indeed our ability to interact with big philosophical ideas in general?
HL: It's really helped to disseminate new ideas and to encourage people to engage and interact with these ideas online. We film all of our talks and music sessions and stream them on iai.tv. This year, we are expecting over 1 million views, which is testament to the power of ideas and the public's interest in seeking out new thinking.
 
LC: Which speakers are you looking forward to hearing from?
HL: I'm excited to hear Giles Fraser, Hilary Rose, Bjorn Lomborg, Ziauddin Sardar and Jonathan Derbyshire consider progress in a new era; legendary musician Brian Eno and ClientEarth CEO James Thornton asking how to change the world; former Home Secretary David Blunkett getting to grips with the nature of nationality; Princeton professor and author of 'Animal Liberation', Peter Singer and Mary Midgley on the future of bioethics and Diane Abbott, Peter Tatchell, Jamie Whyte and Phillip Blond on what the Left means today.
 

HowTheLightGetsIn Festival is running from 31 May to 10 June. See website for details.
 

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