Back from a whirlwind few days as I was privileged to go to Hay-on-Wye to support Matthew Hammond the Stand Up Philosopher, performing at The Globe Stage in the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival of philosophy and music (which runs pretty much at the same time as the Hay Literature and Arts Festival). The weather was amazing - almost too hot! And the bustling town of Hay was alive with folks attending both festivals, and packing the teashops and market stalls stacked up old stairs on the way up a steep slope to the castle remains... The attractive clock tower had signs all round it, and the colourful shops full of antiques, books of course for which Hay is famous, gifts and whimsical objet, made a wonderful backdrop to the festivals. As did the bridge over the beautiful River Wye, untamed and wide like a river in France, and the whole nestling by the foothills of the Black Mountains.
The main venue for the HowTheLightGetsIn was The Globe, with its extensive grounds and split levels and many bars, and the thing that impressed me was just how much like a manageably scaled summer rock festival it was! The grassy spaces were studded with quirky interesting stalls, one selling sheepskin rugs, one selling vintage hats and a whole section calling itself ' Beautiful Rubbish', lots of places to eat with local suppliers well in evidence, cafes, a tea tent decorated like a posher version of one of the famous cafes that do the rounds at festivals like Glastonbury, places to sit outside with many octagonal wooden table and chair sets, well kept marquees, and because of the split levels and causeways, it all felt bigger than it was, and one could find unexpected corners. The Globe itself had a main hall, and underneath that, a lovely chill out zone bar selling excellent coffee and cakes as well as the usual bar drinks fare. The Stage marquee was lush - a cocktail bar at the entrance, replete with many martini glasses, neon sign and all, and a wonderful vintage red velvet ornately carved sofa, looking like something from a decaying country house. The stage area had crimson drapes, and was a really nice space. As a ticketed event, Matthew had to wait until the audience arrived before starting, so in the meantime to get people in the mood for thinking, he told them Anglo-Saxon Riddles from the C10th Exeter Book (a speciality of Widsith and Deor Storytelling Theatre of which he is course, one half), and at one point he kindly invited me up to tell my favourite riddle - the Sun and Moon! His show when it did commence was brilliant as ever, and the feat of remembering all the philosophical ideas detailed in each piece, the performing as if we were hearing the philosopher in question hectoring his contemporaries, whether Kant, Aquinas or Marx, the turning philosophy into theatrical monologues, and the hearing-the-thinking occur as in the piece on an idea by the modern French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, all of it was as rich, enthralling and (as a poet at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden remarked last summer) 'incredibly impressive', as ever. As he observed to the audience (eliciting some laughter) they needed to be drunker! but it was early in the evening... However, the show went down a treat and the organizers/stewards and technicians who had hosted and aided with it all were all pleased and complimentary, and all in all, it was a triumph.
I just wish I could have made many more of the events listed. With talks and discussions on drugs, 'When China Rules the World', the 'Old Gods of England', the concept of the self, and allsorts of aspects on technology, politics, and everything in between, plus loads of music, and even circus, I recommend the Festival as one to get to! It had a lovely mellow vibe, and was about as far from stuffy or quiet (as some people might assume a festival about thinking might be) as could be imagined.
2 weeks ago