Slow Down London: Letters and Canals


From 24th April – 4th May 2009 I’ll be taking part in Slow Down London, a brand new festival that urges Londoners to experiment with taking things slowly. 


On 2nd May, I’ll be teaming up with WRITELondon‘s Jasmine Cooray for the London Canal Write – a creative writing workshop that meanders along London’s canals, with time to ponder, write, share and think about our city in new and different ways….I’m feeling summery just thinking about it. I’ve ordered some good weather. The workshop starts at Warwick Avenue Tube Station at 11am. See the Slow Down London website for details.

The other workshop I’m running is something entirely new for me. It’s a Snail Mail Workshop on 25th April, dedicated to the slow art of writing letters. For someone who’s grown up in the age of email, I’ve written a lot of letters – I’ve just never thought of this as something other people would be interested in. But since I decided to run the workshop all sorts of people have started talking to me about it, from friends and family to a journalist from the Evening Standard. It actually seems that people are bothered about letters. Many of the people I’ve spoken to are convinced that we say things in letters that we would never say in an email and are excited about the possibilities of just sitting down to write. This has also made me excited – people are often a bit reluctant to think about writing a poem, but everyone knows they can write a letter. This makes the creative potential of letter writing something well worth experimenting with. The way I see it, because letters have been outdated by email, texting and instant messaging, we can make them into something else. If letters are no longer an essential means of communication (and no one can argue that they are) then what can they be used for?

In the Snail Mail workshop I’ll be exploring these questions and giving everyone a chance to play with new ways of looking at letter writing as something creative. It’s free, and will take place at Foyles, Charing Cross on Saturday 25th April 2pm – 4pm. To book, contact:

As well as the workshop, over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some of my thoughts and findings about letters on the blog. Hopefully I can get hold of a scanner and show you some of the letters I’ve received in the past. One of the things I love most about letters is how random and rambling they are. You can’t cut and paste in a handwritten letter. I’ll see if I can pick out some examples of this from my letter stash. I remember my then 13 year-old sister writing me a letter while she was living in Germany that ranged from her thoughts about German school to her teacher’s facial hair and some cookie cutters she wanted to buy.

To see Slow Down London (and some mentions of my letter writing escapades) in the news, take a peek at the Financial Times, The Times and look out for an upcoming letter writing feature in the Evening Standard over the next week or so….

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