We meet Tom Hodgkinson from the Idler Academy to hear about their Business for Bohemians course, and announce a special giveaway.
Any club that counts dictionary mastermind Samuel Johnson and round-glasses fashionista John Lennon among its members is one you’d be foolish not to want to join.
Tom Hodgkinson describes Lennon as, “quite naturally lazy, but obviously capable of amazing things”. Very few would argue with the latter, but it’s a surprise that he was lazy. Still, if anyone knows his idlers, it is Tom. His version of idling leaves room for creativity and fun, as well as simply allowing one’s mind to wander.
Dr Johnson, who according to Tom liked to “work very quickly, and close to the deadline” is the original idler, however. It was from his collection of essays that Tom took the title ‘The Idler’, which has been the name of his magazine for the last 13 years.
Johnson famously declared that, “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance”. Yet he also believed in cutting yourself some slack. In the original collection of essays, Johnson says, "The Idler... not only escapes labours which are often fruitless, but sometimes succeeds better than those who despise all that is within their reach, and think every thing more valuable as it is harder to be acquired."
Wise words - maybe not trying too hard is the path to happiness after all. And the examples of Lennon and Johnson are proof of a very strange phenomenon, which Tom himself points out. “Paradoxically, the naturally idle can go out and do some really unusual things, because they’re motivated by a dislike of the idea of having a conventional career in a big corporation… They’re quite anti-authority.”
Tom is definitely one of these people himself. Despite a naturally idle disposition, he’s worked off his feet at the moment. As a journalist, publisher, small-business owner, author of several books and father, not to mention a keen ukulele player, Tom has little time for lazing around. Yet he does his best to allow time for idleness, and thus for creativity and reflection. “It’s not about work or not-work, it’s about doing the work that you want to do,” he tells me. “But there is a danger for me even now of overworking. I have to remind myself of it, and every now and then take a day off and go for a long walk or something.”
Yet as his wife and business partner Victoria says, it’s not about his idleness, it’s about the idleness of the customers. These are not only the readers of the magazine, but also attendees of The Idler Academy, a new-ish venture for the Idler team which teaches classes and gives talks on the three crucial topics of philosophy, husbandry and merriment.
Tom explains philosophy as, “the art of living well… Philosophy is about literature and art and music and that sort of stuff.” The academy focuses on Ancient Greek philosophy, but also dabbles in Modern and Eastern Philosophy. At this year’s Wilderness Festival they will populate a garden with toga-ed philosophers. Tom explains that, “You can wander into this garden and each one of them will do a little talk, and you just gather around them at their feet.” For anyone who’s ever longed to visit Socrates’ Athens, this is the closest you’re likely to get.
Husbandry, meanwhile, is about being capable. Tom has a favourite quote - “Competence is at the foundation of happiness”. He describes the husbandry classes, which range from breadmaking to carpentry to taxidermy, as the idea of “being creative, being productive, and just being not useless”. In this he notes that The Idler Academy has a lot in common with another demographic. “I realised that the hipster movement is quite similar!” he tells me. “I’d been taking the piss out of the men with beards, but then I was like - ‘Hang on a second, this is quite good, this is the kind of thing I’ve been proposing for years!’”
Finally we have merriment, which Tom regards as, “the art of partying, in a way. Not just getting completely smashed, but actually being able to dance.” To this end, the Idler Academy hold mass dancing lessons with about 300 people at the festivals they attend. Tom says, “We get these great teachers who teach them swing dancing moves, but then they do it to hip hop, and everyone’s dancing in unison. It’s absolutely hilarious!”
At the moment, Tom is finishing off a book called Business for Bohemians, which will be a guide to starting a business for creative people who otherwise wouldn’t know how to begin. It’s also the theme of an upcoming Idler Academy series of talks and workshops, which will draft in expert businesspeople to teach those of us who might be more organisationally challenged how to bring our idle passions to fruition. Every session of the course will be held in a Vrumi space in Notting Hill.
“It’s great to be teaming up with Vrumi on our Business for Bohemians course,” says Tom. “The spaces on offer are laid-back, comfy and have character as well - not your strip-lit Portakabin where so many dull training courses take place. And when you’re a startup trying to keep your fixed costs down, then Vrumi rooms are ideal.”
The Idler Academy have very generously offered us one space on the Business for Bohemians course, worth £1200, to give away. To enter the competition, either:
Competition Terms and Conditions:
2. At 23:59pm on 30th March 2016 we will run a draw (the “Draw”) for a prize (the “Prize”) to be nominated in a post (the ”Post”) published by Vrumi on the social media platforms known as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (the “Platforms”).
3. Any person who on the respective Platform “shares”, “retweets” or “regrams” the Post AND likes or follows Vrumi on that Platform will be entered into the Draw.
4. The Draw will be conducted by Vrumi in its absolute discretion.
5. No employee or person connected to an employee of Vrumi may participate in a Draw.
6. We reserve the right to withdraw a Draw or Prize for any reason and all questions relating to a Prize or a Draw shall be determined by Vrumi in its absolute discretion.