The School of Life bills itself as a ‘conversation cafe, bookshop and classroom’. Founded by philosopher and author Alain de Botton in London, Schools of Life are around the world — everywhere from Istanbul (home of one of our branches) to Antwerp. They offer a huge numbers of workshops, discussions, classes, even weekend-long retreats. With names like ‘How To Spend Time Alone’ and ‘The Art of Play’, there’s something to spark the interest of everyone.
We got a closer look at two of their activities: a Sensory Walking Tour, and a workshop called ‘A Night of Better Conversations.’
I’d heard about the Sensory Walking Tour in glowing tones from Joyce of MEL: Hot or Not. I eagerly rocked up at the MPavillion pop-up in Alexandra Gardens. We were treated to our first impromptu sensory experience of the day — a beautiful Melbourne Festival concert of male singers.
We indulged all our senses: sight (at the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre); taste (Fed Square’s Chocolate Buddha); touch (Retrostar); hearing (City Library); and smell (Aesop). At each stop, our guide for the afternoon’s jaunt read about each sense, telling us facts and figures, offering literary quotations. I wished I’d brought along a notebook like others so I could have scribbled down quotes, like the coolest university lecture ever. My favourite stops were at the NGV, where we stood in front of two paintings of our choice for five minutes — not mere seconds as most visitors do. I also enjoyed the taste section, where we were able to try different textures and flavours without knowing what they were. Sensational.
The crowd was varied — I reconnected with an Fitzroy neighbour, and was befriended by a 20-something couple visiting from the west coast of Tasmania who wanted to try something new. You could tell everyone was getting into utilising their senses differently, since they energetically bounced around ideas. ‘We should go to places further apart so we can see more!’ ‘Yeah, and then as we’re walking, we can concentrate on a sense between each place!’ While the tour tired us out by the end (perhaps it could be condensed a little), it’s a very different and enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, every time Theresa does a walking tour she experiences the city in a new way.
“What makes you laugh?” This question was featured at The School of Life’s event, A Night of Better Conversations: Relationships.
A large group of conversation enthusiasts gathered upstairs at All Press, a spacious venue with hard wood floors and windows welcoming in plenty of sunlight. (A note for future participants – comfortable shoes are recommended. The venue was lovely, but seating was limited.)
The evening was divided between anecdotes from School of Life faculty member Myke Bartlett and conversing with other attendees. The night provided an opportunity to start conversations with new people in a non-creepy manner. If you shudder at the idea of talking to strangers, don’t worry. This format seemed suited to beginners who are new to exploring ideas about communication. The conversation prompts started out with things like “what celebrity couple do you identify with?” and the importance of honesty in a relationship.
If you’re looking for something a little different to do after work, The School of Life offers classes on a variety of topics that have relevance in everyday life.
Jenny Schmidt is an event addict. She earned a BFA in theatre and has participated in arts festivals on three different continents (plus a couple of islands). When she’s not attending live shows, you can find her sampling the latest craft beer or sipping a classic cocktail.
The School of Life Melbourne
669 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000