21/05/2013 13:37 BST | Updated 21/07/2013 06:12 BST

Time Travel and HowTheLightGetsIn


Time travel was invented for festivals like HowTheLightGetsIn (HTLGI). It's a maddeningly exciting place. Maddening because there's so much to see, hear, and taste, more than even the greediest of festival-goers could swallow, more than it seems possible to fit into one festival. It makes you wish you could split yourself with some sort of quantum collider and be at all the events, debates, performances, and parties, dancing with all the lovelies, eating all the pies (but somehow still having room for more). It's an all you can eat buffet replenished daily by a tide of talented and fascinating folk.

Fortunately you can at least be at some of the above. You might listen to physicist and philosopher David Wallace talk about the multiverse, then continue the discussion over lunch, sandwiched between Samantha Roddick of Coco de Mer, and Nassim Taleb, author of Black Swan, before dancing with them later that night to some joyous band. My band, Orlando Seale and The Swell, is thrilled to be coming back to the festival. We've been looking forward to it all year, not only because it is an opportunity to share our music with a lovely audience, but also to replenish ourselves at this most invigorating, irreverent and joyful of brain reboots.

One of the things I especially relish about HTLGI are the conversations you have there. You can't help but strike them up everywhere you go, and they're the sort of conversations that keep fizzing long after you've left Hay. The programmed debates spill into the streets and follow you to your tent, then onto the train and back to London or wherever you came from.

They end up climbing onto your kitchen table back home and possibly wiggling their way into places they shouldn't. They tend to resurface months down the line in that new song you're working on...

And on that score my favourite songs, plays and characters are like that, they don't give you answers, but rather have an unresolved struggle at their heart. Perhaps it's because I come from a background of acting that I like competing voices. It seems to me that our world is pretty incoherent so I generally look for the inconsistencies, the struggles and contradictions in the songs I write and the characters I play. I like the idea that the audience members are the ones who create the coherence in the performance they witness. It's perhaps no surprise then that my band brings together musicians who come from very different traditions. There are nine of us, including the usual drums, bass, and guitar, but also a cello, two violas, an oboe, a flute and lots of harmonies. I like to think that the voices of the instruments are in conversation with each other. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don't, they come together, then diverge, talking back and forth from one song to the next. It's swell, wilfully un-hip, neurotic, exuberant, and like the festival it might just make you want to dance.

Orlando Seale and The Swell will be performing at this year's HowTheLightGetsIn, the world's largest philosophy and music festival held in association with the Huff Post UK. For more information, see