Sunny Wanderings, Wisdom and Wizards in the beating heart of London

Blessed by gorgeous weather, 30 seekers of wisdom met on a luminous Sunday afternoon just around the corner from one of London’s most famous byways: Carnaby Street.

Street Wisdom co-founder David Pearl and Street Wizard alumni Scott Morrison gathered us all together on the ancient cobblestones and gave us a taste of the experience that would unfold over the next three hours. Expect the unexpected, look for teachers as well as answers, use the streets as an invisible university.

Perhaps we picked up on the neighbourhood’s reputation for new ideas, open-minded entrepreneurs and leaping into the unknown (in bell-bottomed trousers) but as the group of soon-to-be Street Wizards set off on their wanderings, the air was full of expectation. And a couple of hours later, we were not disappointed – new light had been shed on all sorts of difficult questions, inspiration had been sought and found, and the world was viewed in a new and stimulating way. If you were there, thank you for coming, and please leave your own stories of adventure in the comments below. We’d love to hear them.

Massive thanks also to our other volunteer facilitators: Mark Brown, David Micklem, Ines Alonso and Jo Pearl. And to Stephen Cotterell for the photos.

See you next time….

Street Wisdom London July 2015 © stephen cotterell photography 13118  Street Wisdom London July 2015 © stephen cotterell photography 13115  Street Wisdom London July 2015 © stephen cotterell photography 13117


March 2015: London reveals her secrets

A magnificently crisp winter’s day drew a small, diverse, but perfectly formed band of adventurers to London’s Covent Garden. As the morning mist evaporated and the city woke slowly around us, we began our search for answers – but our wanderings would lead us around unexpected corners of both our minds and the city we thought we knew.

Shaking sleepy Sunday heads, we were soon looking up, down and all around at the buildings, street life and shop fronts of this ancient part of one of the world’s great metropolises. Many of us were familiar with this well trodden tourist zone, having rushed through it thousands of times on our way to other destinations, but there were secrets lurking at its heart.

StPaulsAs our volunteer Street Leader, David Micklem, helped us to tune up, slow down and observe the world around us, a few in our group stumbled upon a hidden churchyard created in 1633. The peace and tranquillity found in its garden were ethereal in the midst of such a dense and busy area. A garden of snowdrops looked upon benches dedicated to those who had passed on and were much missed. It made me think a little about how I might like to be remembered one day and began a playful couple of hours as I tried to answer my question for the day: ‘How can I be a better, truer version of myself?’

The cobblestones are steeped in a million stories here and slowing…right…down gave the opportunity to be enmeshed with the dramas playing out all around us while sensing the history of lives that had gone before. Little moments that normally flit by came clearly into frame: the older couple holding hands, a red haired girl looking lost and despondent, the homeless man folding his clothes under a portico. It takes you out of your own head and into a zone where you’re much more aware of human interactions.

The Street is a wise and often capricious muse. I occasionally laughed softly to myself as I wandered the roads and alleyways of central London and answers appeared in the most unlikely of places. A maze laid out in a courtyard lured me into its dead ends until I finally found my way to the centre. A metaphor perhaps to keep trying, never give up. Above me, inscribed over a doorway, were the words ‘Que sara sara’ (What Will Be Will Be).

The answer to my question came from a sign propped up in a bookstore window. It was a quote from a new fiction novel: “You can be whatever you want, but you will always be yourself”. The shop assistant approached me and we had an interesting conversation about the book, which he had read. It got me thinking about the way we outwardly portray ourselves as opposed to our inner voices and convictions. Unhappiness appears when the gap between those two things is at its greatest and reconciling them is the key.

As I walked back to meet our group again, a holographic photo of Marilyn Monroe mouthed the word ‘Wow!’ at me and made me laugh again. Street Wisdom is nothing if not playful, joyful and unexpected. There were plenty of revelations to share amongst the 10 of us ranging from gentle insights and appreciation of the headspace to direct answers that hit some participants right between the eyes. For me, the messages from the street are always loud and clear – we just need to be ready to hear them.


Photos courtesy of Ashley Jones

Covent garden cobbles

Ian Ellison on his Beyond the Workplace Street Wisdom – 24 July 2014

#BtWC Street Wisdom

I pretty much wrote this post on my way home from a fascinating afternoon in the glorious, baking heat of London. This Thursday was the first ‘official’ #BtWC activity to challenge and consider what the future of work could aspirationally be, hosted by @dds180, @ChrisKane55, @KateGL, @davidmicklem and @SimonHeath1.

I was there with Bob Seddon (the newly appointed chair of the @BIFM_UK Workplace SIG), @ChrisMoriarty3 (surely the best surname in the country?!) and about 50 other intrigued participants, keen to learn what #StreetWisdom was all about.

My question, as part of the #BtWC initiative, was “is territory a good or a bad thing?” and my experience was more than illuminating! I’ve written a full post about it here.

Ian Ellison of Sheffield Hallam University

David Micklems story

Like all the best ideas, Street Wisdom is simple. Just a couple of hours taking time to experience your environment differently with a focus on you. It shouldn’t be hard. It’s not hard. But somehow in 2014, especially in the city, we seem to have forgotten how to slow down, appreciate our streets and soak up the stimulus that surrounds us.

street performerMy street wisdom took place in Covent Garden. But any street is full of answers if you know how to look. Last year I was wondering whether to take some of the jobs I was being offered. I had left a big role a year before, a job with long hours and significant responsibilities. I was enjoying the freedom of working more effectively as a freelancer on a wide range of new projects. But I was still new to freelancing and with my new found freedom came the usual freelancers concerns – would the work dry up?; how could I retain my networks?; did all these projects add up to a whole?

I’d been debating whether to go for any of the new jobs being offered my way. So I came to Covent Garden with a simple question at the forefront of my mind – should I continue to work independently on a range of projects or was it time to take on a new job?

With the guidance of my Street Leader (or Street Wiz) I quickly tuned up to a different way of being in Covent Garden. I took my time, I looked up and around, I noticed things I must have passed a dozen times, I began to experience my environment differently. I’ve heard this described as a walking meditation – a simple state to achieve and a lovely new way to experience a familiar place.

As I walked and reflected I met new people – a homeless guy, a policewoman, a man with a fabulous moustache in a coffee shop. The streets seemed more alive with people, with colour, with life. Perhaps with answers too.

Without offering I was asked by three separate people to take their photos. A freelancer’s calling perhaps? Every time I thought about a new job I saw signs that pushed me away – The Mousetrap, Danger, No Entry. Every turn seemed to reveal a new set of answers and after only an hour I felt a renewed confidence in my chosen path.

It’s a simple idea but the answers Street Wisdom reveal can be powerful. There is insight and magic everywhere. Street Wisdom helped me find it.

David Micklem, March 2014