13-15 July, Fenton House, Hampstead


Anne McHale – The History of the Taste of Wine
Sunday, 6pm – 6-45pm, Dining Room


Join Master of Wine Anne McHale, presenter of our Idler Academy History of Wine Course, as she gives you a whistlestop tour of what wine has tasted like throughout history. Discover what the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and medieval monks drank, and learn how and why wine tastes quite different today.


Anne McHale is an award-winning Master of Wine, independent wine consultant and wine educator based in London. Born and brought up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, she read French & Classics at Cambridge University before entering the wine trade in London. In 2006 she joined the prestigious Berry Bros. & Rudd, where she worked for ten years in the events and education team, whilst also studying for the highly sought-after Master of Wine qualification.


Anne is one of only 370 Masters of Wine worldwide, of whom 125 are women.


Arthur Jeffes – Penguin Cafe
Saturday, 6pm – 6.45pm, Lawn


Arthur Jeffes is a musician, composer, and producer working out of London. He is the founder and frontman of the iconic band  Penguin Cafe and his other work includes composing film scores.


Jeffes was born in London to the artist Emily Young and musician and composer, Simon Jeffes. Jeffes’s interest in experimental music was recognised by his father when he took a hammer to the keys of his father’s piano. In 2007, Jeffes brought together original members of the PCO for a set of memorial concerts to mark ten years since his father’s death. Encouraged by the public’s response to the concerts, Jeffes decided that keeping his father’s music alive and adding to the mythology behind the band was a worthwhile endeavour. He founded the Penguin Cafe with a brand new line-up, including Cass Browne of Gorillaz, Neil Codling of Suede, Oli Langford of Florence and the Machine and Darren Berry of Razorlight. They have released three albums,  A Matter of Life… (2008); The Red Book (2014), and The Imperfect Sea (2017 – on Erased Tapes).


Ben Moor – Pronoun Trouble
Sunday, 1.30pm – 2.30pm, Dining Room


At a symposium on the subject of Looney Tunes cartoons, a lecturer takes to the stage and begins an analysis of The Hunting Trilogy. This series of Chuck Jones shorts features Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, and their ongoing argument as to whether it is currently Duck Season or Rabbit Season. As she delves deeper into the alternate reality of the characters’ world, her talk goes off the rails and into the woods. Meanwhile, an attendee makes notes not just on the subject matter but also on her, on the things he sees in the room, and the other students. His favourite words, his favourite mugs and T-shirts, and the schism on London’s high streets between the spellings of launderette and laundrette, all cross his mind. Eventually the two strands of thought twist together, and the piece concludes with a contemplation of performance, friendship and regret.


Pronoun Trouble is a lecture about lectures, the intricacies of passion, and how we should be there for each other. It uses stills from the Warner Bros. cartoons to go into unnecessary depth (and a swathe of invented academia) to dissect hidden meanings, secret stories, and unconsidered relationships with other works. Likewise and concurrently, the audience member scrutinises parts of his own life and output. The slideshow is run on Powerpoint from a laptop on stage, and so the venue would need to provide a projector and screen (see attached Technical Requirements).
First performed at The Idler Academy at The 2017 Port Eliot Festival, and subsequently in London, Cardiff and West Yorkshire, the online response to Pronoun Trouble has been overwhelmingly positive. Audience members have described it variously as brilliant, hilarious, wonderful, clever, surreal and very, very, very silly.

It is, hopefully, all of those things.


Ben Moor is a highly regarded writer-performer, having created strikingly original work for the stage, and acted in numerous screen projects.


Bill Anderson – Idle Beekeeping
Saturday, 12.30pm – 1pm and Sunday, 5pm – 5.30pm, Orchard


Bill Anderson has directed television drama ranging from Evelyn Waugh’s classic “Sword of Honour” starring 007 Daniel Craig to the forthcoming “”Dr Who”” series. Late one Autumn afternoon, while shooting stalwarts “Spooks” and “Lewis” with cinematographer Paul Bond, mid-discussion of a shot in a garden, Bill noticed Paul crouch down and surreptitiously pick something up from the lawn and hide it in his hand. Apparently listening intently to Bill’s luminary ramblings, Paul then casually started blowing into his fist. Challenged to explain, Paul revealed a dead bee lying on its back in the palm of his hand. “Sometimes if they stop flying and get too cold they just can’t start again and that’s it…”  The dead bee promptly wriggled its legs, rolled over and flew off resurrected by the warmth of Paul’s hand. Though he’d never mentioned it, Paul was a World Champion beekeeper. This miracle was the start of Bill’s fascination with bees.


