Among the shops, banks and modern buildings in the Liverpool Street area, is the Bishopsgate Institute. It is a thriving center for adult education, providing an abundance of evening courses from arts and culture to physical exercise. This Grade II listed building, established in 1895, offers more than short courses. A library provides a quiet space to escape hectic city life and frequent events and talks that will inspire anyone to return again and again.
Artistic and Cultural Courses
The institute has a range of courses offered on a termly basis. Learn everything from photography to beer and wine tasting in the arts and culture department, or satisfy a desire to study a new language with the seven on offer. From Arabic to French, programmes of study are in modules starting from beginner to advanced. For the budding writer, there is creative writing, philosophy, public speaking and journalism. The classes are comprised of 14 students, allowing a good student-teacher ratio for development and feedback. For aspiring thespians, there are acting courses that examine practitioners such as Stanislavsky and Chekov, as well as practical acting techniques. There are also opportunities to develop the body and voice, with yoga and pilates sessions, as well as workshops on solo and choral singing. Many of the courses do not require any previous experience. With an extensive list of artistic and cultural courses, the only difficulty is choosing one.
History of the Building
Part of the excitement of studying at Bishopsgate is being immersed in the history of the institution. The Grade II listed building has a beautiful façade decorated with intricate carvings of arts and craft. The grand turrets create an illusion of stepping into a castle to study. Designed by architect Charles Harrison Townsend, and established in 1895, the institute is wedged between two modern buildings yet the public can glimpse what learning might have been like in the 19th century with such an elaborate frontage. A Romanesque influence in the arched door of the façade adds to the historical charm, and contrasts with the conventional rectangular entrances of the buildings beside the institute. It has a great hall, panelled in white, and fitted with intricate cornices and lighting. It’s not necessary to be a student to appreciate the architecture, either, as Bishopsgate participates in Open House London.
The Grand Library
A quiet space to read is a rarity in central London. The institute, however, has a grand library with a beautiful stained glass domed ceiling. Decorated with wooden furniture and towering bookshelves, it’s easy to forget that businesses of Liverpool Street are only a few hundred meters away. The library has an extensive catalogue – and some books are for sale at bargain prices. The collection ranges from LGBT to London history and parliament. Searching the archive and books can be done electronically on the library’s e-catalogue. There are many displays and exhibitions that delve deep into the history of London, too. For schools and community groups there are interactive workshops allowing students and participants to handle historical artifacts and use analytical and creative skills to explore what life was like in London hundreds of years ago. The library also offers guided tours to adults and children with a minimum size of eight and a maximum of 20 people, and lasts approximately 90 minutes.
Studying can work up an appetite. Experience a culinary treat after class at The Bishopsgate Kitchen. The recently refurbished restaurant is situated on Brushfield Street, with large glass panels allowing customers to sit back and watch the markets of Spitalfields while enjoying a coffee or sandwich. The eatery serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner; there is also a Christmas menu with specials for two and three course set-menus. Feeling decadent? Why not try a cocktail? Aperol spritz, negronis and bellinis, in delicious flavours such as white peach, are served throughout the day. For dinner, main courses are well priced and all pasta dishes are handmade using free-range eggs. Many items on the menu are vegetarian and gluten-free, so there’s something for everyone. With such delicious food, learning has never been so luxurious!
A worthy feature of the Bishopsgate Institute is its commitment towards contextualising learning through exhibitions, lectures and performances. There is an extensive list of lunchtime and evening activities ranging from classical orchestral performances to participatory social dance events, such as the Swing Den Night, hosted by Swing Patrol. It’s a great way to meet new people, exercise and have fun at the same time. The institute organises talks and tours of the City of London, exploring the rich history of market sellers, traders and café owners. In addition, podcasts are available on the website so learning is possible while on the go or at home. The Bishopsgate Institute offers a wealth of courses and community events helping the public to access and appreciate the historical and cultural wonders of the world-city that is London.
The Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London, UK, +44 20 7392 9200
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