Transforming how
we understand rest

The urge to be busy defines modern life. Rest can seem hard to find, whether in relation to an exhausted body, a racing mind or a hectic city. Should we slow down, or should we embrace intense activity? What effects do each of these states have on the health of our bodies and minds? Such questions frequently find their way into media reports and everyday conversations, but there has never been any sustained interdisciplinary attempt to answer them. Through our residency, international experts investigating hubbub and rest at different scales will, for the first time, be gathered in a shared space – to breathe new life into the questions we ask about rest and busyness.


Hubbub is an international collective of social scientists, artists, humanities researchers, scientists, broadcasters, public engagement professionals and mental health experts. We explore the dynamics of rest, noise, tumult, activity and work, as they operate in mental health, the neurosciences, the arts and the everyday. We are based in London as the first residents of The Hub at Wellcome Collection from October 2014 to July 2016.

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News & Events

Call for participants: Inner experience in epilepsy

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Researchers at Hubbub are interested in finding out more about the day-to-day experience of living with epilepsy. The study involves wearing a beeper for a week and having a daily interview about your experiences with a researcher. This technique is called Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES).

We are asking a range of people with experience of epilepsy with ongoing seizures to take part in the study. In particular, we are interested in hearing from anyone aged over 18 who would answer yes to the following statement:

Do you have at least one seizure per month?

If you are interested in taking part, please contact Prof Charles Fernyhough by email or contact our research team on 0207 611 8290.

For further information and support on the topic of epilepsy, please visit Epilepsy Action

As a method of generating new material, artist Patrick Coyle records thoughts he has while jogging by speaking into a small microphone. These thoughts range from mundane visual observations to wild associative leaps which often find their way into performance scripts following an arduous process of transcription. The following is an excerpt from a transcribed speech recorded by Patrick while running through Regents Park on July 17th 2015. The breath mark (’) represents pauses for inhaling and exhaling.

Thinking at the speed of thought | Patrick Coyle

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thinking  ’  at the speed of thought  ’  I mean  ’  obviously we can’t  ’  nobody can really  ’  speak at the speed of thought  ’  there’s not really such thing as a  ’  a stream  ’  of consciousness  ’  I mean it’s a  ’  it’s a  ’  it could be  ’  described as a method in literary terms or perhaps  ’  even  ’  in  ’  the realm of  ’  psychoanalysis  ’  er  ’  it could be  ’  referred to  ’  I mean  ’  the stream of consciousness  ’  could be referred to as  ’  a technique  ’  erm  ’  but  ’  free association is  ’  probably more accurate in that context  ’  actually  ’  but  ’  also  ’  zebras  ’  wow  ’  I see  ’  zebras  ’  just right by  ’  very close to the road  ’  and of course the  ’  the stream isn’t really  ’  there and  ’  at all  ’  I mean it  ’  we just think in waves or  ’  pulses more  ’  and  ’  then  ’  of course as soon as  ’  those  ’  waves or pulses of thought are verbalized they  ’  no longer  ’  they’re  ’  well they’re nowhere near  ’  I mean  ’  I would never  ’  argue this as a  ’  accurate  ’  depiction  ’  or  ’  erm  ’  what’s the word  ’  not depiction but  ’  I wouldn’t even argue it as  ’  an accurate  ’  illustration of  ’  stream of consciousness  ’  thought  ’  erm  ’  it’s  ’  just  ’  me  ’  thinking  ’  while running  ’  and then saying  ’  some of the thoughts  ’  that come across my mind  ’  for example  ’  as I was saying that  ’  I was actually thinking about  ’  some conkers growing on a tree and a sculpture  ’  a bench of  ’  a lion  ’  or some other animal and  ’  then  ’  of course while I was  ’  saying that I was  ’  actually thinking about  ’  erm  ’  a dried-up  ’  conker tree  ’  or is that horse chestnut leaf  ’  that had gone very  ’  orangey brown  ’  and then  ’  connecting that with a  ’  wooden  ’   sculpture of a fox  ’  which  ’  erm  ’  as  ’  I was saying that I was just  ’  really  ’  not thinking much I was looking at  ’  a tennis court  ’  and  ’  erm  ’  something on the floor  ’  probably a  ’  a yoghurt  ’  pot  ’  and  ’  and so on  ’  and so on and  ’  the BT Tower  ’  and  ’  the  ’  two people  ’  wearing  ’  very similar T-shirts  ’  and shorts and  ’  seagulls  ’  and then  ’  the  ’  dark clouds gathering  ’  in the distance  ’  and  ’  the  ’  clear plastic cup and  ’  I think that’s a swallow  ’  and the trees  ’  and so on  ’  erm  ’  I probably shouldn’t do that for the whole  ’  twenty  ’  to twenty five minutes  ’  of speaking  ’  because  ’  well we’re already at  ’  sixteen minutes  ’  and nineteen seconds  ’  so  ’  still not really sure how that’s going to  ’  translate  ’  and  ’  I’m also not really sure if I have  ’  time today to  ’  transcribe  ’  the whole thing because  ’  that’s  ’  already probably  ’  a good  ’  hour and a half  ’  of writing  ’  because I’m not that fast and I don’t have  ’  erm  ’  oh  ’  well  ’   maybe I could try the  ’  erm  ’  speech  ’  software but  ’  even that will probably involve me  ’  speaking  ’  well listening back to this  ’  with earphones  ’  and then speaking it  ’  back  ’  to my  ’  computer  ’  more clearly than  ’  my breathy  ’  slurry voice  ’  and  ’  that’s  ’  one of those things that can’t be  ’  erm  ’  can’t be  ’  erm  ’  illustrated  ’  or depicted

