A Sunday Well Spent With Sunday Papers Live

The ultimate Sunday with Sunday Papers Live

Sunday is the best day of week according to Ben DeVere, founder of Sunday Papers Live – an all day event dedicated to the joys of Sunday that includes long walks, board games a hearty roast and as the name suggests, the Sunday papers. Here DeVere tells TOAST more about his homage to the day of rest and gives us his top tips for a Sunday well spent.

Easy Like Sunday Morning’ once crooned The Commodores, Etta James demanded a ‘Sunday Kind of Love’ and of course Queen were famous for ‘Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon’. There is no denying that there is something special about Sundays. A day of rest. A time for lie-ins, walks in the park, an afternoon movie and perhaps a roast with all the trimmings. Maybe even breakfast in bed with the Sunday papers?

Speaking of the papers – Sunday Papers Live is the ultimate homage to the many traditional undertakings and general joys of a Sunday; a series of carefully curated all-day events that take place on – you guessed it – a Sunday, that champions all the things that the Sabbath is famous for.

“We take everything Sunday’s are good at, and then blow them up into these big communal experiences. I wanted it to feel like you’re still at home, but there’s 500 people sharing it!” enthuses Ben DeVere, founder of Sunday Papers Live.

It’s the best day of the week. The city takes a breath. You don’t have to look at a screen or pick up the phone, and you know that everyone else is sharing in this big pause. I just wish we did a three or a four-day week so that we could experience life like that more often! Sunday feels like the way life should always be.”

Reeps Sunday Papers

Crowd Sunday Papers

Back in 2007, Ben set up The Forum at the acclaimed Secret Garden Party – a dedicated space for talks and debates boasting an incredibly diverse line up of experts speaking about a multitude of subjects, from renowned authors to maverick scientists, acclaimed artists to renegade thinkers. It was a huge success, and before he knew it Ben was responsible for programming and producing dozens of the UK’s leading festivals, such as Citadel and Wilderness.

I guess I have a reputation as the talks and debates guy,” he laughs. “I think one year I was working on five or six festivals, but now I focus mainly on Wilderness, which has grown into a huge programme. I run Sunday Papers Live as a pet project really, and I also run a family publishing business. And I’m a dad. I have a little girl who is five in a couple of weeks, so that’s my real job.”

After years of festival action that consumed Ben’s summers, Sunday Papers Live was inspired by his desire to find something that he could do off-season, and something that recreated the bustling atmosphere of festival discussion tents, but in London. 

The tents are these amazing spaces were you get world-class speakers interacting with people in a completely informal setting. Festivals are amazing at introducing people to new ideas - you might not trek across London on a rainy evening to watch a short lecture on dark energy or the future of sex, but if it’s right there and you need a sit-down…” 

Sunday Papers Live traditionally takes place twice a year at Cecil Sharp House in Primrose Hill. Ben and his team host one event in the spring and one in the autumn, as well as a special edition at Citadel Festival in July, and another at Wilderness in August.

As a lover of Sundays myself it sounds like a glorious idea – a whole event dedicated to the joys and indulgences of Sunday, but to me Sundays are ultimately very cosy and comforting, and so I wonder how Ben goes about creating that feeling of relaxation and hygge in a large hall filled with strangers.

We spend a lot of energy packing that room with as many cushions, rugs, sofas and bits and bobs as we can in order to make it as homely as possible,” explains Ben.  “We encourage people to wear slippers and bring their dogs and their knitting. Then we add a ton of scrabble boards, papers, puzzles and we play Disney songs and live jazz between the acts! It all comes together to just feel super inviting. The venue is amazing too. It’s got such a warm vibe to it already.” 

Sunday Papers Live

Sunday Papers Talk

Sundaypaperslive Audience

OK, I am sold. And once you’ve found your squishy sofa, slipped on your slippers and curled up with your (or perhaps someone else’s) dog, you can then kick back and listen to each section of the day’s papers being read out loud and animatedly brought to life by an expert speaker, performer or group. Some are silly, some serious, and others will make you dance on the tables, apparently. Past speakers have included everyone from Eddie The Eagle to Jon Snow, exiles to ex-jihadis, as well as activists, politicians and comedians.

I’ll never forget Jon Snow’s stories about being in a Beatles cover band in Iran, or Eddie The Eagle’s story about racing the Jamaican bobsled team in a wok!” laughs Ben.

We’ve also had so many performances from beatboxers to a full symphony orchestra, and some really amazing new bands and singer-songwriters.” he adds. “We also do these really silly interactive crosswords - the clues are acted out like charades and the whole room play it together. It’s the only thing that has never really changed since we started.” 

In today’s somewhat tumultuous political climate the papers are often filled with constitutional news and sometimes worrying governmental updates, which doesn’t always make for a comforting read on a Sunday morning. Rest assured that Sunday Papers Live has got no political agenda to push – far from it.  

