Places we love: The Idler

By Regina Connell.

Idling: it’s all too often just a fantasy, never enough of a reality. Even on holiday, we rush about, just gathering experiences as fast as we can, so we can go home and tell everyone (or do it in real time, updating that Facebook page or Instagramming  smugshots).

The point is, most of us don’t know how to be idle, not properly.

The bookshop at The Idler

And that’s why the idea of the London-based Idler is so appealing. (And really, could the Idler come from anywhere but the UK? Anyone associated with a concept as deplorable as idleness in the US would be immediately stripped of their citizenship and escorted to a long-haul flight by some square-jawed gents.)

Founded in 1993 by author Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the Idler is actually three things: a magazine, an academy, and a coffeehouse/bookshop. As the website says, the Idler “campaigns against the work ethic and promotes liberty, autonomy and responsibility.” The title comes from a series of essays by Samuel Johnson, published in 1758 and 1759.

Note that the form of idling here isn’t the ‘peel-me-a -grape-darling/where’s-the-waiter-with-my-mojito’ sort of idling. It’s more the concept of freedom from traditional forms of work, and the ‘shoulds’ of contemporary society. There’s a focus on self-sufficiency, of knowing how to do things. That’s the ‘autonomy’ and ‘responsibility’ bit referred to in the mission.

Hodgkinson has spent a good deal of his life championing (gently of course) the idea of idleness. He’s the author of How to be Idle, How to be Free, the Idle Parent, The Book of Idle Pleasuresand most recently, Brave Old World: a Month by Month Guide to the Fine Art of Looking After Yourself

The Idler Manifesto

The magazine is an annual hardbound book containing essays from the likes of Penny Rimbaud, Alain De Botton, Oliver James, Jay Griffiths and Paul Kingsnorth.  Largely focused on taking a more relaxed approach to life, themes explored in the past include “Back to the Land”, “Utopia”, and “Mind Your Own Business”.

The Idler have also published other books with intriguing titles such as (my favorite) “Crap Holidays” which is part of a series  including,”Crap Jobs” and “Crap Towns”. Fabulous.

The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment (doesn’t get better than that) is housed in the brick and mortar premises of The Idler London.

The academy exists to serve a cultivated kind of idleness. Classes include everything from playing ukelele to mosaic making to foraging to poetry and lectures on coffee culture and gardening.

The shop itself offers a carefully curated selection of books (real ones, in hardcover, even) on everything from social commentary to cooking to Oscar Wilde. We love those comfy-looking chairs, the coffeehouse attached, and the note that napping is encouraged.

Sound interesting? Sound like a movement you’d like to be a part of? Then you can sign up to be a member (or at least get on their mailing list). And if you just want to look like you’re a part of the tribe (really not the point, but we understand these things) you can just buy the tea towel, T shirt, or bag. It’s all in a good cause, after all.

Idle on.


81 Westbourne Park Road in London W2




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