This week, we got some questions to Sara Tiefenbrun – the new project director at The School of Life in Melbourne. I’ve followed The School of Life closely before and since its original launch in the UK, having attended a few classes in the Marchmont Street store. So was very excited to hear of its official launch in Australia after rumours emerged mid-2011.


The School of Life storefront in London

For those that aren’t quite familiar with the concept, what is The School of Life and how is it different from other event or learning providers?

The School of Life began in London in 2008, founded by the writer and philosopher Alain de Botton and others. Since then it has become a brand that is associated with some of the most interesting and groundbreaking thinkers of our age. We offer classes, tours, workshops and events designed to provoke and tickle the mind. Underneath it all is the exploration of how to live wisely and well.

The School of Life helps people to address some of life’s biggest challenges: How do you balance work with life? How do you stay calm in our digital age? How Necessary is a Relationship? Can love last a lifetime? The experiences equip people with ideas that help them to ask better questions, without necessarily providing all of the answers.

Because the classes are generally in bitesize chunks, they fit with a modern hectic lifestyle. We aren’t promising that one three hour class will resolve the biggest challenges in your life, but it will give you food for thought. And you might meet some interesting people along the way. Part of the appeal for many people is the sense of meeting a community of like-minded people – people who want to make the most out of their lives.

I think beyond that there’s warmth and wit in what The School of Life offers that sets it apart from other event or learning providers – it doesn’t take itself too seriously.


How did you discover The School of Life and what’s been your personal journey to date?

I learnt about The School of Life whilst in Melbourne when friends in London told me all about amazing experiences that they were having at events and weekends away. I had spent a decade in London working in documentary making as a director. At times I struggled with being single whilst many friends settled down and started families. It felt a bit like I’d stayed on at a party too long and everyone else had gone home. But there didn’t seem to be much guidance about how to tackle this portion of my life. If The School of Life had been up and running at the time it would have been a fantastic place to explore some of the challenges that I was facing in an intelligent and worthwhile way.

What role will Small Giants be playing in The School of Life Australia?

Small Giants is a joint partner in this venture with The School of Life UK. It’s a great association between two very strongly aligned businesses, particularly given the Small Giants family of companies includes Dumbo Feather whose mission is to inspire people to live with passion and purpose. Working together with the School of Life in the UK, Small Giants is managing the operational and strategic execution of the School of Life in Australia.

Why Collingwood?

The site is in the heart of Collingwood, which is a vibrant and incredibly exciting location for our very first term. As a launch location we couldn’t be happier!

Will be seeing a storefront similar to Marchmont Street in London?

Yes, plans are still falling in to place, but we intend to have a store front similar to Marchmont Street, selling curated objects and meaningful literature, including The School of Life books and more. This being Melbourne, we are also launching a café with excellent coffee on site.

What kind of event series and speakers will be kicking it off in the New Year?

Our program will be announced mid-December. We have started selling tickets to a week-long Intensive in February and the early bird tickets are almost gone. It’s led by Gaylene Gould, who is a key member of the UK Faculty with several local guest speakers. A key part of our offering will be The School of Life classes which have been devised and fine tuned over the last four years. These include: How to be creative, How necessary is a relationship? How to fill the god-shaped hole, How to stay calm, How to Face Death and more. These classes are going to be taught by the very best local facilitators. Other names involved will include creativity experts Jeff and Julie Crabtree (a husband and wife, musician and psychologist partnership), illustrator Matthew Johnstone (author of Quiet the Mind and Alphabet of the Human Heart), the British writer Oliver Burkeman (author of The Antidote – Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking), cartoonist Oslo Davis of The Age and Melbhattan and Melbourne based philosopher Damon Young author of Philosophy in the Garden and Distraction. Stay tuned for more information on some larger special events.

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