A few years ago, Slow TV was all the rage, with people spending hours watching other people chop wood, take a nine hour train ride through Norway, hours of salmon fishing or even just peacefully knitting. The BBC, Amazon and Netflix all had Slow TV specials, which attracted plenty of viewers, who were drawn to the calming and meditative effects after so long spent watching fast, furious and often aggressive viewing.
Sadly these Slow TV events all seem to have left mainstream TV, so how can you find peaceful viewing to restore your equilibrium?
Slow TV - A History
Slow TV actually began with Andy Warhol and some performance art - a 1963 film entitled Sleep, which was a five hour film of the poet John Giorno fast asleep. He followed this with Eat in 1964 - 40 minutes of watching a man eat a mushroom.
Twenty years later, Canadian TV replaced their night-time test card with footage of someone walking or driving through Toronto. Only three films were made, but they were repeated every night from 1986 -1993.
Other incarnations of Slow TV are early reality TV shows such as Big Brother in 2000, when viewers would watch the contestants sleeping all night, or just lying in the garden for hours. However, it wasn't long until producers deliberately introduced drama into the series, and these extended periods of peaceful viewing ended.
In 2005, a website was set up called Watching Grass Grow, and it has been streaming ever since. In 2007, a mature cheddar cheese was filmed maturing for a year.
In 2009, Norwegian TV station NRK broadcast a 7 hour train journey from Bergen to Oslo as a celebration of 100 years of the Bergen Railway. It was watched by over 1 million people in Norway. After some shorter minute-by-minute films, they produced 134 hours of a ship sailing around the Norwegian Coast. This was watched by over 2 million people. Other Norwegian films included 18 hours of live salmon fishing, 8 hours of a live fireplace, 12 hours of knitting and plenty more.
Other broadcasters around the world soon started producing their own versions, such as Czech TV station MAFRA who have run a Slow TV webcast since 2010 where you can watch boats sailing, trains moving or the action at airport in Prague.
You can watch a short summary of the Norwegian films on this clip from You Tube -
If you want to know more about the background of Slow TV, there is a 29 minute documentary all about it available on Facebook: Slow TV - That Damned cow
Where can you watch Slow TV for free?
The answer of course, is You Tube. Mainstream TV may have decided that there is not much money to be made in Slow TV, but the public seem to have decided otherwise. On You Tube is a rapidly increasing amount of channels dedicated to Slow viewing - where not only can you see the original videos which started it all, but people have been making their own variations on the theme.
Here I have collated a few of my favourites, both of the traditional Slow films and more recent ones. I have tried to choose ones which don't have any adverts, to avoid any jarring noise ruining your Zen. They include the 10 hour train journey around the Norwegian Arctic Circle, a sleigh ride with reindeer across the Arctic, cows grazing in a lush green field in Ireland, the Dawn Chorus in the RHS garden at Wisley and 10 hours of waves lapping on a beach.
Dawn at Wisley is a particularly lovely one to watch
These early Slow TV videos have led to a whole raft of spin offs, and now people are filming their own adventures. RailCowGirl is a train driver who films her journeys on the beautiful Bergen line in Norway - it is strangely absorbing viewing with lots of snow, sunrises and scary looking tunnels.
Several channels has been set up of people walking through cities just filming what is going on around them - it is a great way of seeing what goes on in real life - the stuff that travel guides normally leave out. It can really give you a feel for a place. This video is of a canal journey through Amsterdam in lockdown, meaning you can see it without the swarms of tourists cluttering up the place. This style of video is 'Armchair Tourism' at its best.
A variation on the theme is the emergence of hours of crackling fireplaces, listening to the sound of rain on a roof, birdsong, snow falling, forest sounds and everything else you can think of. Some have ambient music added; instrumental, slow jazz, choral or chillout music in the background. It doesn't provide the same level of realism, but could still be considered as a form of Slow TV.
People have gone either further and adapted this into 'dreamscapes' - hours and hours of often CGI visuals with nature sounds or subdued music as the soundtrack.
They provide a backdrop for people trying to sleep, to calm down, or to quiet their busy minds.
In an increasingly hectic world, Slow TV is providing the perfect antidote to the stress and noise.