After installing some purchased bees in a Warre hive on the tiny sliver of horizontal roof atop his West London home, over the last three years Bill has enticed four wild swarms to move into Warre hives.  This hive system strives to emulate the bees’ natural habitat in the wild – a cavity in a tree – whilst also making some accommodation for human sweet teeth. Bill prefers to think of himself as more of a hive-keeper than a beekeeper – the bees are always free to leave his hives whenever they feel like it – just like an innkeeper’s customers…


Carole Cadwalladr and Peter Jukes – On Cambridge Analytica
Saturday, 2.30pm – 3.30pm, Lawn


Investigative journalists Carole Cadwalladr and Peter Jukes reveal the truth behind the Facebook scandal. Chaired by Decca Aitkenhead.


Daisy Squires, Lou Mariller and Sophia Seymour – On Making Hotel Garibaldi
Saturday, 12.30pm – 1pm, Dining Room


Hundreds of people crammed on sinking rubber boats in the Mediterranean sea. Bodies washed up on European shores. Lines of decomposing skeletons across the Sahara desert. Young west- African men sold on slave markets in Libya and Nigerian women raped and forced into the sex trade.
We have all seen these images and heard these stories which represent a humanitarian crisis of seemingly infinite horror. But who are the survivors of these traumas and what happens to them once they end up in the hands of the Italians authorities?

Daisy Squires who worked for three years on the BAFTA-award winning documentary series “Exodus- a Journey to Europe” and freelance journalists Sophia Seymour (The Guardian, The Idler, Vice) and Lou Mariller (The Libération, Le Monde, The Intercept) discuss the true reality of life on the ground for economic migrants and present clips from their forthcoming documentary « Hotel Garibaldi – Life in the waiting room». The film intimately follows the lives of four West African migrants as they use music, friendship and community activism to fight back against discrimination, exploitation and an increasingly hostile and xenophobic social and political landscape where all migrants have become merchandise, exchanged in a business line that has become more profitable for the Italian mafia than drug trafficking.


Danny Wootton – Ukulele Lessons
Friday, 7.15pm – 8pm, Orchard (Bedroom if raining), Saturday and Sunday, 4pm – 4.30pm, Orchard (Drawing Room if raining)


We at the Idler are huge fans of the ukulele. This unassuming little guitar puts the power of music-making into the hands of the people.
Hundreds have benefited from Danny Wootton’s real-life ukulele course at the Idler Academy and our various pop-up uke lessons at festivals and parties. Now it is your chance. This class is suitable for people with no musical experience whatsoever. As Danny says: “We are all musical.” 


Danny Wootton is a musician and artist who plays in the Sometimes and Forever Band. In the past he has played with Razorlight and Jesus Licks among others. He has been running the Idler Academy’s ukulele programme since March 2011.


David Graeber – On Bullshit Jobs, with Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson
Sunday, 5.30pm – 6.30pm, Lawn


Across the developed world, three-quarters of all jobs are in services or admin, jobs that don’t seem to add anything to society: bullshit jobs. David Graeber explores how this phenomenon has happened. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it.


David Graeber is an American anthropologist and anarchist activist. Born and raised in New York, Graeber received his PhD from Chicago University and has held academic posts at NYU, Yale, Goldsmiths University and now the London School of Economics. He is the author of a number of books, including Debt: the First 5000 Years,  Utopia of Rules and, most recently, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. He has been actively engaged in social movements since 2000, when he threw himself into the Alter-Globalization movement. He was involved in the initial meetings that helped set up Occupy Wall Street and has been working with the Kurdish Freedom Movement in various capacities as well. And since this is a matter of some historical contention: no, he did not personally come up with the slogan “We are the 99%.” He did first suggest that to call the movement the 99%.


Decca Aitkenhead
Saturday, several events


Decca Aitkenhead is a Guardian journalist. She interviews leading figures from public life, who have included Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, Usain Bolt, Oprah Winfrey and J K Rowling, and was named Interviewer of the Year for the second time at the 2018 British Press Awards. During her 25 year Fleet Street career she has also written columns and features, been a regular contributor to BBC TV and radio, written two memoirs, and ghost wrote last year’s Sunday Times bestseller Thinking Out Loud by Rio Ferdinand. She lives in London with her two young sons.


Dinny Hall – Business for Bohemians Salon
Saturday, 1pm – 2pm, Bedroom


British designer Dinny Hall has crafted jewellery for the style astute woman for over three decades, delivering a confident yet quiet luxury that has become a recognised signature style. Both her inspiration and approach to craftsmanship draw on a genuine love for historic tradition and iconic design, taken from both east and west; absorbing from the past but always conscious of the future.


