Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Frugal culture vultures

No question, the journey to a simpler life involves appreciating what you've got. That includes home and all it holds - books to be read (!), the garden, the animals, time together as a family and with extended family, music, home cooking... If you factor in all the digital possibilities we have in our house, there's really no need to go out, ever.

But even wannabe simple livers like us enjoy a bit of culture gleaned from outside the home sometimes. We're blessed with world class buskers and street performers in nearby Bath and there's an arts centre on our doorstep with a varied programme including free stuff and events at reasonable prices. None of which we make as much use of as we could do.

Our latest cultural experience, however, comes courtesy of the Grandparents. They're tucked away in the heart of the West Country in rural Devon, a million miles from anything, cultural or otherwise. No buskers and no arts centre. Thanks to their local town hall though, they're the most cultured of us all. The town hall has been taken over in recent years by local volunteers who run it as a non-profit Community Interest Company and ensure it is used by the local community much more than in the past. That's really heartening in itself. As well as hiring out the facilities and hosting live events, there is a regular programme of 'live streaming'.

Image result for new york met opera live streaming

For some time now Granny and Grandad have been talking loftily about 'going to the New York Met' to see an opera, or enjoying the latest production by the Royal Shakespeare Company. They've even enjoyed art exhibitions from London. All at a fraction of the price that going to the real things would cost, and without the travel time and costs. I was still sceptical - very sweet for the oldies who don't get out much, I thought, but this 'live streaming' of big productions to their big screen (and many others too) can't really be much like the real thing.

Image result for live streaming national theatre

Then Daughter noticed that Billy Elliot was being shown there in October, and to humour everyone I went along too. It's strange - viewing a live theatre production on the big screen is definitely not like watching a film. Neither is it like being at the theatre, but in its own way it's just as gripping. The emotional scenes in Billy Elliot had me, the 'live streaming' cynic, blubbing like a baby.

Buoyed by this experience, when we went down to Devon for a few days at half term last week, we were first in the queue for the National Theatre's Treasure Island. They might have mucked around with the book's plot a little (most notably swapping Jim Hawkins and a few of the other characters for women to make it more evenly gender balanced) and it wasn't nearly so tear jerking, but still, an excellent production. The special effects and the music were not lost in translation. What's more you don't have to wait to be served at the bar during the interval and I know for a fact that the National Theatre doesn't have a friendly team of volunteers serving clotted cream scones for a pound each.

Treasure Island production image
A scene from Treasure Island
If you fancy a trip to the theatre and you don't want to pay West End prices, I'd definitely recommend giving 'live streaming' a go. If you can find some doting parents or grandparents to treat you, even better...


  1. I love the live streaming, we mainly watch opera, but we might try an art exhibition at some point. We have to go to the cinema to see them, so they're not cheap, but they are worth it.

  2. I'm a fan too. Saw Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime theatre production in the local Vue and it was great. Really good to be able to see theatre at fraction of the usual prices