April 16, 2009 / 11:09 AM / 10 years ago

Slow Down festival slaps speeding ticket on London

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The global slowdown has hit, but now there is a chance to hit back, by slowing down.

Three Londoners desperate to force down the hectic pace of life in the capital are launching a 10-day Slow Down London festival which they hope will turn economic negativity into a positive period of reflection.

A range of activities — all of them leisurely — from knitting on the “Tube,” to sampling “slow food,” to practicing silent meditation, to listening to poetry, music or birdsong — is on offer to tempt people “to challenge the cult of speed.”

Although the idea for the festival was born long before the financial crisis forced a global deceleration, its director, Tessa Watt, sees the timing as perfect.

“We are just hitting the zeitgeist. There was a kind of spiral of consumerism, of wanting more and more — and it was all caught up in the speed and pace of life,” she told Reuters.

“Now we’re trying to turn that around. The slowdown...can be taken as an opportunity to look at ourselves as a society and ask want we really want.”

Slow campaigns have their roots in the “slow food” movement which emerged in Italy in the 1990s among locals who feared their way of life was being rushed away from them by a “fast food” culture. Since then, the idea of “slow living” has spread — slowly — to other countries and other areas such as transport, arts, and leisure.

The Italian-founded Cittaslow program — which sets criteria for its members to improve residents’ quality of life while resisting the fast-lane pace of other cities — now has networks of “slow cities” in Germany, Norway and Britain.

The Slow Down London festival begins on April 24 with what organizers say will be “a very sloooooow walk” across the river Thames, on Waterloo Bridge, in the heart of city, at rush hour.

Italian slowness guru Bruno Contigiani — the director of an Italian organization called “The Art of Slow Living” — will issue speeding tickets to anyone deemed to be pushing the pace.

“We expect it will take each person about half an hour to cross the bridge,” organizers say on the festival’s website. (www.slowdownlondon.co.uk)

Debates, exhibitions and concerts exploring time and pace will be staged across the city and the festival will end with a 3-day slow food market selling traditionally-prepared food to try to highlight the downsides of a fast food culture.

“We would like to have a long-term impact on the pace of life, and we think the first way is to make people stop and think,” Watt told Reuters.

“The buzz and speed of London can be exhilarating, but when lunch becomes a sandwich at the computer and you hate the tourists for walking too slowly, it must be time to slow down.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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