Cool London day courses I can take in May
April 10, 2013 7:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm visiting London for two weeks beginning mid-May. Woohoo! It's been a long, long time since my last time and I'm super-excited. I'm going through the Ask threads and reading guidebooks. One question I couldn't find an answer to is: Are there any interesting/novel day courses on offer? I would like to mix up the sightseeing with something hands-on. Or a top-notch seminar... Any subject would be fine. The only criteria would be that it's something not found in a smaller city (like Ottawa, Canada :). I'll be staying in the Bloomsbury/Russell Square area near the British Museum and willing to travel, say, under an hour to get to the course.
posted by storybored to Travel & Transportation around London, England (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons has excellent, often free events - not quite the same thing but right in the neighborhood!
posted by mdonley at 7:49 PM on April 10, 2013

The British Museum has 1 hour tours/lectures on specific topics. I went to one on coins throughout the ages. It wasn't a typical museum tour in that we only looked at about five objects during the hour. Mostly it was a lecture given by someone with an amazing knowledge of the topic, who used the occasional item in the room's cases to illustrate a point. They have a big variety of these talks.
posted by lollusc at 8:04 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you enjoy sewing or needlework at all, the Royal School of Needlework (perhaps best known as the creator of the lace for the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress) at Hampton Court Palace offers Day Classes. Hampton Court Palace is wonderful and you should go anyway if you've not been before.

You'll also be close to University College London, and they have quite a full and interesting events calendar, much of which seems to be open to the public. (As with many universities I suspect you could also wander around and look at the posters plastered on bulletin boards for interesting titles!) The UCL Festival of the Arts looks especially fun.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:14 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Perhaps a course at The School of Life? It's on Marchmont St, very close to Russell Square. I'm not sure if it's quite what you're looking for, and most of the May courses look to be full, but they certainly offer something unique.

Also, this is sort of random, but I studied at UCL for a semester a couple of years ago and took a course on the Geography of London. We had a few self guided walking tour type things we had to do- one was of the area around UCL, another was of the Brick Lane/Spitalfields area, the other may have been around the City. If you're interested, I could try to dig up the notes and scan them for you- they definitely contain information you're unlikely to find in a guidebook and might be an interesting diversion from regular sightseeing.
posted by MadamM at 8:28 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a top-notch guided walking tour?
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:15 PM on April 10, 2013

The tours of the production workshops of the Royal Opera House have places still open in the second half of May. They're now out in Purfleet in Essex, so transport might be awkward.
posted by Azara at 12:26 AM on April 11, 2013

Best answer: Prospect has an online listings section which is a good place to look for public talks and events. The London Review Bookshop also runs events in the Bloomsbury area, right on your doorstep if you're staying in Russell Square.

On the more academic side of things, the SAS (not the Special Air Service but the University of London's School of Advanced Study) runs an extensive programme of public events that might be of interest. 'The majority of our events are free and open to everyone and do not require advance booking.'

The British Academy's Literature Week runs this year from 20 to 24 May. Jonathan Bate and James Shapiro talking Shakespeare with actors at the Globe Theatre looks to be the highlight.

All the major London museums and galleries run their own programmes of public events, and it's worth checking these out if there's anything you're particularly interested in. The British Library's Propaganda exhibition opens on 17 May and there are various events taking place around this, though 'Alastair Campbell in Conversation' might not float your boat unless you're a serious UK political anorak.

Open City, which organises the annual Open House London weekend in September, also runs a year-round programme of architectural tours around London. Nothing much seems to be planned for May at the moment, but it might be worth keeping an eye on their website in case new events are added nearer the time.
posted by verstegan at 12:42 AM on April 11, 2013

Best answer: I lived on Bloomsbury Square (Prospect magazine were our neighbors) and verstegan has covered most of it. We were regulars at the LRB and the British Museum. But there's so much going on in that area, I can add more.

Birckbeck, part of UCL, has its own events and lectures.There's also the separate Warburg Institute.

Right on Bloomsbury square, there's also Pushkin House and the German Historical Institute. And Le Cordon Bleu just opened (right after we moved out darnit!) and offers day courses.

Finally, nearby in Covent Garden there's CityLit.
posted by vacapinta at 2:16 AM on April 11, 2013

Central Saint Martins does groovy short courses in art and design stuff.
posted by Grunyon at 5:15 AM on April 11, 2013

Response by poster: I did end up taking a course at the School of Life. Recommended. Thanks for all the leads, everyone. I'm planning a return visit to get some more of the action.

Here were some other possibilities for future travelers to consider too:

Circus Space - circus training for a day.

The Institute of Making. At UCL, this is about materials and materials sciencey stuff.

The Guardian Masterclasses. Quite a variety of arts/culture courses with top instructors. Pricey.

Leith's school of food and wine.
posted by storybored at 1:02 PM on June 7, 2013

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