Thursday, 26 June 2008

Poor But Happy; leisure and pleasure - going out.

With some planning and research you can go out as much as you like even if you’re skint. Sign up for email lists run by venues, bands and galleries that you like. Now and then they’ll send out updates of forthcoming gigs and happenings – you can then use your software’s edit and find feature to cherry pick stuff, looking for the word ‘free’ or the admission price you can afford. See the Free Money page of my website; for a list of free and cheap nights out. Also see the excellent for free stuff to do. To avoid duplicating too much info from my site, here’s just a selection to suggest the sort of places offering affordable entertainment. Most are London based, but I’d love to hear your suggestions for others, in London or elsewhere. For research for a future edition of Poor But Happy I hope to go out every night for a month for free. I’d have done it for this issue but I was too knackered.
Films. If you’re flexible about when you go to the cinema you can save tons. Mondays and daytimes are cheapest. My fave’s the Prince Charles cinema; weekday daytimes £3, Fridays are £1 per film ( Evening and weekend shows are £4, or cheaper if you take out membership at £7.50 a year. Brixton Ritzy has morning screenings for £3.75 and world cinema matinees for £3; ( Based on seeing 2 films a month for £4 rather than a typical £8.50 at other cinemas I save at least £2.07 a week (16 minutes). Take your own popcorn from the corner shop for about 50p rather than pay £3 plus for the cinema’s own. Local film societies often work out cheap and the films are well chosen. There’s a list of societies at Galleries and museums often show films free or cheap; check both London Tates (, the Imperial War Museum (, and the National Portrait Gallery ( Portobello Film Festival shows ace short films for free (
TV and radio recordings. TV and radio shows often need a live audience. Get free tickets at or .
Live music. Here’s a selection of free London gigs. Artrocker, membership required, available free at . Rota and Death Disco (only free before 8pm) both at Notting Hill Arts Club ( Late at Tate Britain, first Friday of the month from 6 to 10pm. 93 Feet East, free Mondays ( ). The Spitz, often free Sunday and Monday ( I regularly go to two free gigs a week, saving about £10 per week (77 minutes).
Classical music. Music colleges do free concerts. See Trinity College of Music (, Royal Academy of Music (, and Guildhall School of Music and Drama ( Guildhall also put on free drama.
Galleries and museums. Besides the above, these are great for free days out. Find out what’s on in UK museums at . Independent galleries have openings for art shows that you could blag your way into, often with free beer! Check out .
Education. If you want to try a new subject without committing to a complete course of classes, try a free taster session during Adult Learners’ Week in May ( ). Galleries often run free talks and classes too.
Drinking. A big cost of a night out for me is drinking, especially when venues with free entertainment make their money back on inflated bar prices. You can hit the off-licence and drink before you leave, but when I try this I always end up too pissed too early. A safer option is to meet friends at a cheap pub before the main event of the evening. Obvious choices are Wetherspoon’s ( or Yates’s ( I favour Wetherspoon’s, because they at least pay lipservice to the need for recycling – they recycle 2000 tonnes of stuff a week and recently quadrupled the amount they recycle. I’d take those figures with a pinch of salt though, seeing as they came out of Wetherspoon’s own magazine where they also claim to recycle used cooking oil and turn it into coal, which is either (a) untrue, (b) a neat trick if you can do it and/or (c) fucking pointless. They stock beers from small breweries which is a good thing since 83% of beer bought in the UK comes from 4 multinationals(7). Ingredients in beer produced at small local breweries travel an average of 600 miles while the ingredients used by large breweries sometimes travel up to 24,000 miles – that’s a lot of CO2(7). Wetherspoon’s are about 80p per pint cheaper. Based on two nights out a week, drinking three pints a night that’s a saving of £4.80 per week (37 minutes).

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