A legitimate Westbourne Grove inhabitant and good friend of mine pointed me in the direction of the quirky Idler. ‘What is it?’ I enquired. ‘An academy, café, bookshop and generally good place to chill’ she answered. Intrigued by her response, I headed down to the year-old Idler to discover if, how and why I should be idle…
The Idler is owned by a husband and wife team; Tom Hodgkinson and Victoria Hull. Tom is the renowned author and authority on ‘How to be Idle’ and other variations on this theme.
Together with Victoria his wife, Tom has made it his mission to extol the virtues of loafing around. They both believe in simple living and love to emphasise the benefits of their rural North Devonfamily life. Taking it in turns to manage the Idler business in noisy, hectic London, I managed (after a number of futile attempts) to track Victoria down long enough to answer my questions regarding their unusual yet cunningly brilliant business in the trendy ‘Grove.
Are you a bookshop or café or a school?
All three. We have been concentrating on the events but our bookshop is now being revamped. Expect a treasure trove of classics, great presents and Tom’s bibliographies.
Where did the idea for the Academy come from?
I used to run a literary festival and Tom always held fantastic parties for The Idler magazine. The idea came from us enjoying learning new things when we moved to a small-holding on Exmoor- philosophy, husbandry and merriment. We wanted to share the learning process with everyone.
You advocate doing nothing and yet with the books, home-made scones and talks, you look quite busy yourselves!
We have had to come to the conclusion that we work hard so that you can be idle.
Who loafs around best, in your opinion?
Philosophers. You need to loaf to think properly.
Do you sometimes have to kick people out for having ‘idled’ around for too long?
Not yet. Idling is welcome – as long as a book is bought at the same time.
Which of your talks have been most popular?
Most popular so far, apart from the celebrities like Louis Theroux, have been local actor Sir Timothy Ackroyd’s events – they are always a hit.
What can we look forward to while we idle?
Look forward to more books, more scones, the best coffee, family Saturday morning events, and… two idle proprietors, no longer run off their feet, but chatting in a sunny garden.
81 Westbourne Park Road, London W2