Monday, 21 February 2011
Credit Crunch London: A Guide
With that nasty George Osborne slashing things left, right and centre like some kind of demented Freddy Kruger a-like, it's a cold world out there. Especially if you aren't getting the winter fuel allowance. A city like London can be the cruellest mistress of all to the credit-crunched, giving with one hand (lovely parks to wander around) and taking away with the other (the onset of pneumonia)
So what can you really do for free nowadays that's actually worthwhile? Could you really have a day in London without spending any money...?
The answer is, pretty much, yes. Your main stumbling blocks are obviously food and transport, which are the most crippling of all your daily needs. The good news is that most places in London are actually a lot closer than you think and if you're willing to walk between them you'll brush up on your geography and get fit at the same time. Score!
Food-wise, there's something in that old adage “there's no such thing as a free lunch”. Unless that is, you're Krishna. Those dudes prepare a vegetarian meal every day for people to come and help themselves to at their temple off Soho Street, and they also set up mobile stalls in Kentish Town, Camden Town and Kings Cross every day except Sunday. While you may be forced to engage in religious discussion with them, they seem like a pretty peaceful sort of people, and if they're loading up your plate with a vegetarian curry you can't really complain.
Assuming you've done that and you've got your walking boots on, here is the best free, year-round, entertainment the capital has to offer.
Dilettantes (that's art lovers to you and me) are pretty much spoiled for choice in London. All your biggies (National Gallery, British Museum, The Tates etc...) are free to wander about all year round – even Osborne decided against cutting that. As long as you avoid being seduced by the gift shop or the lattes, and keep away from the special exhibitions then you could get away with gawping at a whole load of classic works of art completely gratis. Places like the Saatchi Gallery, Wellcome Collection and Serpentine are also always free, whilst our Arts Team suggest a potter along Cork Street (if you're with your gran) or Vyner Street, if you like your art conceptual. For a real blag check out first Thursdays in which East London galleries throw open their doors until late and often offer free booze.
The Scoop run a free outdoor film festival throughout autumn which is always worth checking out: this year the programme included The Hurt Locker and Pretty Woman. For year-round film fun, why not check out a premiere? While standing in Leicester Square can be a cold and dispiriting experience (especially if the premiere in question is Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel) you may get to eyeball a genuine bona fide celebrity. I once saw Johnny Depp wearing an especially fetching hat. Swoon.
Pure Groove Records, Rough Trade East and Beyond Retro all offer free in-stores which can be a great way to see new bands before they get big. RTE for example has previously played host to the XX, Mumford and Sons and Black Lips. If you want to get up close and sweaty with those who've already made it, HMV Oxford Street hosts regular events where you can meet bands, see them perform tracks and get stuff signed. Good news for all you Olly Murs fans.
So rather than stay in, feeling sorry for yourself and burning the Lib Dem manifesto for warmth, why not get out there in the big wide world? Just try and avoid Osborne and his scissor hands...