Making Hay

Hay Festival 2015

I’m back from the annual week-long trip to the Welsh Marches, taking in an eclectic mix of speakers at both the Hay and the newer How the Light Gets In festivals. The first of these has grown in size to the extent that, for some years, it has been located out-of-town in a field of marquees. I remember visiting when events took place in the local primary school. The second, much smaller, festival makes use of the Globe building supplemented with tents across two sites.

There was plenty on offer related to the field of mental health. Andrew Scull used images to support a tour through mental health services across time, and Mark Salter gave a lively account of the limits of biology. Richard Bentall, Dinesh Bhugra and Simon Baron-Cohen debated categorisation and diagnosis, concluding (in largely consensual style) that what we need is more public mental health, peer support and respect. David Healy continued his critique of the pharma industry.

This year the weather was kind, which always makes a difference. Travelling further north for a day, deep into Powys, took us to the Elan Valley and a fine walk in the hills.

Caban Coch dam
Carn Gafallt

Back at the festivals, I’m always impressed when natural scientists are able to convey difficult concepts in ways which are understandable to lay audiences. This is not easy, I would have thought, when the working language is that of mathematics. On this occasion I took the time to listen to a discussion on the physics of black holes, and was glad that I did.

Next week sees me back at work, with a new office giving views over Cardiff towards the Bristol Channel. Here’s a photo taken just before I headed off for my week away. Look hard enough and you can, just about, make out the sea.

Office view: Cardiff, then the Bristol Channel, and Somerset in the far distance

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