Follow Patrick on Twitter @patricoyle

You are all invited to share your experiences of rest as part of a global ‘Rest Test’, which launched on 3 November at 9pm on BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind, presented by Hubbub Associate Director Claudia Hammond.

Image: Wellcome Trust

Hubbub launches The Rest Test to uncover the world’s resting habits

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The Rest Test is an online survey to investigate the nation’s resting habits and their attitudes towards relaxation and busyness. It is part of a wider collaboration between BBC Radio 4, Hubbub and Wellcome Trust.

With thousands of people expected to take part, this will be the world’s largest ever survey into subjective experiences of rest.

It comes at a time when the topic of rest is at the forefront of many people’s minds. Interest in self-tracking tools such as Fitbits is soaring and wellbeing has become a matter of public policy with an all-party parliamentary group exploring the benefits of mindfulness. There is increasing scrutiny of working patterns, whether through Virgin’s new annual leave policy allowing staff to take as much holiday as they need or the move to a six hour working day by Swedish companies.

The results will increase understanding of people’s perceptions of rest and the way these relate to an individual’s work or daily habits, as well as their experiences of health, illness, disability, satisfaction with life and the tendency to mind wander.

The kinds of questions the survey will address include:

  • How does rest affect health and wellbeing?
  • How do people vary in what they experience as restful?
  • Does an individual’s personality, health history and caring responsibilities have an effect on how much rest they get or the kinds of activities they find restful?
  • How do attitudes to and experiences of rest vary between different countries in the world?

Members of the public are invited to contribute their experiences of seeking rest and explore how they compare with others. They will also be encouraged to discuss the topic online and to share images of themselves at rest around the world using the hashtag #RestTest.

Claudia Hammond, presenter of Radio 4’s All in the Mind and associate director of Hubbub, explains: “Rest is widely regarded as important to our wellbeing but there’s so much we don’t know about it. We vary a lot in how much time we have to spend resting and even what we consider it to be. Running might feel relaxing to one person, but exhausting to another. Sometimes we want to calm our minds, while at other times we focus on letting our bodies recover. The test will help us find out more about our relationships with rest and how it affects all our lives.”

Simon Chaplin, director of Society and Culture at the Wellcome Trust, said: “The Wellcome Trust supports a wide range of research exploring ideas around health and well-being. Projects such as the Rest Test provide a different perspective on what we mean when we talk about being mentally or physically well, and the impact that rest or busyness has on us as individuals.”

The questionnaire is split into two parts, with an initial section taking 5-10 minutes, followed by more in-depth questions which can be completed in stages.

The results will be analysed and announced on All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4 in April 2016.

Hubbub researchers Giulia Poerio, Louise Gregor, Ben Alderson-Day, Jonny Smallwood, Des Fitzgerald and Josh Berson led on the development of the test, with support from Hubbub Co-Investigators Charles Fernyhough, Claudia Hammond, Felicity Callard and Daniel Margulies. Hubbub would like to thank staff at Wellcome Trust and Durham University for their help in launching The Rest Test and piloting the survey in its development phase.

The Rest Test can be taken on the BBC Radio 4 website and at

Contract Hubbub Project Coordinator Kimberley Staines with queries about The Rest Test

Hubbub in the Press

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If you’d like to be kept informed of developments at Hubbub, sign up for our email updates.

Hubbub is funded by the Wellcome Trust.
The grant-holding institution is Durham University, and the project is in collaboration with the Research Group for Neuroanatomy & Connectivity of The Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig.