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 30 April 2021.
A digital adaption of The Picture of Dorian Gray will be available until 17 April. The star-studded cast includes Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley and Russell Tovey.
An on-demand recording of actor Toby Jones in conversation with Bristol Old Vic artisitic director Tom Morris will be available from 19 – 28 April.
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, exhibition walkthroughs of Jo Spence: From Fairy Tales to Phototherapy and A Picture of Health | Women Photographers from The Hyman Collection and art activities to do at home.
Arnolfini celebrated its 60th birthday in March 2021 so look out for lots more great stuff to mark the milestone.
You can make a donation to Arnolfini here.
The Great Gatsby from the Wardrobe Theatre
A unique two-woman retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, recorded at the Wardrobe Theatre in January, is available to watch online from 1 – 31 March.
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.
The 2021 festival took place online on 1-7 March with a brilliant line-up of screenings and discussions featuring comedians including Henning Wehn, Graeme Garden and Rob Brydon. You can still buy tickets to watch event recordings here.
Virtual art from Spike Island
The arts centre has recordings of previous 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.
Create your own film festival with Bristol Film Festival
We absolutely love the Bristol Film Festival. It screens classic movies in amazing and very appropriate locations such as Labyrinth in the Redcliffe Caves.
During lockdown, the festival has come up with the awesome idea of Film Night Companions. Pick a film and choose from a selection of goodies including wine, cocktails and snacks alongside a quiz about the film. You can also include a DVD of the movie and there are packs that allow you to create wine tastings for up for eight people with wine that’s relevant to the film. We absolutely love it!
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 boatyard 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.
Virtual exhibition at That Art Gallery
Wander around a virtual art gallery to view and buy digital art by John Levers.
Tours of top Bristol family attractions with BBC Radio Bristol
During the February half term school holiday, BBC Radio Bristol released brilliant videos from some great Bristol venues for the Our Big Day Out series. You can watch the videos on Facebook:
- We The Curious
- Bristol Aquarium
- Aerospace Bristol
- Meerkats at Noah’s Art Zoo Farm
- Elephants, bears and lions at Noah’s Art Zoo Farm
- Lambs at Noah’s Art Zoo Farm
- Avon and Somerset Police Horses
- Avon and Somerset Police Dogs
Support Bristol restaurants while you support Bristol culture
While you’re enjoying all this great Bristol culture, why not order some yummy food from a local restaurant? BARBI Bristol (Bristol Association of Restaurants, Bars & Independents) has launched a new delivery app that charges a fair commission to support local restaurants and delivery drivers. Download the app here.