How did they get in? Hay Festival's success spawns its own fringe

Each May Peter Florence pitches his marquees in a field below the town of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh-English border, ready to receive 100,000 visitors to his Hay Festival.

They are drawn by star names – Nigella Lawson, Chris Evans and VS Naipaul have already spoken, and Julian Assange is due onstage later today – as well as camaraderie and a love of books.

However, this year, the festival has been punctuated by references to "the other place". A rival festival has not only pitched up on Florence's territory but it is also seducing some of his high-profile speakers, for whom he has provided accommodation and travel.

How the Light Gets In is a philosophy and music festival, started up three years ago by Hilary Lawson, in the grounds of an old chapel in Hay, surrounded by a village of yurts and canvas canopies. Its name comes from a Leonard Cohen lyric.

This year the journalist Polly Toynbee, philosophers AC Grayling and Mary Warnock and the poet Simon Armitage are among the high-profile speakers drawn to both festivals.

Lawson's hippyish theme and younger crowd also seduced Martin Amis. Last year, after speaking at Hay, he invited himself to speak at How the Light Gets In. "It was a mistake," says Lawson. "He didn't have anything interesting to say. We aren't here to help people sell their books, it's about ideas."

This year How the Light Gets In has pulled off a coup, and cannot be accused of borrowing Florence's talent. Tomorrow the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, will be speaking at two events there on global futures. Over at the Hay Festival, the top political guest is the less exciting Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary.

Lawson has been accused of "eating off Peter's plate". Last year a rumour went round that Florence had told one of his writers who dared to perform at "the other place" that they would not be welcome at Hay again.

"You are always going to have smaller fringe events that spring up," says a spokesman for Florence. "But, as long as everyone's clear about their own identities and looks after their guests, then it's going to be fun."

Florence's empire is hardly struggling. Since it started 33 years ago, funded with the winnings of a poker game, it has spawned sister festivals around the world.

It still attracts the great and the good of the London publishing world who rate Hay so highly that books are engineered to appear in May in the hope of a gig there.

Lawson has so far resisted the corporate route, although there's a sense that a big investment isn't far away.

"I was invited, with several other arts organisers, to a lunch with the director general of the BBC [Mark Thompson] and other executives a month ago. They were looking for new ways of covering the arts," says Lawson. Florence was also there. One can't imagine he stomached the meal too well.

So, which is better: Ha y , or How The Light Gets In?

Science

Brian Cox has star power as TV's favourite science presenter but for pure science wattage the D:Ream keyboard player turned physicist, who is speaking at Hay, will struggle to outshineRolf-Dieter Heuer, the man in charge of the Large Hadron Collider.

Winner: HTLGI

Children's Literature

It would be cruel to ask their readers to choose between equally beloved Philip Pullman, who is reading at How the Light Gets In, and Jacqueline Wilson, but when it comes to popularity – and pound signs – Wilson edges it with 30 million book sales in Britain alone.

Winner: Hay

Politics

One of How the Light Gets In's biggest coups has been signing up the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, who be talking today about "global futures" (bleak, one expects). Over at Hay, visitors will have to make do with shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper.

Winner: HTLGI

Art

They've all won the Turner Prize but Martin Creed, who is speaking at How The Light Gets In, says he "wouldn't call himself an artist" and has had eggs chucked at his Turner installation, so top billing should go to eccentric duo Gilbert & George.

Winner: Hay

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Arts and Entertainment
The Vienna State Opera
opera
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'
musicLilly Wood and Robin Schulz bag number one single
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories