Slow Down London

Check out the Slow Down London website.

This is a group of Londoners wanting to bring “slow” to London. They are having a festival from April 24 to May 4, with events like a Slow Walk across Waterloo Bridge to start the festival, a series of Slow Walks to explore London, a talk by Slow Guru Carl Honere (“In Praise of Slowness”) and many other great events.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

2 thoughts on “Slow Down London”

  1. CITTASLOW 2020

    It started in the country. Paradoxically. And organically, which was more important. So, it took a while. Understandably. But that was the point. Grass roots pressure needs time before building up a head of steam. Developing originally out of the Slow Food Movement founded by Carlo Petrini back in 1986, it took a lot of work to get off the ground, but when it did, it took hold like bindweed in a potato patch.

    Modern fast living had failed. Daily life needed winding down. And it’s fair to say The UK Slow City Movement did things (and still do) really bloody slowly. But after a while, Slow Downs did start to spread slowly to towns like Ludlow, Aylsham, Canterbury and Diss, eventually reaching places like Harlow, Cambridge, Penge, and Lancaster, then gradually worming their way into parts of Liverpool and north of the Thames around the Hoxton Finsbury rim and ultimately Hackney.

    It was all about the vegetables. The vegetables were at the centre of things, not us. Having a humano-centric view of the planet missed the point entirely; it was the plants who had organised the world around them.

    Palaeobotanists from Orange County, California – the richest county in the richest state in the richest country on the planet – were for the first time being listened to. And not on account of the size of their budgets or the length of their pony tails. Dr Ricardo Spangenberger, many of whose pearls of wisdom had made the front of t-shirts the world over, had a particularly snappy line in bio-banter:

    – Plants call the shots! was based on the para-military Green Piece shirt design popular back in the late 90’s. Instead of a Luger pistol, however, was a gunnera, a kind of South American rhubarb named after Norwegian botanist, Johann E. Gunnerus.

    These guys were the new rock n’ roll. Plants had moved from ornamental by-standers to real living creatures with attitude. Dr Spangenberger’s genius was popularising plant-centric thinking: the bedrock of Slow Down.

    “It’s plant communities that make animals do what they want, not vice versa. It’s we apes and monkeys who have to crack open the nutshells and dig up the earth, it’s the birds and the bees who have to do the hard work. The plants just kick back and blossom. Make a little fruit, produce some pollen. Flower power. It’s more than a sixties drop-out movement; it’s the key to the entire evolutionary process.”

    Many of us had come to see the natural environment as more than so much green wallpaper. This was no Day Of The Triffids, no vegetarian dictatorship of the proletariat by overgrown venus flytraps on a Dr Who budget. They’re not plastic. Look at the uses they have: food, medicine, material, fuel, therapy and photosynthesis. They’re the real deal. We just had to take their lead, look at the way they got things going on.

    As for dangerous side effects, fibrous farts and hay fever were a small price to pay. I speak as a sufferer. That’s both of allergic rhinitis and the farts. The wife’s. And mine. These days chronic flatulence and outdoor body aromas are as natural as composting and cycling.

    On the other hand, flipping burgers, splashing napalm over civilians, spreading depleted uranium, internalising the combustion engine, cathecting with large-screen TV’s, having sex with computers, spending more time in second life than this one, voting for the yellowy green tinge of the Liberal Democrat Party, all stopped when we slowed down.

    Another key link in the intellectual chain was Professor Agata Fartlek, a Swedish academic, who had done a timely and influential time distortion study. It turned out that a busy businessman in the fast lane of the Autobahn doing 135 kph was in distorted time actually only travelling at 17 kph, slow cycling speed. The good professor had factored in how long it took Herr Successful to earn the money to buy the car, and the unnecessary journeys made in the car to get to work to earn the money to buy the car in the first place, etc, etc. This guy was already going real slow.

    The idea was out there. It caught on one thread at a time. It needled the zeitgeist like recycled slipstream, slowly. Hey man, what’s the big rush? That way lies acceleration disorder and eco-chaos. Really truly appreciating and enjoying things, takes time and work. You have to grow. And to do that you have to work with other people.

    Solidarity in diversity became a reality. A slow down of post-industrial proportions began to take place in factories, at state schools, in local government offices, in shopping centres, in workplaces and communities the length and breadth. Homes too embraced slow food values. Lingering over purchases in local shops became vogue again. Learning to take time had taken time. But once it had caught hold. It was inexorable, unstoppable, non-returnable. It lead to a loose conglomeration of allotment societies from Lincoln to London, from Lancaster to Liverpool, from Cambridge to Canterbury, from Cardiff to Cromer, from Aberdeen to Aylsham, from Utoxeter to Utopia.

    The movement’s slogan: Slow Down Now. What are you waiting for?

    I’d love to hang around and tell you more, but I have to put some pulses in to soak, cycle to the farmer’s market down the Murray Bookchim Memorial Hall before it finishes and then get round to my allotment and help dig up our potato patch. It’s covered in bindweed. It’s a bugger. It’s gets everywhere. You can cut it up into little pieces. But it just starts growing again. Slowly mind.

  2. Thank you magicphil for such an interesting post. I have been a vegetarian for over 25 years. I stopped eating meat because I was bored with it – not for any philosophical or religious reason, but once I did that I felt like I wanted a reason so started reading books about Vegetarianism. One book, “The Vegetarian’s Handbook” I think it was, said that we live for vegetables, they do not live for us. We eat them, process them and spread their seeds around. They felt the perfect end of life would be to be buried and become compost for a plant. I loved that way of looking at life and your post reminded me of that old book.

    I would like to see more vegetarians just so that my life would be easier. So I would not always be the odd-man at the dinner party, the one people have to prepare something different for. So that I could go to any restaurant or to anyone’s house and not have to explain what I eat and why. I am tired of the discussions about protein.

    A nice view of the future.

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