There’s nothing worse than a preachy political event, and politics is only one small part of the experience. We’ve had a few very rowdy debates, but having your worldview challenged is what the Sunday Papers should be all about. These days mostly they just reinforce what you already believe, so a bit of friction is probably a good thing.” explains Ben.

Plus they play Disney songs, remember?

“It’s very laid back.” he adds “We encourage people to nap, or go for a walk, or read or play scrabble. You absolutely don’t have to pay attention to everything on stage. It runs from midday until almost midnight, so if you did you’d be exhausted! You can bring friends, get a bit tipsy, get involved with the debates, laugh, cry, nap, knit, and then stuff your face. My philosophy when I’m booking the event is to try and be as wide-ranging as possible, but the format of having something for each section of the papers is quite handy in that respect. I’m of the theory that everyone is interested in everything, it all just depends how it’s delivered. And how comfy the seats are….!” 

Sunday Papers Guests Relax

As well as the Sunday papers, several other sacred Sunday rituals are all celebrated at the event – namely the all-important food offering! Sunday roasts with all the trimmings, tasty brunches, plenty of snacks, fresh coffee, tea, cakes and smoothies are all available throughout the day. Sunday tipples include a fully stocked real ale bar, wines paired with the roasts, mulled cider in the winter, and London's finest Bloody Mary bar.  

Our house chef Tom Hunt has been nailing the roasts since we started in 2013 and he has been flying the ethical flag since before it was fashionable. He does these rustic Mediterranean style blends of seasonal British ingredients to create these amazing homages to the classic roast. So it’s homely, but surprising too.” Ben explains.

Sunday food is like breakfast – there’s a very strict formula, but in those confines you can be super experimental. So The Breakfast Club who run our brunches did this amazing Mexican eggs benedict for the last one. Then there’s the Bloody Marys, which are in many ways as important as the food!” 

Sunday Live Papers Edited 1

And if you can tear yourself away from the venue itself, which along with the food also features arts and crafts, life drawing, pub quizzes, market stalls, poets, and live music, then you might want to take a stroll and walk off that hearty lunch or brunch.

Another element of Sunday Papers Live is dedicated to the tradition of a Sunday afternoon stroll, and their guided ‘walks and workshops’ leave from the venue and head out through the parks and to the top of Primrose Hill.

I think the walks are pretty important,” explains Ben. “If you don’t go for a long walk on a Sunday then the sofa and the food aren’t quite as good. We take people up Primrose Hill, which is a great spot for these workshops and talks we organise, because you can look out over the whole city. It’s really nice when you’ve got an amazing historian or philosopher talking about these big ideas and you can see the whole city behind them.”

Now I may be at risk of showing my age here – but I remember when shops were actually closed on a Sunday. The days before Internet shopping, Snapchat and Netflix. Nowadays Sundays are at risk of feeling like any other day of the week; in today’s digital age we are often glued to our phones, always contactable and therefore expected to be responsive at all times, whether it’s a reply to a work email or a Whatsapp from a friend, even if it is a Sunday. 

The idea of switching off is being lost,” explains Ben. “One of the most interesting debates is the etiquette of technology and how we relate to our phones. I know a chap who’s a professor in divinity at Harvard who created something called the tech Sabbath. Super simple – you switch off for 24 hours from dusk on Friday.” he adds.

“Since we all stopped going to church, Sundays have lost that communal togetherness that they used to be all about, so there is definitely a bit of that in the idea behind Sunday Papers Live. A communal exercise that isn’t about God, or getting wasted!”

Ben is now busy gearing up for the festival season which lies ahead, swiftly followed by the eleventh edition of Sunday Papers Live at Cecil Sharp House on 10th September 2017.

If you can’t wait until then to celebrate the joys of Sunday, then why not call some friends, switch off your phones and spend a Sunday together enjoying a few traditional pastimes. Here are Ben’s top tips for spending the ultimate Sunday at home. 


  • Just pick one thing and do it well

    A walk, a market, a pub, a home-cooked roast, a board game. Multi-tasking too many supposedly relaxing elements can ruin Sunday. Let Christmas be a warning to you.

  • Pick your movie in the morning

    Too many evenings have been wasted arguing about what to watch until it’s too late to watch anything. Old movies are always a safer bet.

  • Taking a long bath

    The best way to get away from other people without seeming rude.

  • Potter

    Read a bit. Eat a bit. Be noncommittal. Waste time.

  • Ditch the digital

    See if you can go the whole morning or afternoon without looking at your phone.

  • Read a long newspaper article

    Read about something you know nothing about, and read the whole thing.

  • Take a nap

    Take a nap and nap with pride!

The eleventh edition of Sunday Papers Live will be held at Cecil Sharp House on 10th September 2017. For contact details and more information about Sunday Papers Live then visit their profile page in TOAST’s Little Black Book.



Posted in Spotlight

by Sophie Farrah
on on 04 May 2017

  sunday, sunday papers, whats on in london

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