Weird and wonderful courses in London
If you had the time and money to enrol on every course the Goodlife Centre offers, you’d be a dab hand at woodcarving, upholstery and bookbinding before the year was out. If like the rest of us you’re lacking both, opt for a one-day course in basic plumbing, electrics or using drills. You’ll then be armed with handy DIY knowledge, meaning you can make repairs without calling on pricy plumbers, and you can use the money you save in the long run to book a spot on that willow-basket-making class you’ve been dying to do.
You’ll be two steps closer to fulfilling those dreams of joining the circus if you get yourself along to one of these trapeze lessons and manage to elevate your bod on to the bar. The third step is wiggling around on it effortlessly. Easier said than done, we reckon. Luckily, trapeze expert Genevieve Monastesse is on hand to guide you through your aerial pursuits. Adult classes offer a playful alternative to exercise and sequences are tailored to the abilities of each student. That big top is in sight, pal.
Vegetarians look away now. At these tasty-sounding workshops, hosted at a small south London smokehouse, you’ll start the day with a cheeky bacon sarnie. Introductory butchery follows, schooling guests in the key cuts of meat used to make bacon as well as dry and wet curing techniques. If you’re hungry to get right to the source, you can pair a smoking class with an eye-wateringly early visit to Smithfield or Billingsgate market where you’ll be able to stock up on top-class produce.
The London Craft Club run regular workshops in the art of writing with fire. It's less dangerous than it sounds – less flaming quills and more hot instruments which allow you to draw your own freehand designs on wood and leather.
‘Buy a man a spoon and he’ll have a spoon. Teach a man to carve a spoon and he’ll also have a spoon, but probably a slightly less good spoon.’ Don’t let that old saying put you off, though. Learn to carve with East End ledge Barn the Spoon and find a sense of satisfaction that you just don’t get if you pick one up in Ikea.
London Terrariums provide glass demijohns or adorable-sounding tinyjohns to fill with soil and plants on their workshops, or you can BYOV (bring your own vessel). Rather than succulents, their creations are filled with leafy greens such as mosaic plants, climbing fig and ivy. Just how they plant them through such a teeny hole is a secret we're keen to have revealed.
The Ginger Pig's butchery classes are a must for curious carnivores - learn the best cuts to buy and how to roll, chop and slice the meat away from the bone. Not for the faint-hearted.
If we can stock our cupboards with homebrew, why not fill our fridges with own-brand fromage? A one-day course at Wildes Cheese's north London home will teach you how to do just that, using basic equipment and only one here's-one-I-made-earlier moment. The dairy-packed day will see you create a stretch-curd cheese that's similar to mozzarella, a fresh cheese that will mature in your salad drawer for as long as you can hold yourself back, and a super-creamy Philadelphia-ish spreadable cheese.
Dry stone walling is the magical placement of different sized stones to bear the weight of a flock of sheep – no glue or cement involved. Learn this ancient art with master waller John Holt at a series of hands-on fortnightly sessions. You too can build that raised flowerbed, packhorse bridge or even the delightfully named 'Cheek End'.
These two-day workshops teach participants how to make their very own bike frames using bamboo. The classes allow you to be as creative as you wish, with help from expert frame builders who'll provide all the skills needed to create strong and sturdy structures to ride home on. Top up days are available if you want to add extra components and bamboo beer is supplied at the end of each day.
London Unspeakables meet every Saturday on Clapham Common to play quidditch, which by some wizardry has evolved out of the fictional sport Harry Potter plays. Put away your cape and broomstick, though, and instead prepare to be hit repeatedly really hard by a speeding ball.
No, this isn’t a way to spy on people, it’s all about speed and grace in the air. Members of the London Drone Racing Club get together every Sunday to pit their machines against each other. Not feeling competitive? The club welcomes ‘freestylers’, and enthusiasts will happily show newcomers the ropes.
Fire-eating is easily the coolest – okay, technically hottest – of the circus skills, and we advise attendees of Flamewater Circus’s workshop to wear something non-flammable. You’ll learn a load of flaming hand tricks as well as how to chow down on fire. Thankfully, fire safety is also on the syllabus.
Learn the difference between a fillet weld and a butt weld (lol) at Walthamstow’s Blackhorse Workshop. Over the course of the class students make their own coffee-table. Presumably at the end, someone will say: ‘Weld done.’
Discover a whole new kink at Anatomie Studio’s shibari rope skills class. The occasionally sexy art of tying yourself up in knots, shibari can be as much about expressing yourself as anything else – and once you’ve learned the basics, you can hang at the studio’s regular ‘rope jams’.
Image: Anna Bones
Make like it’s 1318 by heading to the London Longsword Academy, where a man with a very impressive moustache will teach you how to wield a longsword, sword, rapier and dagger in a safe and visually impressive (eventually, we assume) manner. At least it’s a way to pass the long months before ‘Game of Thrones’ returns.
Hubble, bubble, toil and get out of trouble with this fight club run by witches. Combining Brazilian jiu-jitsu with meditation and magical herbalism, this self-defence course makes the Shadow Sistxrs the safest coven in town. It’s open to women, non-binary, queer, trans and intersex people.
Image: Ayesha Tan-Jones
Gardening is cool now – the memo’s gone round and everything. Get green fingers at The Calthorpe Project’s four-week urban food-growing course. It focuses on how to raise crops in even the tiniest of window boxes. Plus, at the end of it, you’ll know how to create food!
This life-drawing class is more 5am at Glastonbury than GCSE art lesson. Naked Neon’s life models are doused in dayglo paints, attendees are given glowing pastels to play with, and it’s in a pub. Artistic talent not essential.
Step aside, home brew crew: the kimchi fans and sauerkraut stans have come for your fermenting knowhow. Kultured’s classes teach attendees all the skills they need to ferment veg
at home. Stinky but great for your gut.
Wade through the mud on the banks of the Thames to hunt for hidden treasure, like our ancestors did. London Mudlark meet-ups teach you the proper way to sift for interesting items and how to spot an old beer can at 20 paces. Wash your hands afterwards, yeah?
Image: Ed Marshall
Save the bees, save the world – and there’s no better place to start than with a bit of urban beekeeping. The rooftop bee specialists at The London Honey Company look after the hives on the roof of Tate Modern, and know everything there is to know about raising our honey-making pals.
If the Winter Olympics inspired you to take up skiing, there’s no need to wait for the next Beast from the East to hit. You can rollerski around Hyde Park in any weather (except, ironically, snow). A five-week course is all it takes.
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