Things to do this week for £5 or less.
1. Mental Wealth Festival
On World Mental Health Day, City Lit launches its Mental Wealth Festival, with activities focusing on the time you have and how to use it wisely. Events include workshops, talks, discussions and exhibitions — some in-person, others online. All events have either free or low-costand includes yoga, singing and meditation.
Mental Wealth Festival at City Lit. Free or low cost, October 10-14.
2. Play free ping pong
Ping pong is great for your mental health apparently, and to mark World Mental Health Day, both branches of Bounce are offering free ping pong games. On Monday 10 October, head to Bounce Old Street from 4.30pm and Bounce Farringdon from 8.30pm, quote the code: “PING PONG MIND STRONG”, and they’ll let you play for nada.
Free ping pong at Bounce in Old Street and Farringdon, 10 October.
3. Hear from ‘The Black History Man’
There’s a wealth of events going on in London to celebrate Black History Month, one of which is this free talk by Robin Walker, “The Black History Man” — considered the UK’s most pre-eminent African scholar. Visit Brixton Library and be whisked on a journey through African history, from ancient times, up to the modern day.
African History with Robin Walker. Free, October 11.
4. Gaze up at Gaia in Southwark Cathedral
Luke Jerram’s Gaia, a seven-metre-wide, 3D recreation of the Earth takes up residence in Southwark Cathedral for much of October. The traveling artwork is covered in detailed imagery of the Earth’s surface from NASA, and although it’s fascinating to look at, it has a serious aim too. It recreates the Overview Effect, which leaves astronauts feeling a sense of awe as they look down on the planet, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.
To see Gaia at Southwark Cathedral, you can book a daytime slot (free), or an evening opening on selected nights (£5) to see the installation glowing.
Visit Gaia at Southwark Cathedral, free-£5, 11-29 October.
5. Ogle great snaps at The London Photo Show
For the seventh consecutive year, the free-entry London Photo Show pitches up at Bargehouse Gallery at OXO Tower Wharf, displaying photos by both amateur and professional photographers. Work by more than 100 photographers from around the world is on display, across categories including portraiture, fine art, wildlife, architecture, fashion, nature, travel, sport, reportage and landscape.
The London Photo Show. Free, October 13-16.
6. Study satirical photography
NOW Gallery in North Greenwich opens its latest exhibition, Human Stories: The Satirists, a group show by emerging photographers exploring the concept of satire through photography. Bubi Canal, Leonard Suryajaya, Nyugen Smith, Thandiwe Muriu, Stephen Tayo and Thy Tran’s photos challenge historical and culturally biased tropes and stereotypes by presenting an alternative world view.
Human Stories: The Satirists. Free, 13 October-13 November.
7. Grab a free burger at Fat Hippo, Shoreditch
Burger restaurant mini-chain Fat Hippo opens its first London restaurant on Friday, and is giving away free burgers to celebrate.
Make a beeline for Great Eastern Street when the doors open at 11am to be in with a chance of bagging one of those freebies — there are only 100 available. Although it’s new to London, we have visited the Leeds branch of Fat Hippo and can thoroughly recommend it for extravagantly gooey burgers and indulgent milkshakes.
Fat Hippo, 5-9 Great Eastern Street. Open from Friday 14 October.
8. Try speed dating — with a twist
Houseplant store The Joy of Plants and ‘hortpreneur’ Mr Plant Geek team up for a night of speed dating with a difference. The Lonely Plants Club is a chance for you to find your ideal houseplant via a consultation with Mr Plant Geek (Michael Perry) who will work his plant-match-maker magic based on your lifestyle, personality, likes and dislikes. If all goes to plan, you’ll leave the event not only with your perfect plant, but also a gifted copy of Perry’s new book Hortus Curious: Discover the World’s Most Weird and Wonderful Plants and Fungi — all for free.
The Lonely Plants Club. Free, October 14-15.
9. ‘Breathe’ at Bloomsbury Festival
Every year, a program of events celebrating culture, arts, science, literature and more takes over Bloomsbury. ‘Breathe’ is the theme of this year’s Bloomsbury Festival, and although not all events are free, many are, so it’s worth having a flick through the programme.
To get you started: there’s a free launch party in Alfred Place Gardens and Store Street on 14 October, open to all, with meditation, yoga and dance sessions, a performance by the Trans-Siberian March Band, and free guided walks by Camden Tour Guides.
Other free highlights throughout the festival include an exhibition of photos of King’s Cross in 1987 at 65 Judd Street, and a chance to watch professional calligraphers at work at St George’s Bloomsbury.
Bloomsbury Festival 2022. Some events free, 14-23 October.
10. Enjoy an afternoon of open-air theatre
We love the sound of The Golden Key, which turns the Square Mile into a massive open-air theater for one afternoon only. Over 200 performers from 30 theater companies are involved, putting on performances in historic buildings, churchyards, and out on the streets. Circus acts, puppeteers, storytellers and poets are just some of the things to look out for, culminating in a fire garden at sunset.
The Golden Key. Free, 15 October.
11. See historic Everest photos
At its HQ in Kensington Gore, the Royal Geographical Society hosts an exhibition of photos and historic film footage relating to the first European attempts to climb Mount Everest, a century ago in 1922 and 1924. The free exhibition, Everest Through The Lens, features work by British mountaineer and filmmaker Captain John Noel, depicting the uncomfortable and complex social, racial and geopolitical dynamics that shaped the expeditions.
Everest Through The Lens. Free, until January 2023.
Looking for more free things to do in London? Here are 102 of them!