The Idler is a company devoted to helping people to lead more fulfilled lives. We try to spread fun and freedom wherever we go. 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 could get things done. He 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Idler?
The Idler is a magazine and school dedicated to fun, freedom and fulfilment. We produce a bi-monthly magazine, a range of online courses in subjects ranging from history to philosophy to ukulele, and put on live events and courses. We aim to help people free themselves from the boredom and drudgery of the nine-to-five.
How do I join?
We offer three membership types.
Print: we send you six issues of our print magazine each year. Nothing digital about it. For people who can’t be bothered with all that Internet baloney.
Digital: we give you access to the digital edition of the magazine, plus you get 50% off all online courses. For geeks and overseas idlers who don’t want to clog up our postal systems with more paper.
Academy: Print plus Digital plus free online courses for a year. For idlers who want access to everything we do. This is our best value offer, as you are give access to all our online courses, which retail for £50 or more each.
Read more here.
How do online courses work?
Our online courses, or IDOCS, are video-based learning experiences with notes, quiz, certificate and community forum.
Once you have bought an online course, you will be able to access it by going to My Account>My Online Courses on our website.
You can watch the videos as many times as you like for ever. All online courses are also downloadable.
I have a coupon code – how do I use it?
Proceed through the checkout process until you are asked to enter code. Then enter it.
How do I renew my subscription or membership?
You should receive various reminders to renew. However, if you have missed these, then give us a ring or email us.
Print: call our mailing house Webscribe on 01442 520380 or email them at email@example.com If possible have you subscriber number to hand.
Digital: call the Idler office on 0203 176 7907 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Academy: call the Idler office on 0203 176 7907 or email us at email@example.com.
How do I buy a gift subscription to the magazine?
Go to www.webscribe.magazine.idler or call 01442 820 580.
I’m having trouble accessing my online courses. Who do I contact?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Idler Office 0203 176 7907.
I’m having trouble accessing the digital edition of the magazine. Who do I contact?
Email email@example.com or call the Idler Office at 0203 176 7907.
I’d like to know when my print subscription runs out. Who do I contact?
Email our mailing house at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at 01442 820 580.
I haven’t received my latest copy of the magazine. Who do I contact?
Please call our subscription house – Webscribe – on 01442 520380.
Where do Idler live events take place?
Our events take place at a wide range of venues in London and beyond. Our regular venues are Pedlars in Notting Hill, the Three Kings in Clerkenwell, the Albion in Clerkenwell, St Stephen’s Church in Notting Hill and our office under the Westway near Paddington. Please check the website to make sure you are going to the right place. We no longer run our own venue – we had a shop in Notting Hill but closed it in 2016.
Where can I buy the magazine in shops?
The Idler is available to buy from around 100 independent outlets in the UK and Europe, including Rough Trade in London and Leeds, various UK Watersrtones, Do You Read Me in Berlin, Colette in Paris and the Atheneum in Amsterdam. From March 2017 it will also available in around 50 WHSmiths outlets at train stations and airports.
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) 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.
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, Online and Events Manager
Cathleen joined the Idler in 2016. Previously she worked at online course company Macat.