One of the struggles I found when I lost my job was how easy it was to succumb to daytime TV, thankfully there’s only so much of it I can watch before I feel despair set in and a desperate need to find something better to do.
I’ve been looking at what’s on in Leeds in regards to free (or very cheap) events and thought I knew pretty much most of what went on, but have been very pleasantly surprised.
Here are some of my top ten tips for finding things to do on a budget.
1. Local services. South Leeds is getting better all the time with the free community reporters’ courses (South Leeds Life) and the community radio station. There are always free events on at community centres and places of worship, even if you don’t prescribe to a faith they don’t stop you attending. The latest is BITMOs GATE at Aberfield Gate in Belle Isle, which runs free weekly classes in computers, guitars and sewing. Look for a community blog for your area that gives you information on what’s on in your area.
2. Eventbrite. You might have heard of wedding crashers, people who turn up to weddings not knowing the bridal party but hoping to get in on the party action, probably not a great idea. But Eventbrite is a site that allows you to book legitimate places on events around the country. You can search for events by place and price and book a place at the same time. A quick search this morning has offered me free events to craft clubs, exhibitions, concerts and courses.
3. Stallfinder. If you’ve got a bit of cash and fancy a craft or antique fair have a look at Stallfinder, they list upcoming fairs for crafts people to book their own stalls, but you might find some interesting events advertised that you weren’t aware of.
4. Gumtree. A search for free items on Gumtree shows just how much stuff people want shot of, but narrow the search down to community events and you find a lot on offer. Look for groups that offer first lesson free classes and be cautious of ‘Brian offers free emotional support’ adverts and you’ll be fine.
5. Salon School. Fancy a free manicure or facial? Most beauty schools offer discounted treatments for students to practice on, but on exam days students need a model for free. Some schools keep a list of people willing to be models for students (MSCM keep a UK wide list) who need several different people for case studies.
6. Avon Calling. If you’ve got a lot of friends and a spare living room what about offering a free Avon evening? Invite your friends around, ask them to bring a bottle (saves you buying it all) and get a reward from the company for allowing them to sell in your home. You can find sellers of all types of products on findaparty.co.uk
7. Knit n Natter. If craft is your thing look for local craft and knitting groups. Most are free or ask for a small donation, some are held in coffee shops so expect to buy a drink. If you don’t knit it’s best to contact the organiser first, some groups are social and not happy about teaching. Most knitting groups don’t confine themselves to knitting either but include crochet and turn a blind eye to embroidery. Can I plug my own group? I run a free weekly group at Hobbycraft, Crown Point every Wednesday from 3-5pm, we allow beginners and are happy for other crafts to come (as long as you’re not planning on bringing too much equipment) You can bring your own food or buy something at the cafes next door.
8. Study at Uni for Free. Type the word free in your University website and you might find something of interest. Free online courses and lectures might be just up your street and be the start of something new.
9. Be a tourist. Check out the tourist information site or pop into the shop at Leeds train station. The museums and tourist places often have free events, especially around school holiday times.
10. Still can’t find your free event? Start your own. That’s how the Hobbycraft knitting group started, I emailed Hobbycraft and asked if I could start a group. If you have an idea and want to start your own event there is a lot of help out there. There are community grants available for people to start their own community events (ideas that change lives is a good place to start) some of these grant schemes offer free training as well as financial support. Local community centres might be able to offer a free or cheap room for the group, Aberfield Gate are happy to listen to ideas for possible groups, and if it’s a small group even local cafes are interested in saving a few tables for you.
Knitting image by James Keller reproduced under license.