MUST DO: Idler Festival, Fenton House NW3

Oh my! Wandering minstrels, beekeeping, dancing lessons, calligraphy – and of course, street food

People dance in unison at Idler Festival


his summer Idler magazine is launching a brand new literary festival at the National Trust’s Fenton House, a grand merchant’s dwelling in Hampstead with beautiful walled gardens. Big name highlights? Gosh, tons, including Michael Palin, Sally Phillips, John Lloyd, journalist Carole Cadwalladr, Laura Freeman and poet Murray Lachlan Young.

“In a utilitarian world, we are celebrating useless pleasure,” says Tom Hodgkinson in typically Idler-esque fashion. “For three days, we’ll be turning Fenton House into our dream school.”

The house’s elegant reception rooms and gardens will set the scene for stimulating talks, interesting classes and plenty of high-quality lounging around, as to be expected from a magazine that celebrates leisure. You can go on a walk with Oldie editor Harry Mount and ask him about Hampstead’s hidden Georgian gems, or sit on the bed in the master bedroom with Agony Aunt Virginia Ironside and ask her advice.

Fenton House gardens against blue sky
Fenton House. Photo: PR
Learn about philosophers from Plato to Alan Watts under the apple trees in the orchard and listen to Bach and Handel recitals on Fenton’s impressive collection of harpsichords.


There will also be wandering minstrels, dancing lessons, beekeeping, gardening, calligraphy, ukulele and harmonica lessons, and a market featuring creative makers from across London including shoe designer Tracey Neuls. We’re particularly excited about the food courtesy of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, the excellent west-African joint. Plus the festival is sponsored by Berry Bros so there should be plenty of wine to sip.

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The Idler Festival takes place on 13th-15th July at Fenton House Hampstead and weekend tickets cost £90. More details here.

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