Dom Aversano – Handpan Player
Friday, 6pm – 6.30pm, Lawn


Dom Aversano is a composer and handpan player with a particular interest in combining ideas from the South Indian classical and Western music tradition. He has performed in music in venues such The Southbank Centre and Bhavan Centre, as well as festivals such Latitude and The Cock and Bull. His debut album Geometric is a collaboration with Japanese cellist Shizuku Tansuno, which explores using simple geometric forms to inspire and structure compositions.


Ed Hopwood – Harmonica Lessons
Friday, 8pm – 8.40pm, Orchard (Bedroom if raining), Saturday and Sunday, 12.30pm – 1pm, Orchard (Drawing Room if raining)


Played by soldiers in the trenches, cowboys whiling away time by the campfire and bluesmen the world over, the harmonica has endured as one of the most portable, accessible and expressive musical instruments. Ed Hopwood’s class covers harmonica fundamentals such as hand position and playing tunes and key riffs of folk, country and blues styles.


Multi-instrumentalist Ed Hopwood plays harmonica, guitar, percussion and sings. His playing has taken him on tours of Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland, including a sellout headline show at Celtic Connections and Festival No.6. Ed also teaches harmonica at the Idler Academy in London, both live and online.


Fiona Sampson – In Search of Mary Shelley: A Romantic Woman Writer
Saturday, 1.15pm – 2pm, Dining Room


Mary Shelley, daughter of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and revolutionary philosopher William Godwin, grew up in a house full of radicals. At sixteen she eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, embarking on a passionate relationship lived on the move across Britain and Europe. Before her early widowhood, Mary had already experienced debt, infidelity, orphanhood, and the deaths of three of her children. It was against this dramatic backdrop – and while she was still a teenager – that she composed the cultural landmark that is Frankenstein. Published to mark Frankenstein’s bicentenary, Fiona Sampson’s critically acclaimed new biography, In Search of Mary Shelley, sifts the evidence to find the real person behind the clichés.


Fiona Sampson is a prizewinning poet and writer published in more than thirty languages. Her honours include an MBE for services to literature.


Geoff Dyer in conversation with Tom Hodgkinson
Saturday, 3.15pm – 4pm, Dining Room


Geoff Dyer is the author of Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi and three previous novels, as well as nine non-fiction books. Dyer has won the Somerset Maugham Prize, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, a Lannan Literary Award, the International Center of Photography’s 2006 Infinity Award for writing on photography and the  American Academy of Arts and Letters’ E.M. Forster Award. In 2009 he was named GQ’s Writer of the Year. He won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2012 and was a finalist in 1998. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. This year Geoff Dyer is adding not just one but two books to an already impressive and wide-ranging bibliography:  The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand (University of Texas Press) and, forthcoming in October from Penguin, Broadsword Calling Danny Boy about the film Where Eagles Dare.


Harry Mount – Latin Salon and A Georgian Walk around Hampstead
Salon: Friday, 6.30pm – 7.30pm, Drawing Room
Walk: Saturday, 11am – 12pm, meet at Holly Bush pub


Tucked away on the northern hills of London, Hampstead – and its enchanted, winding streets – has been insulated from the demolition craze in the metropolis below. The village boomed in the Georgian era thanks to its health-boosting natural wells, and much of it has been left untouched since. Its collection of 18th century cottages, terraced houses and villas make it the best-preserved Georgian village in the city. Harry Mount will take you on a walk round Hampstead’s hidden gems, starting and finishing at one of the best of them, Fenton House.


Harry Mount is editor of The Oldie Magazine. His funny book on Latin, Amo, Amas, Amat and All That, was a top 10 bestseller. He has also written books on the history of the British landscape and British buildings. A former leader-writer and New York correspondent at the Daily Telegraph, he has often contributed to the Idler Magazine and its courses.


Hassan Akkad – The Making of Documentary Series Exodus: Our Journey to Europe
Saturday, 1pm – 2pm, Lawn


Hassan Akkad became the voice of thousands of refugees when he filmed his journey from Syria to England for the multi-award-winning documentary series Exodus. Today, he shares his insights on Syria and the politics of migration. Chaired by Decca Aitkenhead.


Hilary Gallo – Fear Hacking
Saturday, 2pm – 3pm, Bedroom


Hilary Gallo has been running workshops on fear for the past couple of years. What has he learned about it in that time, why is it important and how might we all benefit from making fear or friend as he suggests? Get an early insight into what will be in Hilary’s next book, to be published by unbound in January 2019.


Hilary is the author of The Power of Soft – how to get what you want without being a **** ,  is the face behind the Idler Guide to Negotiation and a contributor to Business for Bohemians. Years ago he used to be a corporate lawyer and after a career as a negotiator in the corporate world took on his own fears by leaving a well paid job. He now solves problems for creative leaders.


