In the words of Biggie Smalls: things done changed. Back in the those early lockdowns, we were all hankering for distractions of any kind. Live-streamed paint raves. Weird sourdough-based happenings. Zoom quizzes. Shudder.
We've all become a bit more discerning since then. We want (whisper it) to learn something. To better ourselves. To emerge from this experience not just as a person who can recite every episode of ‘Friends’ from memory, but also a smarter, more skilled individual. To help you do that we've rounded up some of the best online classes based in London, to get you au fait with everything from languages to horse drawing.
Become incredibly funny
Experience the blissful feeling of having strangers laugh with you not at you, with Hoopla. These guys started their comedy improv theatre above a pub in Balham but now might just be the country's pre-eminent comedy school, and what could be funnier than that? Their classes tend to sell out, and are popular with thousands of people across the world. Currently booking until Saturday April 10, 2021.
They say: ‘Offering a new skill to those who have already mastered knitting and banana bread in previous lockdowns, Hoopla aim to improve isolation through improvisation. Their online drop-in sessions are packed with games to provide the perfect antidote for those looking to let go. Interactive scenes allow participants the chance to step outside their living-room-turned-home-office, figuratively.‘
Cost: Starts at £10 a class. Beginner and advanced options available.
Alternatively: Tune in to the award-winning Always Be Comedy's streaming shows, mute your mic, and pretend you're doing improv with all the famous comedians making jokes with each other. Or take a look at the Angel Comedy Club, who have a ton of chucklesome online courses on offer.
Draw like you know what you're doing
A lot of people are getting into drawing and painting, have you noticed? Anyone looking for something welcoming and nice and friendly and all those other warm words should make a confident b-line for Wild Life Drawing. These guys have been getting together in farms and parks across the city to draw stuff since 2014, and wouldn't you know it, they're now using Zoom and Instagram to do the same thing during lockdown. So if you sign up for the horse drawing class, you'll be drawing real-life horsies being live-streamed into your sitting room from Colorado.
They say: ‘People have described Wild Life Drawing as relaxing, therapeutic and mesmerising. As your subject matter is moving, it forces you to maintain that level of concentration, observation and connection. Your thoughts are less likely to wander. Creativity and focus quiets the mind, and helps to develop a mindful way of looking at the world.‘
Cost: £10 a class, a percentage of which goes to an animal conservation charity.
Alternatively: You could always sign up for the Dulwich Art School's evening life drawing class. Ten sessions for £95. And you won't be the worst person there: Time Out's Kate Lloyd will be present!
Cook like a fancy-pants chef
We've all watched enough Masterchef: The Professionals to know the things a chef needs to be good at: chopping shallots really quickly; mentioning 'depth of flavour' a lot; leaving the top bits on the carrots; calling sauces 'veloutines'. But it turns out there's more to it than even that. How much more? Let famous chef (and nice person) Tom Aikens show you how much, with his regular lessons, hosted on his 'private Instagram' (meow!).
He (Tom) says: ‘Live and pre-recorded cookery classes for you to cook along to, with me guiding you every step of the way. The detailed, step by step classes are designed for you to improve your cooking skills, expand your recipe collection and have dinner ready to be served to the family by the end of the class!‘
Cost: £20 a month, for an ongoing subscription. Or £60 for six classes.
Alternatively: Leith's School of Food and Wine, also in London, is incredibly well-known but also, y' know, pretty spenny. But you'll literally be the only person you know capable of creating strawberry tuiles and hibiscus meringues from scratch. Still into bread? Try Puff The Bakery. And finally there's new kid on the block YourFork, which looks pretty special, drafting in lots of different chefs and experts to teach a wide variety of culinary courses on a one-to-one basis.
Build stuff that doesn't fall to bits
The Goodlife Centre, right by Tate Modern, has long been teaching Londoners valuable, practical life skills. Woodwork, putting up blinds, upholstery, upcyling, sewing, and yes, 'basic drill skills'. Since the start of lockdown they've managed to bring all their most popular courses online.
They say: ‘Each online workshop comes with accompanying course notes, which you can print out and use to follow along each workshop. Settle down and enjoy several sessions of learning featuring our expert and entertaining DIY tutor Moira Tighe who will help you demystify the maddening and frustrating world of all things DIY.‘
Cost: Either £55 or £66 for one action-packed hammer sesh.
Alternatively: Yo, are you even a member of the Kana Clay Club? If you're into making stuff with your hands and fancy a go at ceramics, you probably can't do better than the terrific Ana Kerin's online workshops.
Actually, genuinely, properly learn French
Picture the scene: your first post-lockdown holiday in France. Finally, you're allowed to leave the country, to roam freely abroad and to feel the exotic, foreign sun on your lily-white face. But wait! A man in the street is asking you a question. You freeze. You still don't speak French! You are the problem. You are the reason Brexit happened. To prevent this nightmare from becoming a reality we thoroughly recommend the language courses (and there are many) at City Lit university.
They say: ‘We offer language courses at all levels and over 27 different languages here at City Lit. Whether you would like to attend part-time evening, daytime or weekend language classes, our highly popular language courses offer the widest choice in London. Many of our courses are delivered online by expert tutors. Our approach to learning is to teach you how to communicate effectively in real-life situations and we select content that is relevant to your needs.‘
Cost: Beginner's French, module 1, is £179.
Alternatively: Just pick a City Lit course at random, there are some really good ones. The 'history myth and genre' of Westerns? New Testament Greek for beginners? Video blogging with YouTube? So many possibilities.
Prepare for your next big job
Are you considering switching things up, career-wise? Be careful, that's all we're saying. Most of us have experienced so little social interaction recently that were we forced into a 'job interview situation' we'd probably start laughing uncontrollably or strip naked for no reason. Luckily the folks at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (aka bloody RADA!) have turned their theatrical minds towards this exact problem with a range of courses designed to get you up to speed on everything from interview skills to presenting. You'll have the skills of an actor, but none of the crushing self-doubt and insecurities!
They say: ‘Our aim is to deepen each participant’s understanding about how to use their body, breath and voice to maximise their communication impact whilst connecting authentically to the audience. During a time where remote working has become the norm, many have had to adjust to this new way of communicating. We are delighted that this suite of virtual programmes enables us to support people, across the world, with such ease.‘
Cost: The interviews one is £350.
Alternatively: Know what all bosses are into? Latin jazz. Which is why you need to get proficient at Latin Jazz dancing right now! Luckily snake-hipped quick-stepper Doni Fierro is on hand to get you moving and grooving straight into an impressive new job.
Need even more inspiration for a better YOU? Here’s our guide to staying healthy, happy and positive right now.
Can’t be arsed, actually? Watch one of these feelgood films instead.