Idler: magazine and online academy
Idler is a company devoted to helping people to lead more fulfilled lives. We publish a bi-monthly magazine, produce online courses and run live events.
Back in 1991, bored to tears by his job, 23 year old journalist Tom Hodgkinson lay on his bed and dreamed of starting a magazine called The Idler. He’d found the title in a collection of essays by Dr Johnson, himself a constitutionally indolent man. How to live, that was the question. How to be free in a world of jobs and debt? And curse this alarm clock.
Tom was fortunately sacked from his job and started to sign on. He wandered across the road to where his old friend, designer and writer Gavin Pretor-Pinney lived. Gavin was the kind of person who could help Tom to realise this dream. And he did. In August 1993, the pair produced issue one of the Idler. It had the sub-title “literature for loafers”. Dr Johnson was the cover star and there was an interview with magic mushroom guru Terence McKenna. Contributors included a young journalist called Louis Theroux.
The magazine has since enjoyed a number of incarnations. In the nineties it was published by the Guardian newspaper, then by Ebury publishing. Tom published the Idler as an annual collection of essays until 2014, then relaunched the mag in 2016.
The Idler Academy
The Idler Academy, founded at a festival in 2010, is the Idler’s educational offshoot. It is a school which offers online and real-world courses in the classical liberal arts and practical skills. From 2011 to 2015 we ran a small bookshop and café in Notting Hill.
The Idler Academy teaches philosophy, astronomy, calligraphy, music, business skills, English grammar, ukulele, public speaking, singing, drawing, self-defence and other subjects. Here you can educate yourself in the ideas of Plato or learn the ukulele, in convivial surroundings with like-minded and interesting people.
Founders Tom and his partner Victoria Hull had always been festival-goers, and in 2008 they were invited by the founders of the Secret Garden Party to run a series of literary talks. They were given a yurt and built a medieval garden in the shade of a lime tree. They put on talks from Crass’s Penny Rimbaud, QI’s John Mitchinson, poet Clare Pollard and radical economist Andrew Simms. To their surprise the revellers loved to debate, listen and talk. Four charming young men asked if they could play a gig on our stage. They played a folky set of hoedown numbers. As they left Tom asked their name. “We’re called Mumford & Sons,” they said.
Tom Hodgkinson, Founder
Tom was born in 1968 and was educated at Westminster School and Jesus College, Cambridge. He founded the Idler in 1993 and went on to join the Guardian newspaper as a columnist and head of editorial development. He and partner Gavin Pretor-Pinney then set up their a creative consultancy and undertook editorial and advertising projects for Channel 4, Sony Playstation, Paramount Comedy Channel, John Brown Publishing, Mother ad agency and many more.
In 2002 Tom quit the commercial world and retired to a farmhouse on the coast of North Devon to write books. His first book How to be Idle was a global best-seller and was followed by How to be Free, The Idle Parent and Brave Old World. He has also co-written The Book of Idle Pleasures (with Dan Kieran, later to launch crowdfunding publishing platform Unbound) and The Ukulele Handbook (with Gavin Pretor-Pinney). He has published a number of pamphlets including his own We Want Everyone, an attack on Facebook, and Dr Matthew Green’s history of the London coffeehouse. Tom also published Gwynne’s Grammar in an edition of 100. It caught the eye of Random House who brought out a commercial edition. This astonished everyone by spending five months in the Sunday Times top ten and selling over 50,000 copies. The follow-up, Gwynne’s Latin, was also a top ten best-seller.
In 2014 Tom returned to London to launch develop the Idler Academy both in the real world and online. In 2016 we relaunched the Idler as a print quarterly. In June of that year we raised £150,000 from 146 investors via the platform Crowdcube. The money is to be used principally for marketing. In 2017 we increased the frequency to bi-monthly.
Victoria Hull, Programming Director
Victoria Hull was educated at St Paul’s School and St Andrews. Following stints as a teacher and a TV researcher, she created The Clerkenwell Literary Festival in 1997. She mixed established names with new fresh talent and the festival attracted young and urban crowds. In 2002 she moved to a farmhouse in North Devon and spent the next few years raising a family and learning the arts of country living and household management. In 2011 she launched the Idler Academy and now lives in London.
Alice Smith, Art Director
Alice Smith has been art director for the Idler since 2009. She is responsible for the various illustrations, decorations and borders that you will see on our site.
Cathleen Mair, Marketing and Editorial Assistant
Cathleen joined the Idler in 2016. She was educated at UCL and Queen Mary University. Previously she worked at online course company Macat. Cathleen does a lot of the actual work at the Idler.