John Lloyd – Philosophical Rusings
Sunday, 4pm – 5pm, Lawn


As a fanatical Idler devotee from the beginning, John Lloyd has taken the week off and hasn’t worked out what he’s going to say yet. Expect jokes, philosophy and a discreet reference to Greggs sausage rolls.


John Lloyd CBE is a broadcaster and comedy writer and the founding producer of The News Quiz, To The Manor Born, Not The Nine O’Clock News, Spitting Image, Blackadder and QI. He also co-wrote the first series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. His most recent show was BBC2’s late-night topical comedy No Such Thing As The News and he is the presenter of Radio 4’s The Museum of Curiosity.


Kitty Finer – Me and Johnny Lovito
Friday, 7.15pm – 8pm, Lawn


Artist Kitty Finer is currently touring her one woman musical “Me and Johnny Love”. She will be performing an abridged version at The Idler Festival- “Me and Johnny Lovito”.


“Not all of my one liners, anecdotes, jokes, observations and stories make it into the songs I write, but this doesn’t mean I want to leave them behind in note books or on scraps of paper.”


“Me and Johnny Love” is an attempt to augment the songs I write – often telling stories I have pieced together over time – with these fragments of “other” stories. Here these fragments are turned into characters’ lines: characters who find themselves in limbo as they go along, ahead of their time.


Kitty Finer is a singing and dancing visual artist. She writes and paints by day and comes out at night to sing songs, host bars and entertain.


Laura Freeman – On Books as Therapy
Sunday, 3pm – 3.45pm, Dining Room


At the age of fourteen, Laura Freeman was diagnosed with anorexia. As Laura battled her anorexia, she gradually re-discovered how to enjoy food – and life more broadly – through literature. Plum puddings and pottles of fruit in Dickens gave her courage to try new dishes; the wounded Robert Graves’ appreciation of a pair of greengages changed the way she thought about plenty and choice; Virginia Woolf’s painterly descriptions of bread, blackberries and biscuits were infinitely tempting. Book by book, meal by meal, Laura discovered an entire library of reasons to live.


Laura Freeman is a freelance writer and critic and writes for the Spectator, The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, TLS, Evening Standard, Slightly Foxed and Standpoint. She was shortlisted for Features Writer of the Year at the 2014 British Press Awards. She read history of art at Cambridge, graduating with a double first in 2010. The Reading Cure, which The Times called “a beautifully written hybrid of memoir and literary criticism”, is her first book.


Louisa Young – On Living with A Brilliant Alcoholic
Sunday, 1.30pm – 2.30pm, Bedroom


Louisa Young reads from her memoir about their relationship, You Left Early, and answers questions about love, death and addiction .


Louisa Young is a writer and songwriter. Her eleven novels include the award-winning ‘My Dear I Wanted to Tell You’ quartet, the fourth book of which she is currently writing.  She’s half of the children’s author Zizou Corder (with her daughter Isabel Adomakoh Young), and half of the band Birds of Britain (with Alex Mackenzie). She’s a Londoner, a former journalist, a singer, a feminist, a reader, and ‘a masterly storyteller’ –  The Washington Post.
Her debut album as a singer/songwriter and her ‘beautiful’, ‘heartbreaking’. spectacular’, ‘unflinching’, ‘bruising’, ‘brilliant’, ‘honest as the morning after’ memoir, both called You Left Early, both about love, death and addiction, came out in June 2018.


Lucy Cooke – The Unexpected Truth about Animals
Saturday, 4.15pm – 5pm, Dining Room


From perverted penguins to feminist hyenas, broadcaster and author Lucy Cooke reveals the unexpected truth about animals.


Lucy Cooke is a best-selling author and broadcaster most recently seen presenting SPRINGWATCH and as a team captain on BBC2’s natural history quiz, CURIOUS CREATURES. Her latest book, THE UNEXPECTED TRUTH ABOUT ANIMALS has received rave reviews: ‘A joy from beginning to end’ (The Guardian), “A riot of facts….Cooke scores a series of goals with style and panache.” (The Times), ‘Endlessly fascinating.’ (Bill Bryson) ‘Eye-opening, informative and very funny!’  (Chris Packham)


Mark Vernon – Philosophy Walks

Saturday, 4.30pm – 5pm, Orchard
Philosophy as Awakening: Western philosophy is often said to have begun with Socrates, with all philosophy since then being “footnotes to Plato”. The two promised to lead you out of the cave of your delusions into a reality that was good, beautiful and true. So what did Socrates learn to see and what made Plato such a giant of spiritual transformation?


