Ideas alive in the country

A FESTIVAL dedicated to ideas, based on beautiful farmland in the Cotswolds, returns this month, as the world‘s first socially-distanced, digitally-blended festival.

The theme of the ALSO festival, now in its seventh year at Park Farm, Compton Verney, from 28th to 30th August, is “A Place in the Country.”

Known as “the small festival with big ideas, ALSO will offer guests a transformative weekend in nature, to reset, rebalance and to look together at some essential ideas of our time – for how we might live beyond summer. The event will be simultaneously live-streamed for those not able to attend in person.

Sustainability runs through the festival’s core; it is programmed by a co-operative of 10 equal partners, who take pride in bringing together leading thinkers and their ideas. The quality and diversity of these ideas is balanced with music and audio adventures, great food and this year, an expanded programme of clever comedy. 

The speakers include the award-winning business psychologist Margaret Heffernan, who will answer questions on how to chart the future in such times of uncertainty, broadcaster and award-winning science writer Gaia Vince reflecting on the way we want to evolve beyond the pandemic, and social geographer Prof Danny Dorling, looking at growth and how we can make use of the coming slowdown.

Best-selling author and psychotherapist Philippa Perry will answer questions about relationships under lockdown and easing back into the new normal. Another exclusive is with Professor of Theoretical Physics from Trinity College, Cambridge, David Tong, who will invite guests to turn their gaze to quantum fields and explore the building blocks of life itself. Adam Rutherford will outline the skills we need to Argue with a Racist.

Other speakers include Lauren Bravo on “fast fashion”, and fashion designer and writer Sophie Lewis looking at how we can enjoy fashion without damaging the planet.

The festival’s Basque restaurant and wine bar, Getaria, will be putting together hampers for people to take down to the lake for the socially-distanced A Place in the Country picnic, with live music. The food and drink range includes Pizza Love and Red Banger, and coffee and espresso martinis from Stop The Press Café.

The music programme ranges from folk artist Jasmine Rodgers to ALSO favourites Miss Baby Sol, and Lip Sync champions. Marcos Santana and his  bubble of Tribo samba drummers, Richard Norris’s electronic Music For Healing  DJs and  acoustic sessions on the Lake Stage.

French entertainer Marcel Lucont is back with Cabaret Fantastique, and there is more comedy on John Luke Roberts’ Chaucer walk.

Saturday’s Socially Distant Sunset Happening will be a site-wide lantern event with Citrus Arts. Forming constellations of gathering points for each bubble of friends and family, a trail of flame and rope will spread across the site as each lantern is illuminated – with a special finale at the end!

The ALSO programme for children (and probably some adults) ranges from Professor David Tong’s Quantum Theory for Kids, bushcraft, hula hoop workshops, fairy and elf house building, storytelling and family yoga, to wild swimming and raft building.

Helen Bagnall, a festival founder and director, says: “As we continue to live through one of the strangest, discomforting and most stressful experiences in our collective and personal lives, we want to offer people an oasis from it all, where nature can do its job rejuvenating us and we can do our job providing mental stimulation, comfort and all-round joy in one of Britain’s most beautiful spots. All, of course, at an acceptable social distance.”

The festival’s Covid-19 strategy to keep people as safe as possible includes mandatory social bubbles, physical distancing and open air performance venues.


For more information and tickets visit

Pictured: A talk in one of the festival’s 2019 marquees; the evening scene by the lake.