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The School of Life

In essence the School has a passionate belief in making learning relevant and develops courses that investigate the more important questions of everyday life.

It is no wonder now in the thick of a recession that many of us are seeking more thoughtful and less materialistic ways to live our lives.  As the crunch grinds on our social and economic landscape will continue to change, and not always for the worse. One aspect of a recession that brings hope is its ability to refocus people’s minds, often fostering new movements in the arts and culture.

One such venue which captures the very zeitgeist of this new thinking is the School of life. Based in a small shop on Marchmont Street, in a thriving and bohemian part of central London, the shop is organised as a ‘cultural apothecary’, selling The School of Life's experiences alongside a selection of relevant books and artists’ multiples.

The School of Life was created by a group of writers and artists committed to exploring intelligent and playful ways to think about the art of living.  Its founder and director is Sophie Howarth, herself an educator, writer, artist and curator. Before the School of Life Sophie worked as Head of Education and Research at Iniva (2006-7) and Curator of Public Programmes at Tate Modern (1999-2006). Other distinguished faculty members include Alain de Botton, Geoff Dyer, Susan Elderkin, Tom Hodgkinson, Brett Khar and Martin Parr who often hold one of the many events or sermons.

In essence the School has a passionate belief in making learning relevant and develops courses that investigate the more important questions of everyday life. In contrast to other more formal places of education The School of Life titles its courses according to things we all tend to care about: careers, relationships, politics, travels and families. Time on one of its courses is likely to be spent reflecting on familial moral responsibilities or how to regain the art of play.
In addition to courses the school also offers a range of typically quirky events to provoke creativity and intellect.  For those who like to cogitate while digesting there are Conversation Dinners populated entirely by fellow strangers the meals are held in some of London’s best restaurants and topics can vary from experiences, ideas, regrets to aspirations. Each meal has a specially-designed conversation menu to ensure even the most tongue tied can contribute. More recently a new Breakfast Club was launched for early risers and those who like to ruminate ideas as a start to their day. 


Other activities offered are entitled Holidays, these events are more like exceptionally well planned day trips. The SOL invites experts and artists to create extraordinary journeys around unusual parts of the UK. Cheaper, more sustainable and infinitely more rewarding than most sticky short haul breaks this year’s programme offers holidays ranging from Urban Gardening –‘ reclaiming orphaned land’ to A Voyage in Epicuriosity – ‘a gastronomic expedition to kitchens, laboratories and specialist food shops of London’.


Aside from the purely intellectual pursuits the SOL also promotes well being through the services of psychotherapy and bibliotherapy.  The school’s main aim here is to promote enlightening conversation marked by curiosity, respect and kindness rather than a purely clinical perspective.  On a more indulgent level clients can book in for a short or long-term bibliotherapy session where a therapist holds an in-depth conversation about your attitude and experiences of books, here you can explore any topic or genre, from this consultation a therapist creates a reading prescription in line with your needs.


If you have found yourself staring out the window at work wondering what its all about then now might be a good time to step back and think intelligently about this and other bigger picture ideas. The School of life provides a forum where you can explore a variety of ideas – from philosophy to literature, psychology to the visual arts, things to exercise and expand your mind. At a time when so much is uncertain we could all benefit from a little time spent on the essentials of love, play, conversation and family.