Sunday, 12.30pm – 1pm, Orchard
Philosophy as Therapy: Philosophy was big in the ancient world because schools like Stoicism and Epicureanism told Greeks and then Romans how they might flourish and live. There were other schools with different ideas, too, such as the Sceptics and the Cynics. Their intuitions still form our sense of the good life now, but in what ways and how?


Dr Mark Vernon is a London-based psychotherapist, a writer and author of several books, including The Idler Guide to Ancient Philosophy. He has been teaching philosophy at the Idler for the last five years, live and online. He also  teaches the Idler online course, An Introduction to Psychotherapy.


Matthew De Abaitua – Self and I
Saturday, 4pm – 5pm, Lawn


Matthew De Abaitua will be reading from his new memoir Self & I (Eye Books, 2018). Described as “an intoxicated, madcap romp” by the Mail on Sunday, and “possessing a feverish hilarity that owes a debt to Withnail and I” The Guardian, it also explores the pains of literary ambition familiar to anyone who is writing, or wants to write, or has lost touch with writing and wants to find their way back to it.

Matthew De Abaitua’s debut novel The Red Men was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award and published in the US for the first time in November 2017. His science fiction novels IF THEN (Angry Robot, 2015) and The Destructives (Angry Robot, 2016) were described as “Extraordinary visionary… the most intriguing and disturbing near-future speculations published for some years.” (Andy Sawyer, Strange Horizons). His latest book is Self & I: A Memoir of Literary Ambition (Eye Books, 2018) about his time as Will Self’s amanuensis in the 1990s. He lectures on creative writing and science fiction at the University of Essex and lives in Hackney.


Matthew Green – A Panoramic Tour of London
Sunday, 11am – 12pm, meet at Holly Bush


On a rambling trip across the Heath, Dr Matthew Green will evoke how London cracked out of its medieval shell, sprawled into the suburbs and evolved into the  ‘human awful wonder of God’ at our feet. He will point out specific features and tell the history of the Heath itself.


Dr Matthew Green is the author of the acclaimed book London: A Travel Guide Through Time (Penguin), which has been described by the Londonist as “easily the best social history of London for a decade”. Matthew also writes historical features for the Guardian and the Financial Times, among others, and has co-presented many TV documentaries. He’s the founder of Unreal City Audio, which produces immersive tours of historic London.


Matthew Green and Will Lyons – A Salon on the Past, Present and Future of Wine
Friday, 6.45pm – 7.45pm, Dining Room


Join historian Dr Matthew Green and wine expert Will Lyons for a lively salon on the past, present and future of coffee and wine in Britain.


Wine was described in the 13th century as ‘the creator of the world’s happiness’ with its ‘sweet scent’, ‘attractive colour’ and ‘delicious flavour that lingers sweetly on the tongue’, and consumption — and cultivation -— is only growing in the 21st as London emerges as the centre of the world wine industry.
With a glass of powerful Berry Brothers & Rudd wine in your hand, hear about the origins of England’s wine trade in the sun-scorched vineyards of medieval Gascony and its extraordinary social and cultural impact in Britain over the next millennium, and learn how wine will evolve in the 21st century from one of the country’s foremost experts, at the country’s most venerable wine institution. As Britain spread its tentacles throughout the world, Berry Brothers and Rudd emerged in 1698 as a coffee merchant, evolving to spices, then wine.   

In the leisurely splendour of Fenton House, we will discuss the figure of the wine and coffee merchant considering how, when the house was built in the 17th century, “bitter Muhammedan gruel” from Turkey was transforming the city, bringing people together in coffeehouses, and inspiring brilliant ideas that would shape the modern world. We will hear the story of the war that broke out between the “soot coloured ninny broth” and the “treacherous grape”.  


Michael Cockerell in conversation with Joy Lo Dico
Saturday, 2.15pm – 3pm, Dining Room


Michael Cockerell, BBC’s most established political documentary maker with a long, Emmy award-winning career, discusses getting to know extraordinary characters like Alan Clark, Ed Milliband and Margaret Thatcher with journalist Joy Lo Dico.


Michael Palin in conversation with Tom Hodgkinson
Saturday, 5pm – 6pm, Lawn


Michael Palin established his reputation with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Ripping Yarns.  His work also includes several films with Monty Python, as well as A Private Function, Fierce Creatures and a BAFTA winning performance as the hapless Ken in A Fish Called Wanda. Michael wrote and appeared in the films The Missionary, American Friends and the television plays East of Ipswich and Number 27. He played Jim Nelson in Alan Bleasdale’s GBH and presented two films for the BBC’s Great Railway Journeys.


