How to experience culture when in isolation

Being stuck at home doesn’t mean you have to miss out on rich cultural experiences

How to experience culture when in isolation

Tom Inniss, Rosie Doyle, Rosa Todd, Sophie Mccarthy, Tayo Adewole, Emma Beatrice, Chris Hill, Sadhana Narayanan and Charlotte Hooker contributed to this article.


We know how it goes. First you’re frustrated that you can’t leave the house because it’s inconvenient. Then your mood picks up because you are excited about the possibility of doing all those things you never have time to do. And then your mood drops again as you realise you have no inspiration, and miss the rich cultural scene that exists beyond your four walls. 

A number of us have started to get that way, so we decided to compile a robust list of things to do for people of all interests. We’ve included links for places where you could find stimuli, as well as some personal suggestions from our Voice Contributors.

Although robust, it’s by no means comprehensive, and we would love to hear your suggestions too! Please feel free to either tell us what you’re up to in the comments, or post your own blog for everyone to see!

Reading

One of life's most pure pursuits, now is a great time to catch-up on that backlog of books that you’ve been meaning to read. 

If you are a fan of physical books, then most retailers like Waterstones, Amazon and WHSmith are still shipping, so you are set. 

If you prefer the convenience of ebooks, there are also a number of options available to you. Obviously your physical e-reader will have a store where you can buy books, but depending on the make of your e-reader, you have a few other options available too. 

OverDrive allows you to loan ebooks from your local library. It doesn’t support Kindles, but a number of e-readers are supported, as well as tablets and browsers.

Kindle Unlimited is arguably not the best deal available normally but, at least on my Amazon account, it is showing 2 months free as an introductory offer, which makes the subscription cost of £7.99 a month. You can loan 10 books at a time, but it also includes magazines and audiobooks too. It has over 1 million books to choose from, but mostly from newer authors. 

Prime Reading is Amazon’s other ebook loaning service, and on the surface isn’t hugely different to Kindle Unlimited. Rather than paying £7.99 a month, Prime Reading is included in your existing Amazon Prime membership. There is less to choose from (1000 compared to 1 million) but if you’re already paying Amazon for their shipping, this is a great option.

Project Gutenberg is a great resource to find those older or out-of-print books. While it predominantly hosts books where the copyright has expired (read: the classics) it does on occasion have newer titles too. The real winner though – it’s free!

Scribd - an ebook and audiobook provider are offering 30 days free access to their entire library! They have introduced this in light of the situation many people are in, being required to self-isolate. Make the most of this whilst it is still available! 

Personal recommendations

Rosie

Zadie Smith’s ‘NW’ for its rich social commentary on young, working class Londoners. It’s experimental in form, with choppy vignettes and narrative switching, making for a psychedelic, dazzling journey into the lives of others. Read for contemplations on human connections, at a time when we most need them. 

Sadhana

If you're willingly to delve into something current, I would recommend 'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel. It follows various survivors of a fictional swine flu pandemic that has devastated the world. But Station Eleven isn't terrifying or disheartening; it is a unhurried, mesmerizing story about art, resilience and humanity. Another recommendation, if you're looking for some escapism, is the Conqueror's Saga by Kiersten White. It's a historical fiction series — well-paced, brutal and fascinating. The characters and storytelling is unique and will take away from today, and right to the heart of the Ottoman Empire. 

Emma 

‘Educated’ by Tara Westover is a fascinating memoir, describing the author’s experience of being raised as part of a Mormon fundamentalist family in a small town in the state of Idaho in the 1990s. The youngest of seven children, her parents followed a survivalist lifestyle and were suspicious of doctors, hospitals, public schools, and the federal government. Her father Gene was the prophet of their small family, convinced the world was going to end at the stroke of the millennium. Faye, Westover’s mother, follows the words of her husband, despite sometimes doubting the divinity of his testimony. I would really recommend this book, as, despite not being a light read, is extremely thought provoking. (Readers should be advised however that this book does include: domestic abuse and graphic scenes.)

Sophie

‘Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J Maas is the first book of an eight book series, so if you’re looking for something to last you through the next few weeks. It’s a young adult fantasy that I discovered from my 20 in 20 challenge and the series has been amazing to read. Centering around nineteen year old assassin Celaena Sardothien and her path to save the world she lives in. The entire series is  full to the brim of well written character development as well as some of the most intricate plot telling I’ve read. I recommend this if you feel like you’re in need of an escape somewhere where coronavirus doesn’t exist!

