Slow Down London
Slow Down London? Is it possible? London is a huge buzzy city, where the sheer size means we can spend half our day rushing from one end to the other, bumping into the tourists who dare to stroll idly and get in our way.
Yet London also carries its history of gentler times and of the villages it grew out of. As Carl Honoré comments, in his role as our patron: ‘London is the perfect place to slow down. It combines the volcanic energy of a big city with architecture, green spaces and villagey streets that encourage us to stop and stare.’
We thought up Slow Down London in a café almost two years back, and after percolating some time it has now reached a tipping point. Speeding up, in fact. It’s a challenge to run a project like this according to its own principles. Our first meetings were languorous affairs: we made a point of meeting in spacious, inspiring places like the British Museum’s Great Court, and the Tate Modern members lounge overlooking the Thames. Now, with our campaign and festival coming up in April, I can feel the ‘inner speed demon’ shouting at me with its demands and deadlines.
But as Carl rightly points out in In Praise of Slow, slowing down is not necessarily about doing everything slowly, but finding the right pace. The challenge can be to allow breathing spaces within a busy life, so that we can appreciate the vividness of the world, rather than rushing through it. Sometimes a few minutes of just breathing is literally what we need.
Since starting this project, we’ve been amazed how many directions people can go with the idea of ‘slow’. Each new partner who joins us has a different angle. Our colleague who programmes literature events at the Southbank Centre is interested in exploring the concept of Slow Living, and its roots in Italy, tying in with their Slow Food market. The Southbank’s head of music will develop a theme about the effects of speed on perception, and the meaning of ‘slowing down’ in relation to the way we listen. Our British Museum partners naturally take the long view of slowing down, curating a debate about time and pace across different cultures and ages. And we’re working with yoga teachers, walking groups, craft centers and so on to offer techniques that help people to slow down in practical and physical ways.
We’ve just launched our website, and we welcome new ideas, partners, volunteers and comments, so please do visit. Slowly but surely we hope to discover how big cities like London can be slow cities too.