Friday, June 10, 2016

Philosophers, Musicians, and Cabaret Performers - HowTheLightGetsIn Festival part 3

Making notes with the HowTheLightGetsIn festival brochure

The first philosophy talk I went to see was Doing Right and Feeling Good with Simon Baron-Cohen, Peter Dews, Anders Sandberg and hosted by Elaine Glaser. It was in the Globe which was quite surreal for me, as it's a former chapel that my great gran used to attend. In the brochure this talk was summarised as:

'We think empathising with others is the route to a better world. But studies show that empathy encourages us to help one named child over ten anonymous others. Is morality perhaps not about empathy at all? Does the moral way to act have more to do with thinking than feeling, or is empathy a vital force for good?'

 The audience really engaged in this talk - there was much 'mm'ing, nodding and murmurs of agreement/dissent. There were elements of humour as well (frequently added by Anders Sandberg) and there was an intellectual and welcoming environment.
A variety of topics were discussed in this talk, such as:

- How do we develop a moral code?
- Is compassion or rationality the best way to develop a moral compass? Or a combination of the two?
- What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?

A main source of discussion was the effect of the photo of a washed up Syrian child and a police officer which emerged and the wave of impact this had on awareness of the Syrian Refugee crisis and the levels of support. We questioned who our empathy was with and what this triggered inside us empathetically. Also, could we ensure the continuation of support after the initial impact of this emotional involvement?

This was an impassioned and engaging talk. If you like your time out at festivals to be thought-provoking and innovative as well as fun and partying, this is just the kind of festival for you! It was lovely to see all ages in there from various backgrounds.

The Fayre & Hat Site. Property of Aidan Everett, 2016

After the talk was done, I decided to take a look at the Riverside Site as I hadn't seen it when there were many people around.

So many choices!

There were so many choices for food! For me (a massive foodie) this was both heaven and torture. I want to try them all! Haha

Eventually I ended up getting a burrito (nom nom) from a stand fundraising for an innovative community who are trying to provide sailing ferry service as a sustainable transport alternative to flight. I think their ambitious yet achievable aim to provide this more environmentally-friendly travel could definitely be the way forward. Also, it was totally appropriate for them to be at this festival which was very much concerned with our impact on the world. I spoke to Ross Porter, a sea captain, about this venture and if you want to find out more about it, check out their website below!

Mealtime - aka consistently my favourite time of day!

I took some photos and was drawn over to a tent with wonderful music streaming out. I was lucky enough to have stumbled upon Rachel Taylor-Beales.

Rachel is an enchanting, natural performer and talented musician. We sat outside a tent listening to her where she encouraged us to join in and play instruments to the music or dance to the music. Children and parents, singles and couples sat down in the sun alike enjoying her songs. It was easy to feel connected to her as a performer - even commenting to her children between songs about how many songs she had left before they could go to the fairground together.

Her music seemed very personal to her, her beliefs and her experiences. Two of my favourite songs by her were 'Digging Down' and 'Stone's Throw' (linked to above) which I definitely recommend you check out! Her style felt very rural and 'in the earth' to me. It acted as an epitome, a soundtrack to the festival for me as I took some time out to enjoy.

The Riverside site overlooks the castle across the river. It is a terrific atmosphere with music floating from the performance tents. People practice yoga, walk barefoot and easily make new friends.

It was at this point that I met two lovely people, Lysianne, who was running an UPENDO Creative Juices stall which made delicious drinks, and Aidan Everett, who gave me permission to use some of his wonderful photographs on my blog. Lysianne gave me a thirst-quenching carrot and ginger concoction which is just what I needed to refresh me on that sunny afternoon! We got talking and she told me that she has an amazing project going on - Pedal for Purpose ( in which she and another wonderful lady, Emma, will be cycling all the way from Kenya to Cape Town in order to empower local communities and give back to Africa.
This sounds like a fascinating project and I suggest that you check it out!

Then I went for a stroll into town (because you know, the more time in Hay to see everything the better for me!) I visited one of my favourite shops in Hay, Satori ( and I was really thrilled to speak to them! I bought some lovely pieces and we came up with an exciting new post for my blog, so keep your eyes peeled for this one! (Trust me, you don't want to miss out)

Hay on Wye's Craft Centre - Well worth a visit!

I took out some money, got a favourite local cider of mine and got drafting for the blog! I basically just indulged in my love of Hay-on-Wye which you can see in the first HTLGI festival blog post.
Looking down from Hay on Wye Castle. Property of Aidan Everett, 2016

Ty Gwyn, Writing and Sunshine... totally alright with this!
Then, the second talk, Sharing The Future. An incredibly important talk considering the current social worries, particularly for younger people about housing. Again, Elaine Glaser hosted the talk and the speakers were Owen Hatherley, Simon Heffer and Zoe Williams. The talk bounced off the catalyst:

'The financial crash locked out many of the housing market and created a generation of nomads. Yet as Germany's rental economy thrives and communities blossom, our obsession with property seems odd. Might communal living be more satisfying and enjoyable? Or does a house have to be mine to be a home?'