Looking for more options?

Don’t worry, we have you covered! We actually compiled lists of the Top 10 books of 2019, and the Top 10 books of the decade, so there should be plenty to keep you entertained!

Music

Launched by Global Citizen Festival and the World Health Organisation, ‘The Solidarity Sessions’ is offering Instagram live-streamed concerts. John Legend and Chris Martin have already streamed live music from their home, with other artists expected to stream soon.

The Berlin Philharmonic has opened its digital concert hall for free for the next month. Users can access past concert videos from their own home. You can register and redeem a voucher to watch shows before 31 March. New York’s Metropolitan Opera is also live streaming shows so audience members can watch for free.

Musicians are increasingly flocking to Twitch to put on live performances in place of their cancelled tours. One musician I tend to follow on YouTube, Marc Rebillet, has done just that, and is keeping on brand with a silky kimono.

It’s a cheeky plug for Contributor Chris Hill, but during a recent concert he performed Meditation by Jules Massenet on the flute, accompanied by Amy Butler on Piano. It was dedicated to all of those who are scared or uncertain about the future as a result of the virus. Definitely worth a listen. He also co-authored an article looking at how musicians are struggling at the moment, and how best to support them, so please do read that too.

It’s an obvious one, but if you have a subscription to a music streaming service, you have on average access to over 30 million tracks at your disposal. You have your mainstays like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, but there are also services like YouTube Music, Deezer, Tidal or SoundCloud. Each has benefits and limitations, but the larger names will have most of what you’re looking for. Some services have student prices, and nearly all offer a free trial period – great for getting a boogie on to shake off that lethargy! 

Stuck for what to listen to on one of those music streaming platforms? Well we compiled a Top 10 of the best albums of 2019, and the Top 10 albums of the decade, so you should be able to find that next earworm with ease!

Personal recommendations

Tom

I don’t know if it’s just a reflection of my age, but I’m really getting into Turin Brakes at the minute. They have a surprising number of hits you would probably know, and having recently seen them live I have so much respect for their talent. 

Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia by The Dandy Warhols is always a great album to throw on, and I couldn’t make music recommendations without mentioning The Man Who by Travis, which is just a phenomenal album by an amazing band.

Sophie

Despite being stuck at home, I’m still spending most of my time writing or doing university work and to keep me focused any kind of cinematic soundtrack does the trick! Before gigs started to get cancelled I was lucky enough to catch Halsey on tour and her latest album ‘Manic’ really does have a genre on it for everyone. From country to pop to metal rock you’ll be hard pressed to not like at least one of her songs. 

Alternatively, just stick on a throwback playlist and pretend that life is just like it was in the 2000’s?

Theatre

Theatres all over the country are closing, but that doesn’t mean the performances have to stop. For example, Playbill.com have pulled together a list of 15 Broadway plays that you can watch from home, including Rent, Cats and Company. A number of them link out to a site called BroadwayHD, which is a US site but allows international viewers and comes with a seven day trial. 

Available for free is a 2017 performance of The Wind in the Willows, recorded at the London Palladium and starring Rufus Hound as Toad, Simon Lipkin as Ratty, Craig Mather as Mole, Neil McDermott as Chief Weasel, Denise Welch as Mrs Otter and Gary Wilmot as Badger.

The Original Theatre Company are also working to get their productions of The Art of Habit and The Croft available online for people to view. More information is due to be posted on their site

A slightly more niche performance streaming platform in On The Boards, which allows you to pay an annual membership fee and access their library of performative films. 

If you want something more immersive, LIVR is the world’s first virtual reality content platform dedicated to theatre. You pay £5.99 a month for a theatre token, and then spend that token on any of their constantly updating catalogue of theatre performances. They will even send you a free VR headset, or give you a free token if you already have one. We’ve previously spoken to former director Martin McGourty, and I followed up this week and they are still sending out headsets during the coronavirus outbreak, so now might be a good time to get one!
For those looking for more theatre career based content, The King’s Head Theatre is doing daily livestreams on Facebook and Instagram, mixing Q&A’s, readings and artists they support. 

