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slow city

noun [countable]

a town or city which promotes a high-quality environment and healthy eating based on locally grown and prepared food

'… town councillor Andrea Mearns said Mold had many of the things needed to become a slow city. These included a strong sense of culture, food shops, cafes and restaurants, a clean environment, a strong agricultural base and scores of artisan food producers.'

icWales 21st February 2006

In February 2006, the towns of Mold in Flintshire and Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire were battling to become Wales's first slow city. Contrary to what might be expected, being a slow city has nothing to do with concepts such as traffic-calming, but relates to healthier living through a cleaner environment and healthier food.

the most central aspect of … a slow city … is the promotion of healthy eating through locally grown and prepared foods

A slow city is a place which strives to maintain a high-quality living environment. This is achieved in a variety of ways, including maintaining and expanding parks and 'green' areas, protecting historic buildings, removing eyesores such as advertising posters, neon signs or ugly TV/phone aerials, and prohibiting car alarms and other noise pollution. Other priorities include recycling and the use of alternative energy sources. The most central aspect of being a slow city, however, is the promotion of healthy eating through locally grown and prepared foods. In an attempt to counter the modern obsession with fast food, slow cities are places which don't have a McDonald's™ restaurant or chip shop on every corner, but favour restaurants, cafés, markets and shops with fresh local produce and traditional cooking methods.

The first slow cities to be officially recognised were in Italy, around six years ago, when a league of over thirty towns and cities came together to form a movement now known as Cittaslow (a name based on a combination of Italian città, 'town or city' and slow). Ludlow in Shropshire was the first British town to be formally approved as a slow city, followed by Aylsham in Norfolk. Other UK towns applying for the right to display the slow city emblem (a snail crawling past a group of buildings) include Canterbury in Kent and Diss in Norfolk.

Background – slow city

Contrary to what it suggests, the term slow city does not refer to larger cities in the conventional sense, but usually applies to towns and smaller cities (in fact membership of the slow city movement is usually restricted to places with a population of under 50,000). The term emerged in English as a direct translation of the name of the Italian movement Cittaslow, where città means 'town' as well as 'city'. Cittaslow was inspired by the slow food movement, founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, an Italian food and wine journalist who objected to the encroachment of fast food chains in towns and cities across the world. Petrini promoted the concept of slow food, carefully prepared food cooked according to traditional methods and using organic ingredients.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 22nd May 2006.

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