People on the grass at a festival

How the Light Gets In: Everything You Need to Know

Audience watching a cabaret performance at how the light gets in festival

How the Light Gets In: Everything You Need to Know

Held in the bohemian riverside town of Hay-on-Wye, HowTheLightGetsIn is the world’s largest philosophy and music festival. Get ready for dynamic debates and though-provoking discussions, plus side-splitting comedy, incredible music and more.

“It is very much about seeking to provide a framework outside of the literary celebrity game,” says festival founder Hilary Lawson.


The story behind HowTheLightGetsIn

“There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in,” croons Leonard Cohen in his 1992 hit, Anthem. The song inspired the festival’s evocative name, which is only appropriate seeing as Cohen was one of the biggest thinkers of his generation.

Magic is woven into the fabric of HowTheLightGetsIn. The festival aims to bring together a diverse mix of philosophers, academics, scientists, musicians, comedians and creatives from around the world. Spend your days listening, learning and interacting with leading intellectuals.

Things don’t slow down after sunset. Whether you’re dancing the night away in the disco tent, enjoying rib-tickling laughs with the country’s top comedians or sharing a chef-driven meal with keynote speakers, HowTheLightGetsIn isn’t your average festival.


Explore the “edge of ideas” at HowTheLightGetsIn

Ideas aren’t boxed in at HowTheLightGetsIn. The festival aims to dive deep and explore what Lawson describes as the “edge of ideas”. Nothing is too outrageous, taboo or controversial. The goal is to spark “genuine conversations” about a wide range of topics, with an underlying theme of how they affect society, culture and politics.

“It is very much about seeking to provide a framework outside of the literary celebrity game of providing authors with vehicles for promoting their book and selling them,” says Lawson.

Think big in intimate venues

HowTheLightGetsIn has grown and evolved over the years. But the festival hasn’t lost sight of its bohemian roots. Organisers are dedicated to creating an intimate and inclusive environment. Venues are cherry-picked and carefully set up to spark genuine conversation and foster unforgettable experiences.

Cabaret performance at the How the light gets in festival

HowTheLightGetsIn 2023 – Hay-on-Wye

In 2023, HowTheLightGetsIn will unfold in Hay, an enchanting town set on the River Wye and framed by the Black Mountains. It’s a fitting setting, with Hay-on-Wye known as the National Book Town of Wales. Browse more than 20 bookshops selling everything from pre-loved classics to the latest bestsellers.

What date is HowTheLightGetsIn 2023?

This year’s festival will unfold over the Bank Holiday weekend from Friday, May 26th to Sunday, May 29th

Crowd dancing at the How the Light Gets in festival

Who can I see at HowTheLightGetsIn 2023?

HowTheLightGetsIn is set to be bigger and more engaging than ever in 2023. This year the festival will introduce a high-profile line-up of guests, including Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, British novelist Esther Freud and Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist from the United States. On the music stages you can expect to see homegrown Welsh talent like Gruff Rhys, along with Scottish indie pop band Belle and Sebastian.

Previous HowTheLightGetsIn luminaries

HowTheLightGetsIn may have grassroots origins. But the high-profile festival has attracted its fair share of big names since launching in 2008. Previous attendees include iconic American linguist and intellectual Noam Chomsky, British politician Ed Milliband and best-selling author Philip Pullman. Not to mention “practical ethics” pioneer Peter Singer and English film director, Sophie Fiennes.