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Monday 25 March 2019

part two

The joy of belonging

  • There are now nearly 6000 founding members of Tortoise from 49 countries.
  • Our members are interested in slow news, and in the openness of Tortoise. They want warmth, creativity, and generosity.
  • Our hope is to meet every member we can. Barney Macintyre introduces some we have been fortunate enough to meet already…


Lena Warren is the pastor of a Lutheran church in Pearl River, upstate New York. She wants to see Tortoise taking an interest in the subjects of immigration, partiality in the news, and the continuing conflict between Israel and Palestine. This year she is going on an interfaith tour of the Holy Land where her church’s sister congregation is located. She’s undaunted. Lena has been a voyager all her life.

Lena was born in Nigeria and grew up in the barren landscapes of Alberta and Ontario in Canada. She moved to South Carolina as a teen, and has since toured Australia, India and Ecuador.

To escape the noise Lena spends much of her time outside. She approves of the lack of phone service near her home and says it is a “beautiful thing to be disconnected for a while”. It is her resolution to find space in her life this year and to get away from what she calls her “monkey mind”.

But it has served her well. Lena holds no fewer than four degrees in subjects ranging from soil sciences to body theology. She points out that religion and science have always complemented each other. “Did you know the Big Bang theory came from the mind of a Catholic priest?”

Dr Sascha Grierson runs an organic farm in Perthshire, Scotland. As a long-term advocate of more considered farming practice, Sascha is bemused by the sudden interest in vegan food and is doing her best to cater to the new trend.

That said, she’ll be taking her time to get it right. Sascha is a member of the Slow Food movement – a non-profit organisation based on the idea that everyone has an entitlement to enjoy food that is good for them and doesn’t damage the environment. “It’s about sitting down around a table and enjoying food together,” she says. “It civilises us. Eating should provide emotional sustenance as well, not just fuel.”

Before starting the Grierson farm, Sascha was a biomedical research scientist with a speciality in sleep disorders. During her PhD she cultivated a holistic approach to problem-solving that she now applies in agriculture. She hopes that Tortoise will do the same for news.

“People are always looking for a ‘silver bullet’,” says Sascha, “And not one big, international problem has a silver bullet solution. We need to open up our brains to a range of responses, and to think critically.”

Asad Dhunna is the director of communications for Pride in London and founder of The Unmistakables, a marketing consultancy made for minorities. In his spare time Asad is an avid cyclist, campaigner and news junkie.

Commenting on recent demands for Pride to hold more year-round events, he says: “I think it really symbolises where we are at with LGBT rights. Pride started a year after the Stonewall riots in New York. But what began as protests has now developed into a celebration. It says people are out and they’re loud and they’re proud. And not just for one day a year.”

The slower moments in Asad’s increasingly busy schedule usually take the form of yoga classes, prayer or writing about what it means to be British. He suggests that we all need to find ways to counter our growing attention deficits, and fondly remembers how his parents’ generation didn’t have this problem.

“When I grew up, my dad used to read The Sunday Times every Sunday. He would sit for four to five hours and just read it cover to cover. I just don’t know if people have the capability to do that any more.”

Ro Jackson is the driving force behind Slowe, a media platform dedicated to women’s sport. The name Slowe is both a tongue-in-cheek reference to the stereotype that women are slower and a monument to Ro’s all-time favourite athlete.

Lucy Diggs Slowe was the first black dean of women at any American university. She was also the first African-American woman to win a major sports title when she became US national tennis champion in 1917. One hundred years on Slowe was launched.

“I just loved her story,” says Ro. “She represented a lot of what women’s sport was about. She was a huge force in education, and tennis was just the thing she did on the side. I think we haven’t come that far. The majority of female athletes still have a full-time job.”

Ro is a graphic designer by trade, and wants to see Tortoise reporting on London’s creative industries, much of which goes under the radar. Her latest project is putting together a print edition of Slowe. However she still manages to watch women’s sport almost every week. For Ro, boosting attendance is key to getting women’s sport the recognition it deserves. “I’m all about action over talking,” she says.

Ciro Romano is a music producer and promoter, who founded two music festivals – Love Supreme and Nocturne Live. He wants to see Tortoise approaching the subjects of Brexit and business, and the challenges facing democracy and geopolitics. For someone who is paying attention to the cultural shift away from urgency, Tortoise seemed like a good fit.

“The pace of technology has made everything so frantic,” he says, “and then I started seeing all these ideas popping up about how to take time. That was something I wanted to encourage.”

On one of his frequent trips to Italy, Ciro came across the Cittaslow movement. The goal of the project is to improve the quality of life by slowing the flow of people and traffic through urban spaces. The Italians have been perfecting the slow city for a while now. Ciro says it’s time we saw something similar in the UK.

But it hasn’t always been about la dolce vita for Ciro. Prior to becoming an award-winning music producer he worked as an intellectual property lawyer for ten years. He can also claim to have scaled 48 Scottish Munros.

Dayo Forster is a data analyst for a financial sector development company. She’s spent much of her life working in Kenya and Nigeria, where people are turning their backs on banks in favour of using mobile payment. Dayo’s job is to read the data and advise government accordingly.

But that is by no means the only hat she wears. Dayo is as creative as she is analytical. She is a shareholder of Circle Art, a contemporary art gallery in Nairobi that is looking to set up shop in Britain in the coming months. She also writes novels.

Peeling back the layers of difference between the country where she was born – the Gambia – and the country where she has spent most of her life – Kenya – is a primary interest. Once, for research, Dayo spent half a year walking around the entire border of the Gambia.

“Even within a country as small as the Gambia, communities and individuals are either closed or open. Walking around, people either treat you with suspicion or generous warmth.”

It’s Dayo’s hope that Tortoise is able to bring a similar warmth and openness to news through the ThinkIn format. She is sure to be a vital part of the conversation.

Illustrations by Phillipa Warden for Tortoise