Films and TV shows

The world is your oyster here, I’m sure you know the best places to find the shows you love. It’s hard to believe sometimes, but most homes still have access to live TV, such as Freeview, Sky or Virgin Media, and for the most part regularly scheduled programming continues unchanged. 

For those who prefer on-demand viewing, you have your usual array of options. BBC iPlayer has a great selection of content, as does ITV Hub, 4OD and UKTV Play. Then there are the heavy hitters: Netflix and Amazon Prime. With self-isolation being a thing, it does mean you aren’t able to hang out with your friends and watch on the same screen, but at least with Netflix Party you can watch Netflix together, virtually.

Keep in mind that Disney Plus is also launching soon, and Apple has a streaming service too. 

Oh, and YouTube is the biggest video library in the world, so probably best not to discount them either!

Don’t forget you can also rent TV shows and films from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and a number of other places. And if absolutely nowhere has a digital copy of that one thing you want to watch, you might be able to find it to buy on the usual online stores.

Personal recommendations

Rosie

I will personally be watching Detectorists (BBC iPlayer), a BAFTA award-winning comedy about two eccentric metal detectorists sharing the joys of their hobby. The immense shots of the British countryside in full summer bloom accompanied by a lilting folk soundtrack (Johnny Flynn) create an uplifting watch that we can all seek solace in. 

Charlotte

Sex Education is the funniest show I think I’ve ever watched. If you haven’t yet, binge it in isolation!

Chris

I’ve been rewatching Outlander recently with my girlfriend and with a new season just come out I’d highly recommend it. It’s got a fantastic plot, loveable and detestable characters abound, and has the right mix of its supernatural premise and genuine history that you get to learn a little bit about the time period too. Most of all, the chemistry between the two leads is some of the most compelling I think I’ve ever seen. Fair warning however: it does not shy away from intense violence and indeed rape at a few points so if that makes you uncomfortable best leave this one alone.

Tayo

If you’re looking for a show to take your mind off the stresses of the world, then why not watch Riverdale? There are three and a half seasons of teenage melodrama, buck-wild plotting and iconic one-liners for your consumption. It might not be the most intellectual of shows, but it’s a perfect distraction for when you’re stuck inside.

And, if you want your escapism to come from a feature length movie, then a great film to watch is Call Me By Your Name. Here you can escape to a remote part of Italy, made even more stunning by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s phenomenal cinematography. Then get stuck into Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer’s brilliantly acted forbidden romance under the beautiful sun and wish you were there too. It’s currently available on Netflix.

Rosa

This is by no means the happiest film I’ve ever seen, and probably won’t offer much in terms of comfort, but hands down, the best film I’ve ever seen is Control by Anton Corbijn. It tells the story of Ian Curtis’ and Joy Division’s rise to fame and has sensational performances from Sam Riley and Samantha Morton. Filmed in beautiful black and white, it is absolutely sensational. It is available to rent on BFI Player.

Want more?

Still stuck on what to watch? You could always check out lists of the Top 10 TV shows, and Top 10 films of 2019

Want to go further back? How about Top 10 TV shows of the decade, and Top 10 films of the decade!

Video games

This is quite a hard section to make recommendations on, as it all depends on your individual tastes, the hardware you own, and whether you’re looking at online or offline experiences. 

This will be an area where you might want to do some of your own research. To kick things off, The Guardian has compiled a list of games that might help you fight off that isolation.
We also have lists of the Top 10 video games of 2019, and our top picks for games of the decade!

While scouring the internet I also found that Microsoft had the original Lemmings available for free on its store (PC). 

Mini Metro is currently free on iOS, and Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey are free for both iOS and Android. A number of other game devs are making their apps free or cheaper at the minute too, so do have a look through the various stores to see what bargains you can find. 

Check out our other content

Our Contributors and wider Voice Community are always posting new blogs and reviews on the website, and you can check it all out here. You could also post your own content, and keep the community spirit alive!

We have a dedicated section for coronavirus content, including ways to cope with isolation and stories of how it has affected people who work in the creative industry. You can find all of that at voicemag.uk/covid19.

Finally, we also have social media – @voicemaguk on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and if you want to specifically see what our Contributors are getting up to, they hang out on Instagram over at Voice.Extra.

Header Image Credit: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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