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.
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.
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, conducted by known writers in their field, 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 820 580 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 820 580.
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. We also run events at a range of festivals.
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 Waterstones, Do You Read Me in Berlin, Colette in Paris and the Atheneum in Amsterdam. It is also available in around 50 WHSmiths outlets at train stations and airports.
Artwords – 20-22 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ
ArtWords – 69 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY
Barbican News – 34 Goswell Road, EC1M 7AA
Camden Arts Centre Bookshop – Arkwright Road, NW3 6DG
Charlotte Street News – 66 Charlotte Street, W1T 4QE
Daunt Books – 83 Marylebone High St, W1U 4QW
Diptesh – 89 Leonard Street, EC2A 4QS
Foyles – Westfield Stratford City, E15 2EN
Fulham News – 192 Fulham Road, Chelsea, SW10 9PN
Good News – 23 Berwick Street, W1F 8RB
Housman’s Bookshop – 5 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX
Jala News – 6 Lamb Street, E1 6EA
London Review Bookshop – 14 Bury Place, WC1A 2JL
Magazine Shack – 80 A Sandringham Road, NW2 5EN
MagCulture – 270 St John Street, EC1V 4PE
Mayhews – 15 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8LB
Patkins – 28 Rathbone Place, W1T 1JF
Rainbow News – 63 Golborne Road, W10 5NR
Regent News – 45 Beak Street, W1F 9SB
Rococo – 12 Elgin Crescent, W11 2HX
Rough Trade East – Dray Walk, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL
Rough Trade West – 130 Talbot Road, W11 1JA
Shreeji – 6 Chiltern Street, W1U 7PT
The Maida (Portland Express) – 19 Clifton Road, W9 1SY
Thrive News – Ariel Way, Westfield Centre, W12 7GF
Walther Koenig Books – The Serpentine Gallery Kensington Gardens, W2 3XA
Wardour News – 118 Wardour Street, W1F 0TU
WHSmith – Charing Cross Station,
WHSmith – Euston Station
WHSmith – Heathrow Terminals 3, 4 and 5
WHSmith – King’s Cross Station
WHSmith – Liverpool Street Station
WHSmith – Marylebone Station
WHSmith – Paddington Station
WHSmith – St Pancras Station,
WHSmith – Victoria Station
WHSmith – Waterloo Station
REST OF UK
WHSmith – Aberdeen Airport
Magalleria – 22a Broad Street, BA1 5LN
WHSmith – Belfast City Airport
WHSmith – Birmingham Airport, Terminal 1
Magazine Brighton – 22 Trafalgar Street, BN1 4EQ
Arnolfini Books – 16 Narrow Quay, BS1 4QA
Papersmiths – 6a Boyces Avenue, BS8 4AA
Rise Music – 70 Queens Road, Clifton, BS8 1QU
WHSmith – Bristol Airport
Century General Store – 1-7 Montrose Terrace, EH7 5DJ
Fruitmarket Gallery – 45 Market Street, EH1 1DF
WHSmith – Edinburgh Waverley Station
Word Power – 43 West Nicholson Street, EH8 9DB
Colours May Vary – Unit 1A, Munroe House, Duke Street, LS9 8AG
WHSmith – Leeds Bradford Airport
WHSmith – North and South Terminals
WHSmith – Glasgow Airport
WHSmith – Glasgow Central Station
East Midlands Airport
The Oak Room – 41 Fore Street, SG14 1AL
News From Nowhere – 96 Bold Street, L1 4HY
Tate Gallery Liverpool – Albert Dock, L3 4BB
WHSmith – Liverpool Airport
WHSmith – Luton Airport
HOME (formerly Corner House) – 2 Tony Wilson Place, M15 4FN
WHSmith – Manchester Airport Terminals 1 and 3
WHSmith – Manchester Piccadilly Station
WHSmith – Newcastle Airport
Fives Leaves Bookshop – 14a Long Row, NG1 2DH
Ideas On Paper – First Floor, 4b Cobden Chambers, Pelham St, NG1 2ED
Rough Trade Nottingham – 5 Broad Street, NG1 3AL
Blackwells – 51 Broad St, OX1 3BQ
La Biblioteka – 70 Pinstone Street, S1 2HP
REST OF WORLD
Gleebooks – 49 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe, Sydney, NSW 2037
The Standard Store – 503 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW, 201
The Standard Store – 159 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, VIC, 3065
Atlantic News – 5560 Morris Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 1C2
Colette – 213 rue Saint-Honoré, 75001, Paris
Do You Read Me?! – Auguststraße 28, 10117, Berlin
Heinrich Heine Buchhandlung – Grindelallee 28, 20146, Hamburg
One In A Million – Am Zollhafen 3-5, 55118, Mainz
Kubrich Bookshop – 3 Public Square St, Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong
Athenaeum Boekhandel – Spui 14-16, 1012 XA, Amsterdam
Mag Kiosk – R. Rodrigues de Faria 103, 1300-501, Lisboa
Book Lounge – 71 Roeland Street, Cnr Buitenkant & Roeland Street, Cape Town, 8001
Multi-Arts Corporation – No. 4, Lane 25, Songjiang Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei, 10491
Robinson Crusoe 389 – Tomtom Mahallesi, Yeni Çarşı Cd. 34 A, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
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.