Hobbes-nobbing in Malmesbury


The RSA could make next year’s Malmesbury philosophy festival bigger and better. But,then again, maybe they don’t need our help.  

The combination of work and my duties as a youth football team coach mean my weekends are very full. So when Barbara reminded me late on Friday that I had committed to go on Sunday afternoon to the Thomas Hobbes Festival of Philosophy of Malmesbury I was less than overjoyed.

I had to leave Balham Blazers Eagles tied at 0-0 with our old adversaries Southbank FC and dash across town for the train from Paddington. By the time I got to Malmesbury Town Hall for what was the final session of the two day event, I rather assumed I would be speaking to an empty room. But as so often happens, it is the events to which I least look forward that turn out to be most fun. There were about 40 people including a long time friend and one of our leading popularisers of philosophical ideas. I got into the flow of my talk – on 21st century enlightenment - and at the end there was a generous response from the audience and our Chair Michael Cuthbert...

As I was being driven back to the station by a retired gentleman - who managed to combine gentle intelligence and wit with the driving style of Lewis Hamilton - I found myself burbling on about how I wished the RSA could play a role in making sure the festival (which only started in 2008 and didn’t happen last year) could grow and prosper. By helping to lever in the skills and resources of local Fellows, I saw myself as the entrepreneur who could transform this modest event into the new Hay on Wye festival.

As we drove back through the Wiltshire dusk (with me occasionally slamming down hard on imaginary brakes on the passenger side) my driver was very keen, and it was with a warm glow of superior benevolence that I settled back for the train journey home. ‘tomorrow, I’ll write a nice blog about the festival’ I thought to myself ‘they will be so pleased that I have decided to try to help’.

This morning, as I was making breakfast for my sons I caught the newspaper summary on the Today programme. After several items about the spending review the announcer referred to an article in the Guardian about…well, read it for yourself.

Rarely have I seen such a brilliant piece of self publicity and spin. There was I, thinking the RSA could come to the rescue of the Festival and it seems like its organisers already have plans for world domination.

So, I don’t know quite which is the reality. The quaint, small scale, low budget event I went to yesterday afternoon (I didn’t even get a cup of tea) or the big world-renowned, town-wide Festival apparently planned for future years.

Either way, I would still love to see the RSA playing a role. Perhaps, if they invite me back  next year, I will be speaking to thousands not tens. Who knows, I might even get a biscuit.

Any West Country Fellows up for making Malmesbury to big ideas what Glastonbury is to loud music?

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