Joy Lo Dico: Untroubled Comes To Mortimer House

The Notebook | 8th March 2019

The political raconteur and founder of renowned female-first symposium Trouble Club brings a unique monthly investigation into serenity to Mortimer House

The businesswoman, journalist and broadcaster Joy Lo Dico is known globally for her politically astute journalism and caustic wit, and as the founder of the sometimes controversial Trouble Club–a monthly talk and events night fronted by top-flight women speakers from everything spanning arts, politics, philanthropy and entrepreneurial pursuits. It is fair to say she knows modern London inside-out, having spent four years as editor of Londoner's Diary in The Evening Standard, and subsequently as an executive editor, editing Progress 1000, the annual list of the most interesting people in London. When she isn’t playing ringmaster to Trouble, penning features for The Financial Times or broadcasting on Monocle 24, she works as member of the British American Project, the Anglo-US collaborative conversation group set up by Lord Carrington. It is testament to her verve and capacity then that she has also found the time to bring an exciting off-shoot of Trouble Club to Mortimer House, focused on wellbeing, mindfulness and making sense of what can be the all-too-confusing and stressful modern world. The first installment of Untroubled in April will feature Professor Edith Hall talking informally on what we can learn from the ancient Greeks about happiness. Here, Lo Dico talks to Maslow’s Notebook about her new exploration into serenity, discusses the myriad challenges of disinformation in a digital age, and tells us why it’s only in stillness and reflection that you can find the energy for momentum.

Tell us about the genesis of Trouble Club and its Mortimer House offshoot, Untroubled…
Trouble is a talks club that tries to stir things up a bit. What is unique about it is that it is women-led and we almost always have women speakers. Men are more than welcome but we wanted to see what happened when you gave women the majority in the room, on subjects like politics and economics, ideas and history, which aren’t 50-50 yet. Everyone has something to say, be it argumentative, truthful, funny, and with the majority being women the cultural pressure to be good or to ask questions politely disappears. We’ve had Baroness Hale and Anna Soubry come to speak to us, debates on veganism, a private dinner with Leila Slimani, author of Adele, and instruction from Viv Groskop on how to own the room. All have been detailed, nuanced and valuable. Untroubled is the new monthly night at Mortimer House in which we take a similar starting position–ideas-led discussions–but rather than the clash of debate, we explore themes about how to live well and how to understand the self. We start with Professor Edith Hall on what we can learn from the Ancient Greeks about happiness.

What first drew you to journalism?
I fell into journalism by accident. A sweet but hopeless friend from university landed a job at the Evening Standard Londoner’s Diary and suggested I apply–if he could do it, so could I, I thought. I loved it–the mischief, the parties, the teasing questions to politicians, trying to elicit truths from people. From there, I’ve covered British media, the Trump election and Brexit. I’ve always worked in mainstream media, derided by everyone from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to Donald Trump, who don’t feel we represent them accurately. But our job is not to offer flattering portraits but realistic ones, drawn with an eye to history and the future. The worst thing that can happen in journalism is for someone to ring you up to thank you for your write-up. It means you’ve not applied enough of a critical lens.

How can we overcome the considerable challenges digital media presents in the mass dissemination of misinformation?
Digital media is a phenomenon with both virtues and downsides. Minority voices and groups suddenly find they can speak and be amplified through Twitter or specialist websites and mainstream media, always worried about keeping up with the zeitgeist, pays attention if somewhat slowly. But that ability to put content online so quickly and cheaply also means that ideological websites, posing as news, can get a grip very quickly and use social platforms to exaggerate their importance. It is a good thing that Facebook has changed its payment structures, which had allowed niche sites, which have been driving faking news through click-bait headlines, a revenue stream.

Do you feel there is a war on truth in the zeitgeist?
Is there a war on truth? That presupposes an easy answer to another question, one which philosophers have grappled with for centuries: is there truth? Journalism is a rough attempt at depicting reality, questioning it, raising facts and representing the views of the people. Somewhere in there is a rough collective set of truths that we can all recognise and that is worth defending. The alternative, skewed versions of this with ideological or explicitly financial ends, divides us. I’m optimistic the former will win out.

Do you think we are in a moment when we need to slow down and return to physical media and genuine interconnectedness?
Definitely. Or at least we need to look at our days, our weeks, our finite time, and think how much value do we get from being online and how much offline. I borrow a dog from a friend on Tuesday afternoons and make all my meetings, work and social, walking meetings just to get away from the laptop for an afternoon. In many ways the digital life has upsides. The digital nomad has no commitments to time, place, or meeting people in reality. That’s a freedom but then you become a digital entity yourself, always on, only meaningful if gaining clicks, and eventually that feels hollow. And what disappears from life is the stillness, the moments when nothing is happening. And it is only when you can feel stillness that you then appreciate motion and momentum, in yourself and others.

Untroubled come to The Living Room & Den at Mortimer House on April 8th. Contact john-paul@mortimerhouse.com if interested in attending.
Interview by John-Paul Pryor