We first published this blog post to support Bristol arts and culture during the first coronavirus lockdown and we really hoped we wouldn’t have to update it. We loved going back to Bristol’s awesome theatres, art galleries and museums, but their doors are sadly closed once again for England’s third COVID-19 lockdown.
Most venues receive limited funding and rely on ticket sales and donations to survive so although many managed to reopen for a few months, they still need lots of support.
Here’s our guide to how you can go online to enjoy Bristol’s cultural venues and support them in these very challenging times.
Support Bristol culture during the coronavirus lockdown:
Bristol Old Vic at Home
We recently returned to see a live performance in the stunning auditorium at Bristol Old Vic and it was absolutely amazing.
For the lockdown, the theatre has launched season two of Bristol Old Vic at Home. It includes five much-loved productions from Bristol Old Vic’s back catalogue to watch online. One of them is the brilliant 2019 smash hit A Christmas Carol. We watched it live. Here’s our five-star review. If you’ve not seen it, watch it! If you have seen it, watch it again!
The other shows you can stream from home are The Night That Autumn Turned Into Winter (here’s our five-star review from 2015), The Grinning Man, Messiah and Swallows and Amazons (which we’ve also seen and absolutely loved!).
You can sign up to the live streams for the bargain price of £12.99 and watch the shows as many times as you want until 28 February 2021.
Sherlock in Homes, the murder mystery show via Zoom, has been extended until 27 March. Book here.
There are online resources and learning materials here for fun activities to do at home.
Make a donation to Bristol Old Vic here.
Virtual tours, exhibitions and more from Bristol Museums
All the brilliant Bristol museums might be closed but you can still visit them online by viewing exhibitions, reading Bristol stories throughout history, exploring collections, taking a virtual tour and accessing thousands of photographs and records in the Bristol Archives.
On YouTube, watch a 10-minute film about the history of Blaise Castle House built in the 1700s and the park designed by famous landscape architect Humphry Repton.
There are also several online events taking place during the lockdown.
Download the Google Expeditions app and search for ‘Living as a Georgian’, ‘Blaise Castle House Museum’ and ‘Elizabethan life in Bristol’ for tours of Georgian House Museum, Red Lodge Museum and Blaise Castle House Museum.
You can support the museums by making a donation.
Activities to do at home from SS Great Britain
The SS Great Britain has loads of great activities themed around the ship to enjoy at home including fact sheets, creative writing challenges, videos about life onboard and a virtual tour.
You can also make a donation and buy a ticket to visit the ship when lockdown is over. Tickets are valid for unlimited visits for a year from the first time you use it.
A tour of St George’s Bristol
Online art talks from Arnolfini
There are also videos to watch as part of the modern art gallery’s Art in the City series.
You can make a donation to Arnolfini here.
Science fun to enjoy at home with We The Curious
The brilliant science centre was due to reopen in November with Project What If, a massive new exhibition, after being closed since March. That has sadly been delayed but can you find out more about what’s to come here. Please make a donation.
There are also lots of great videos including science experiments to try at home on the We The Curious YouTube channel.
Self-guided Bristol street art tour
Absorb yourself in the history of Bristol Cathedral
Enjoy art with the Royal West of England Academy
The 168th Annual Open Exhibition has sadly been postponed but you can view and buy all the artworks online.
The gallery has also launched the Light and Inspiration Appeal to raise £425,000 to transform the building. It includes urgent repairs to save the RWA’s Grade II* listed galleries from catastrophic failure. Find out more here.
Laughter in Lockdown from Slapstick Festival
During the first lockdown, Bristol’s annual silent, classic and visual comedy festival released videos from previous events on YouTube, many of which are still available to watch. The initiative is all the more poignant given the sad death from coronavirus of actor and festival patron Tim Brooke-Taylor.
Once you’ve watched one of the videos, please donate to the festival.
Virtual art from Spike Island
The arts centre has recordings previously events including an audio visual performance by Laura Phillips and Joseph Kelly and painter Denzil Forrester in conversation with artist, historian and curator Eddie Chambers.
You can also download an art activity pack by artist and educator Laura Phillimore.
Get your independent movie fix from Watershed
The Watershed cinema might be closed but you still enjoy some great independent films and fascinating talks online.
You can also support the cinema in its reopening by making a donation.
Take a river cruise with Bristol Ferry
A trip on a Bristol Ferry is one of the best ways to see the city and you can do it from the comfort of your own home with an hour-long video of a cruise around the harbour in this video on Facebook. You can also make a donation to the not-for-profit community-owned, business here.
An online tour of The New Room
Behind the scenes at Wild Place and Bristol Zoo Gardens
They might be closed to the public but the animals at Bristol’s two zoos still need to be cared for. The keepers are posting images and videos on Twitter. The Bristol Zoological Society has also launched a fundraising appeal to ensure the future of its work saving wildlife.
At Home with Aerospace Bristol
Online courses from Bristol Improv Theatre
The UK’s first dedicated improvisation theatre, which is based in Clifton, is running several courses online.
Virtual tour of Underfall Yard
A survivor from a time when Bristol was a busy industrial port, Underfall Yard is a working boat yard and docks maintenance facility that has been in continual use since the 1880s.
Sign up for a virtual tour of the site to explore the yard’s unique collection of Victorian buildings set in a stunning location on Bristol’s harbourside. The tours are free but please make a donation to the charity if you can.
Bristol Festival of Ideas
Bristol Festival of Ideas aims to stimulate people’s minds and passions with an inspiring programme of discussion and debate throughout the year. There are lots of online events.
Live talk from the Aardman co-founder
Peter Lord, the co-founder of Aardman Animations, delivers the latest Virtual Bristol Distinguished Address on 27 January. Register for free here.