London can be a daunting city when you first arrive. To be honest, it can still feel overwhelming if you’ve lived here a lifetime. Despite its vastness, noise, and busy streets though, London is one of the best places in the world to experience art and culture. It's also a great city to express yourself creatively. Walk down any street and you’re likely to stumble upon some kind of historical site or place of artistic beauty. There’s inspiration lurking around every corner and thanks to London’s wonderfully diverse, multi-cultural society, you’re highly likely to find a community of artists that shares your own artistic passions and with whom you can make meaningful connections.
If you’re feeling a little sheepish about how to get involved with like-minded creatives, you’ve got nothing to fear. London might be called The Big Smoke, but I’m here to clear the air on how to get creatively involved when you’re new to the big city.
1. Track down Gallery Exhibition Openings
One of my favourite ways to meet people and get creative inspiration is by going to gallery openings. London has a wealth of amazing art spaces and there’s always a new exhibition or show opening somewhere in the capital. Do a quick search on the Internet and find out where a gallery is having an opening. Not only is there a good chance of nabbing some free wine and nibbles, you’ll also get the chance to network with other creatives. Art gallery openings really are the perfect place to meet people and form connections. You never know who might turn up, so get to Google and track down an opening. Sometimes the thought of going to a gallery, exhibition, or artist you know nothing about can be a little intimidating, but trust me, everyone who'll be there also has no idea how it's going to turn out, and will just be happy that you showed up at all. If all else fails, you’re sure to still catch some interesting art inspiration.
2. Enrol in Local Courses
Another excellent way to get creatively involved when you’re new to London is by joining in on local, community courses. Every borough will have its own website, and you’re more than likely to find people in your neighbourhood offering course of all types. Whether you want to learn a new skill or you simply want to meet new people, community courses are a fantastic way to socialise in a creative way. If you’re interested in something, there’s a good chance there are others interested in the same thing too, so look to your neighbourhood’s website or local paper and see if there’s some way you can get involved. There are some fun art classes here for absolute beginners and they're typically a great way to have creative fun with strangers that become friends. Gumtree is also a handy website if you’re looking for courses or creative communities in your area as well.
3. Museum Talks and Workshops
One of the most wonderful things about London is its wide selection of museums. And, what’s even better is that most of the big museums have free admission. If you’re looking for more than just a good wander around priceless works of art though, check out the museums’ websites for information on talks and workshops that are being held. I have attended some wonderful talks at the National Gallery as well as a number of workshops at the Design Museum. The Fashion and Textile Museum, the V&A, the Tate, the Tate Modern and countless other museums offer engaging and fun courses, workshops, and talks, so definitely check their websites for upcoming events. Both the Tate and the V&A have evenings where they open their doors until late and run fun free events and activities, like this one Dark Yellow Dot is running at the V&A Friday Late.
4. Market Research
No, I’m not telling you to hit the streets with a clipboard and annoy busy London pedestrians with endless questions. What I am suggesting though is to visit London’s many eclectic markets to see what other creative people have to offer. Although some of the city’s markets are solely focused on food or antiques, a great number of them have a whole range of products for sale, including art, jewellery, photography, ceramics, etc. Some great markets to check out are Craft Fox Market, SoLo Craft Fair, Spitalfields and Sunday Upmarket. Wander around and see if anything catches your eye. There are likely to be people offering similar creative things as you, so it's a great opportunity to strike up a conversation. This is a great way to meet people and form connections with like-minded artists. Who knows, it might even inspire you to set up your own stall and sell your own work. Markets are a great way to get a lay of the land, not only of London, but also of the city’s creative environment.
There's just so much fun to be had in London, and far too much to get involved in. Wherever you are in London chances are you can get your hands on a free TimeOut Magazine which is one of the best ways to find out what's going on around town, things to do, places to go, food to eat. And if you're low on cash, check their 'Things To Do For Free' section.
Let's hope this gave you some approachable ideas to get started see the best that the city has to offer. So get involved!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steph Brandhuber is an arts, culture, and entertainment writer based in London. She holds an MA in Film Studies from King’s College London and her previous work includes arts development for the BBC and archive film research. Her articles have been published in a variety of print and online platforms including Broadly, Beijing Review, Screen Rant, and Culture Sonar.