Now, let me tell you, this was an impassioned one. People were really engaged with this topic and it was hard for the speakers to finish before the audience started contributing. The space was completely full and the atmosphere was buzzing. I didn't even manage to make many notes on this one, purely because it was so captivating!

This took on yet another level because the room was dominated by white, middle-aged festival goers. There were plenty of people who had plenty of money. On the other hand, there were younger people, poorer people and more local people. One particular instance which I remember is a young woman who works with young families getting the mic and telling the speakers, respectfully but firmly, that they did not seem to realise that the problem was not just limited to owning your own house, but being able to find any appropriate living accommodation at all.

Do not get me wrong, there were plenty of people who did have more money and privilege fiercely defending people more greatly effected by the housing shortage but this talk was passionate. It became clear that this is definitely a talk we need to continue to have in the United Kingdom because this was the most touchingly relevant and thought-provoking event I came across.

I found it so unusual and yet, somehow, so natural for a festival to be the place where these topics are faced and argued. I can't pinpoint what it was about the atmosphere, but something about a festival environment lends to it feeling more democratic, more immediate, more involved.

If philosophy and current events are something you're even vaguely interested in HowTheLightGetsIn festival will give you something. You will learn something and take something away from it. You won't go home with just festival tickets, goodies from stalls, etc you will probably go home with new interests, new points of views and (very easily) new friends.
Sitting down with a drink waiting for Abigail Collins at HowTheLightBeginsFestival
HowTheLightGetsIn Riverside site at evening. Property of Aidan Everett, 2016.
After this, I had some dinner at the Globe kitchen (delicious by the way, would recommend!) and then went to watch the hilarious comic burlesque performer, Abigail Collins!

Abigail Collins is so warm and seemingly effortlessly quick. Opening with 'All I want for you to do is have a laugh at my expense... which is not hard' her 'terminally single' character, Peggy Sued, was loveable, hilarious and a downright mischief!
I honestly don't think I've laughed so much in a very long time. There was a *lot* of audience involvement, but I (and I think everyone else) felt really safe with her - from celebrating a married couple's love in a Mr and Mrs game to doing a splits in the air assisted by two audience members, Abigail Collins could have had the audience eating out of her hand.
Honestly, I don't want to give too much away about her performance because you NEED to see her yourself if you get a chance. As someone who has done much comedy improvisation her timing, delivery and presence just astounded me. She seemed so self-aware and prepared to mock both herself and society's values - for example, moving a microphone because it made her feel fat. Perfect joke for someone who sets unrealistic expectations of herself (ahem, me) to laugh at.
Seriously. Watch her.

After getting myself back together again it was time for me to go and see the final act I'd booked to see in my day at HowTheLightGetsIn Festival 2016.
It was Martha Tilston! 

Martha Tilston instantly struck me as a powerful performer. 'The Stage' venue was packed and she was incredibly inviting to watch - people who didn't know the words before (like me) were singing along and people got up to dance. Her performance was such a wonderful way for me to wind down the warmest, kindest and safest festival I've ever been to.

Check out her youtube channel here:
(Go on, go on, go on...)

I instantly bought into her music and identified with her immediately. On stage she is so personable and I immediately related to her stories of rural country life! I feel you, Martha! You forget that you're in a marquee and get drawn into the atmosphere created by her voice and music.
Her song Wheels resonated perfectly with the festival and connected with the audience beautifully.
"Wuh-oah, my nomad blood"
We sang together and it became like a mantra to the audience full of love and connectedness.

She sang her beautiful song Artificial which she dedicated to 'anyone who knows the feeling of wanting to run across the office tables and move to the sea' describing herself and her colleagues as Clark Kent's with second creative lives. This song is so perfect for 20-somethings who don't know what they're doing, or people who've found themselves in a sleep-walking, day-in-day-out existence but dream of more.

She even came into the audience after her set to sing a more personal set to the fans and audience around her.

Enchanted by the festival and with the haunting voice of Martha Tilston still swimming through my head, I got a *free* beef and stilton pie (lucky me) and got my ride home.

Ever since I've been I'm just determined to go again and spend more time at HowTheLightGetsIn Festival. It was the most joyful day I spent in a long time. I've not revealed their names, but I also made friendships at the festival with other lone female festival-goers, learned new things and just generally had a wonderful time! I am determined to go again.
I need to experience more. HowTheLightGetsIn transcended a festival and became a life experience for me.
I would really recommend going. And if you go, you'll probably find me sipping on a glass of something nice, exploring all around or on the front row of one of the acts.

Property of Aiden Everett, 2016

I hope this finds you all well and I will write again soon.

Your friend,
Nicky xx


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, it was wonderful.
      I've just followed your blog :). Thanks for the comment!

      Nicky xx

  2. Ooh looks so lovely, brilliant photography! Makes the whole place look like an enchanted fairy land with castles and knights.

    1. It's definitely a great place to indulge in mythical fantasies! And yes, Aidan's photography is wonderful - very grateful he gave me permission to feature his work.

  3. What a cute outdoor fair

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