Yes, going to lectures with your baby may be an odd thing to recommend as top travel destination in London. Yet, visiting RSA lectures has so far been my absolute favourite thing to do in London with baby. When I started out on maternity leave, two weeks before giving birth, I felt ambivalent about what I thought would be nine months of maternity leave without intellectual stimulation. The RSA answered my prayers: its official name is ‘Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce’ but its tagline ’21 Century Enlightenment describes it much better. I absolutely love the RSA, it probably was the most stimulating place Naira and I have visited during maternity leave. Through lectures, debates, funding opportunities and a network of fellows, the RSA tries to encourage ideas and action to make the world a better place.
In the first 8 weeks after giving birth, I went to more than 8 lectures in its beautiful building five minutes walk from Chairing Cross. Amongst others, I went to a lecture on an alternative economic system by Christian Felber, a lecture by Harvard Professor Iris Bohnet with groundbreaking ideas on how to design workplaces for women’s equality, a debate with the former chairman of the Financial Services Authority Lord Adair Turner, mindfulness exercises and much more.
My baby was two weeks old when I went to the first lecture – I took her in a sling and feed her when she wished to be fed so she was quiet during most lectures. I also decided early on to be easy on her and myself – if she started crying and we had to leave the lecture, so be it.
How to sign up for the lectures: sign up to events here. Their free lectures get ‘sold out’ very quickly and the mailing list is your chance to sign up as soon as they are uploaded.
Cost: Free events and lectures, if you want to become a fellow you have to pay, but there is lots on for free.
Baby friendliness indicator ****: The staff are incredibly friendly, and while I have never seen any other babies, I have been made to feel very welcome. In one lecture I ran in and out three (!) times because my baby started to whimper: not a single person made me feel unwelcome. The only thing to make it more baby friendly would be to explicitly say they welcome mothers with babies. The RSA is also incredibly woman friendly – every time I go to a lecture, the chair makes a real effort to ensure as many women as men ask questions.
- Baby changing area is on the ground floor disabled toilet.
- Breastfeeding: there are lots of chairs dotted around the RSA building so you’ll find a spot comfy for breastfeeding. I breastfed through whole lectures, if you feel self conscious about breastfeeding, during the lectures they usually dim the lights which might help.
- Buggy accessibility: there are steps to enter the building through the main and the side entrance, but if you ask the receptionist they’ll open the disabled access door for you. There is also a cloakroom where you can store the buggy unless there is a huge event going on, in which case you can store the buggy under the chairs.
- Warming up bottled milk: there is a bar in the bottom of the building, you can probably ask there to heat up some water if you are bottle feeding.
Tipps to get the most out of it: Do bring a jumper to the lectures, the aircon is freezing and I found that my baby is more quiet when wrapped up warm in my arms or a sling.
Too nervous to take a potentially screaming baby to a lecture ? You can download thought provoking video recordings of the lectures on the RSA website, and if you are a fellow you have access to the amazing library – every book pushes forward new ideas and you can return them via freepost!
Your advice: what places could we visit in London with baby that inspire and make us think of new ideas?