Michael has written books to accompany his eight very successful travel series Around the World in 80 Days; Pole to Pole; Full Circle; Hemingway Adventure; Sahara; Himalaya; New Europe and Brazil. He is also the author of a number of children’s stories and has published three volumes of diaries; 1969–1979: The Python Years and 1980-1988: Halfway to Hollywood, and 1988-1998: Travelling to Work.


More recently Michael starred in a three-part contemporary ghost story for the BBC called Remember Me and narrated a new version of the classic children’s TV series The Clangers. In 2017 he appeared as Molotov in Armando Iannucci’s film The Death of Stalin.


Niall McDevitt – William Blake and the Visionary Poets of Hampstead
Friday, 4pm – 6pm, meet at Holly Bush


Poet Niall McDevitt conducts a unique walking tour of Hampstead assessing the village’s contribution to English and world poetry. The main site of the pilgrimage will be the farmhouse where the sixty-something Blake regularly visited his patron John Linnell but – in a dramatic letter – turned down an offer to live there rent-free. En route there will be fascinating encounters with revolutionaries, mystics, anarchists and at least two consumptives.


Niall McDevit is the author of three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010), Porterloo ( International Times, 2013) and Firing Slits: Jerusalem Colportage (New River Press, 2016). He is a walking artist who specialises in the revolutionary poets of London, particularly Shakespeare, Blake, Rimbaud and Yeats. He blogs at  


Paul Kildea – Chopin’s Piano: A Journey through Romanticism
Sunday, 4pm – 4.45pm, Dining Room


In November 1838 Frédéric Chopin, George Sand and her two children sailed to Majorca to escape the Parisian winter. They settled in an abandoned monastery in the mountains above Palma, where Chopin finished one of the great works of musical Romanticism – his 24 Preludes. There was scarcely a decent piano on the island, so Chopin worked on a small pianino made by a local craftsman, which remained in their monastic cell for seventy years after he and Sand had left.


Paul Kildea traces the history of Chopin’s 24 Preludes through the instruments on which they were played, the pianists who interpreted them and the traditions they came to represent. Today, he’ll be telling the story of keyboard player Wanda Landowska, who rescued Chopin’s pianino from Valldemossa in 1913, and will be playing Chopin and Bach on Fenton House’s harpsichord like she would have done.


Paul Kildea is a conductor and writer and former artistic director of Wigmore Hall in London. In 2013 Allen Lane published his biography of Benjamin Britten to enormous acclaim.


Robin Carhart-Harris – The Healing Power of Psychedelics
Sunday, 1pm – 2pm, Lawn


Once dismissed as either dangerous or subversive or both, LSD, magic mushrooms and DMT are coming back into the medical mainstream. Studies worldwide are finding that controlled doses can lead to a lifting of depression and fear of death. And they are being used as a productivity enhancer among Silicon Valley geeks. Today Dr Robin Carhart-Harris discusses his brain-imaging studies and the results of a trip using magic mushrooms to treat depression.


Dr Robin Carhart-Harris is the Founder and Head of the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London. He leads a series of brain imaging studies into the brain effects of LSD, psilocybin, MDMA and DMT, plus a clinical trial of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. In 2016 and 2017, three of his papers ranked within the top 100 for impact of all scientific papers.


Rowan Pelling – Erotica: Why write it, why read it and why edit it?
Sunday, 3.30pm – 4.30pm, Bedroom


Writer and broadcaster Rowan Pelling, former editor of the Erotic Review and founder editor of the Amorist, invites Idler readers to come and discuss erotic literature and the joys of idle passion in Lady Binning’s bedroom.


Rowan Pelling is a writer and broadcaster. She was editor of The Erotic Review for eight years and started a new magazine The Amorist (for devotees of love and passion) last year, which ran to seven print editions and now exists as a website. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and recently guest curated Sotheby’s first two sales of erotic art.


Rowley Leigh – A Long and Messy Business
Friday, 7.30pm – 8.30pm, Drawing Room


“I get fed up with the number of cookbooks that promise quick and easy meals, those that promise a three-course dinner that can be knocked up in thirty minutes,” says renowned chef Rowley Leigh. “Most cooking, and certainly most enjoyable cooking, takes a little longer. I can knock something up in a hurry if I have to – there are plenty of quick and easy recipes in this book – but that ability was a long time in the acquisition, and I still prefer to take my time, in order to do it better than I did it last time.”


