I’m Mike Starkey, a London-based writer.
I’m the author of six non-fiction books, and regularly appear on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought. Down the years I’ve been a radio journalist, newspaper columnist, parish priest and a Head of Church Growth. I review lots of books.
I’m the voice of grumpy Edwardian MPs in the Pankhurst Centre’s audio-visual history of the suffragette movement.
Flâneur is notes on culture and ideas, beliefs and unbeliefs, joys and disenchantments.
The idea of the flâneur comes from 19th-century Paris.
The poet Charles Baudelaire used the term to refer to somebody who strolls or saunters around the city in an aimless sort of way, observing contemporary life.
Another term might be urban explorer.
Baudelaire was writing in the 1860s, when much of Paris was being rebuilt to the grand designs of Baron Haussmann. The figure of the flâneur can be seen in impressionist paintings from that era.
Today the act of aimlessly strolling and observing is counter-cultural. It’s an antidote to our driven, planned, measured, goal-oriented age. It values the open and flexible.
Flânerie is an act of curiosity and a spark for creativity. It’s an act of improvisation.
Because flânerie is random, it holds the possibility of chance encounter and discovery. It welcomes the unexpected and neglected.
In recent times the term has been associated with photography. The street photographer is an observer and recorder of urban life, a finder of beauty and wonder in unexpected places.