Sunday, 8 November 2009

London on the cheap: Striking a Chord

I'll always possess a Bristolian soul, but having a few days off in London has reminded me how much I love this city. When I first moved here in 2007 I was concerned that everything would be so expensive that I would never have two pennies to rub together (interestingly, if you do rub two pennies together between your thumb and forefinger, it looks a bit like three pennies), but that really couldn't be any further from the truth. Sure, if you want to go out to expensive restaurants every night and shop on Bond Street then you can, but if you look in the right places there are so many things to do here for free.

Take the last few days, for example. On Tuesday the London Bloggers Meetup was a completely free event. Granted, not everyone is interested in blogging and online networking type things, but it really is such a nice crowd of people. Then on Thursday evening the play I went to was through the brilliant Audience Club. You pay £50 a year for membership to the club (I purchased my membership jointly with a friend, so a bargainous £25 each), and it entitles you to go along to fringe and West End shows and concerts all over the capital for two quid a pop. Over the years I've been to see Bon Jovi, an amazing ventriloquism show, comedy acts and tons of plays - from West End hits to back-room-of-a-pub dramas. I'd implore everyone in London to sign up, or buy membership for a theatre lover as an ace Christmas present (oh, and if you do, mention me as they'll whack on another couple of free months to my membership...!).

This weekend was another freebie special. On Saturday I went along to an incredible art installation in the Kingsway Tram Tunnel. The installation was a piece called 'Chord' by the artist Conrad Shawcross, and although you had to pre-book, it was free admission. The art itself is a rather funky piece of engineering brilliance, which is somehow automatically winding a multi-coloured piece of rope along a track. Sounds weird, and that's because it kind of is; in a good way, though. I do like these strange arty things, especially tunnel-based ones. For a more eloquent description of what it all means, here's the official site. Or take a look at the cool photos on Londonist (mine came out pretty rubbish as it was too dark, plus we weren't really allowed).

Although the art itself was impressive, personally I was more in awe of the tunnel itself. The subway - which is mainly used for storage by Camden Council these days - was last used for trams in 1952. More recently, the tunnel has been used for a number of films (Hidden City, The Avengers, Bhowani Junction and The Escapist), and some of the props from these films still remain, such as the rather spooky fake underground map, which I did manage to successfully snap:

I would absolutely love to visit some old, abandoned tube stations in London if possible, so if anyone hears of such an opportunity, please do let me know, as I find it fascinating.

The final freebie came in the form of some wonderful fireworks on Blackheath on Saturday night. Firework displays always astound me, and this one ticked all the boxes, those boxes being: a) availability of mulled wine b) duration of display c) fireworks I had never seen before (my favourite new one resembled a broccoli floret) and d) a suitably awe-inspiring and climactic finale.

So there you have it; proof that life in London can be easy on your wallet. I had intended to go to a free cinema screening this morning as well, but after weighing it up I opted for the lie-in. I do have to go back to work tomorrow, after all. 

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