Rowley Leigh was born in Manchester in 1950 and fell into cooking ‘almost by accident’ in 1977. Working with the Roux brothers at Le Gavroche in 1979, he took over their Le Poulbot restaurant as head chef in 1984 and won The Times’ ‘Restaurant of the Year’ award in 1986. He has won three Glenfiddich awards for his work in the Guardian, the Sunday Telegraph and the Financial Times. He left Kensington Place in order to open Le Café Anglais in 2007 and is now a consultant for the Soho House group, overseeing the opening of their Café Monico brasserie in April 2016. He lives in Acton, west London.


Advance, signed copies of Rowley Leigh’s new book, A Long and Messy Business, will be on sale at the festival.


Sally Phillips – How Utilitarianism Took over the World and Why It Should Be Stopped with Tom Hodgkinson
Sunday, 2.30pm – 3.30pm, Lawn


We have become obsessed with numbers, tables and measuring as if nothing else matters. Sally wants us to find new ways of measuring worthwhile endeavours. With Tom Hodgkinson.


Award-winning writer and actress Sally Phillips is well known for her roles in Smack the Pony, Miranda and The Green Wing, and for her performance as “Shazzer” in the British rom-com trilogy of Bridget Jones.

Now an established face in British comedy and film, Sally kicked off her career in live comedy at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe when she was just eighteen. Sally got her big break in 1997 as the “Travel Tavern” receptionist in I’m Alan Partridge, for which she was nominated Best Female Newcomer at the British Comedy Award.


Shag Pile – Dancing Lessons
All weekend, Lawn


Glide across the lawns with dance classes from ‘Collegiate Shag’ specialists ‘Shag Pile’.
Have a go at swing dancing, join in with fun, easy to learn solo routines, or simply shake your thing to the music. ‘Collegiate Shag’ specialists Peter and Aila will be on hand all weekend to put you through your paces.

Dance tasters include:
The Madison – a novelty dance from the 60s, as seen in John Waters’ classic ‘Hairspray’
St Louis Shag – a partner dance with lots of oomph and smiles
Charleston – the classic jazz step, with and without partners!
The Stroll – a simple line dance
…and more!


Sister Jayanti – Why Is All That Is Happening in The World The Way It Is?
Sunday, 12.15pm – 1pm, Dining Room


Sister Jayanti of the Brahma Kumaris asks why is all that is happening in the world the way it is, and helps us to find ways to deal with this. She then leads a group meditation.

Sister Jayanti is European Director of Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University and their NGO Representative to the United Nations, Geneva. For over 50 years, she has been an emissary for peace. She has a vision and experience that is truly global and deeply spiritual.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018 she was invited to lead the early morning meditation sessions and be a speaker at a number of events.
Sister Jayanti sees the erosion of spiritual values as the underlying cause of the crises that the world is facing today.


Susie Deane – Calligraphy
Friday, 6pm – 7.30pm, Orchard


Try your hand at using a broad edged pen or a quill. Susie Deane trained in calligraphy at the Roehampton Institute in the early 1990s.  She runs her own freelance calligraphy business and teaches calligraphy courses as well as handwriting. Past clients including the BBC, Ford, Society of London Theatre (Olivier Awards) and City Livery Companies.


Tim Lott – How to Tell a Story
Sunday, 12.30pm – 1.30pm, Bedroom


Tim is a novelist and teacher. His memoir The Scent of Dried Roses won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for Autobiography and is now published as a Penguin Classic. He teaches creative writing at the Faber Academy and with the Idler.


Tom Hodgkinson – On Anarchism
Friday, 6.30pm – 7pm, Lawn


Anarchism is not about smashing up bus stops and assassinating princes. It is not a synonym for violence and disorder. It is in fact a sophisticated political and personal approach to everyday life which has its roots in the Cynic philosophers of Ancient Athens, as well as the teachings of Christ and Socrates.


Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson takes us on a spirited romp through two and half millennia of anarchic thinking, from Diogenes the Cynic to the medieval “free spirit” movement, and from Mary Shelley’s father to Punk.


Tom is editor of the Idler and author of the best-selling manuals, How to be Idle and How to be Free. Other books include a book on smallholding called Brave Old World, a book on parenting, the Ukulele Handbook and, most recently, a manual for creative entrepreneurs, Business for Bohemians.


Tracey Neuls – Business for Bohemians Salon
Saturday, 3pm – 4pm, Bedroom


Tracey Neuls designs shoes with an original and distinctive signature, an extension of her character and personal values. Having launched her first footwear line in 2000, her gallery-esq shoe shops are in London’s Marylebone and Shoreditch. All toe and heel shapes seen in the collections are originally sculpted in clay by Tracey herself (this is very rare) then hand-lasted by ateliers. With so much sameness in the world, Neuls continues to offer something different. Combining her creative vision with craftsmanship to produce shoes that are simultaneously unique and wearable.

With over 30 collections to date, Tracey Neuls is an expert in shoe design and will be discussing her pioneering business vision on the theme of ‘Business for Bohemians’ and her career so far. Limited edition shoes and accessories will also be available at ‘The Good Stuff Market’ on Saturday 14th July.


Virginia Ironside – Ask the Agony Aunt
Sunday, 2.30pm – 3.30pm, Bedroom


Lounge on Lady Binning’s bed in the master bedroom and ask the Idler agony aunt for advice.


Virginia Ironside is the author of over twenty books and has been an agony aunt for the last forty years, on a variety of publications from Woman magazine to the Independent via the Sunday Mirror and now the Oldie and the Idler. At 60 she took to the boards with her one-woman show, Growing Old Disgracefully. Her latest book is the last in a quartet of diaries about a granny; it’s called No Thanks! I’m Quite Happy Standing! (Quercus).


Will Lyons – Can You Ever Drink for Free?
Saturday, 6pm – 6.45pm, Dining Room


Join wine expert Will Lyons over a glass of wine as he discusses the rewards and pitfalls of laying down wine and asks can you ever drink for free? Fine wine has been a tradeable commodity since it was shipped with olive oil by the ancient Greeks and Romans and its importance to the economy of medieval London was seen in the creation of the Vintners Company on the north bank of the Thames in the 14th century. But like any tradeable commodity fine wine is not immune to the cycles of boom and bust and the last decade has seen some of the sharpest rises and falls in recent history. In this lively and amusing talk Will Lyons will provide a potted history of wine speculation from the Medieval period to the 21st century and the creation of Liv-ex a fine wine investment exchange in London. We will hear the story of fortunes made and loss over a glass of vintage claret.


Described by The Spectator as having one of the finest palate’s in Britain, Will Lyons humorous, informed, down-to-earth writing has been recognized in both the Glenfiddich and Roederer wine writing Awards. He is a past president of the Edinburgh University Wine Society, where in between wine tasting, he read History. A Commanderie de Bordeaux, readers of Alexander McCall Smith will know Will from his numerous cameo appearances as a real life character in his novels where as a wine expert he advises on the perils of buying fine Bordeaux. He works in St. James’s as a fine wine presenter and educator for Berry Bros. & Rudd.


William Summers – Wandering Minstrel
Sunday, 12pm – 4pm


William Summers will wander around Fenton House and its beautiful walled gardens, playing dance music, airs for training birds, well-crafted studies and improvisatory preludes. He will use accurate copies of flutes and recorders from the 17th and 18th centuries.


William Summers grew up near the Thames and deer parks of Richmond in Surrey, as part of a musical family. He gained an interest in early music through the choir of All Saints’ Church, Kingston [where he still sings] and through the records of David Munrow, and later studied music at the Colchester Institute and Trinity College of Music [London]. Since then, William has played in all sorts of chamber groups and orchestras, worked with a few acting companies, and made several albums with the Medieval Psychedelic Rock band Circulus. He now plays frequently with anarchic minstrels Princes in the Tower, tours and records with The Lovekyn Consort, has guested on a few folk albums, and runs regular concerts of early music in historic venues. William is currently a student at Goldsmiths College, and runs regular rehearsals for adult recorder and flute players. Further information is available via


Waiting For Smith
Sunday, 3.30pm – 4pm, Lawn


Harry Lloyd (26) was a ski instructor with the ESF in Courchevel for 3 ½ seasons before breaking his back in an accident two years ago. He used his convalescence to teach himself the guitar. Now an up-and-coming musician, he also plays drums and piano, and writes wonderful songs you’ve never heard before but feel like old friends. You’ll be humming them all week. (His band’s called Waiting for Smith because Smith – the drummer – never showed up.)


Zoe Adjonyoh – Business for Bohemians Salon
Saturday, 4pm – 5pm, Bedroom


Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen serves modern west African flavours inspired by traditional recipes, highlighting the great flavours and ingredients from across West Africa. 

Zoe Adjonyoh has been pioneering modern African food in the form of supper clubs, pop-ups, street food & events since 2010 and now also has a cookbook – Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. Her mission as always been to bring the great flavours of West Africa to a wider audience and this has been acknowledged through great positive press and publicity for our food and concept. 

Our costumers consistently claim that our fresh, organic, all homemade flavours from west Africa is not just the best festival food, but best street food they have ever had. We have recently been short listed at UK Festival Awards 2017, for Best Concession.


Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen will be serving their delicious food in the Sunken Garden all weekend.


Click here to buy a ticket to the Idler Festival. For any queries, please contact or ring 0203 176 7907.