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As some of you will know, I moved to London a few weeks ago. Problem is, I don't really know London that well. With three weeks until I finally start work, I decided that I was probably going to get bored unless I found something to do...and then one day the fiance came home with a copy of Time Out. Problems solved!
Time Out guides have been published for countries and cities all over the world in book format, but London's Time Out magazine is a little different. Published weekly, it offers a week by week guide to a wide range of events and exhibitions, among other things, happening in and around the capital.
The magazine, although mainly featuring listings, is not purely a listings magazine. Interviews with celebrities such as Ioan Gruffudd and Kevin McKidd (28/07 - 04/08 issue) provide entertainment and break up what could otherwise turn into something fairly dull to read. Interviews are well-written and, as well as telling you more about the personalities of the interviewees, give background information and interesting facts about the field that they are known for, making for good reading.
The magazine also features articles on various aspects of life in the capital..the issue in front of me featuring an 8-page special on the city's waterways. This may sound dull to some...but in actual fact, is fascinating. Featuring information about watersports in London, landmarks alongside the Thames (including pubs!), a real-life article about those who live on riverboats on the Thames, and details of walks around the area, this section explores London from a different angle, choosing to bypass the "touristy" areas and concentrate on an aspect of London life not always thought about by visitors.
A "food" section details markets and foodie events around London, accompanied by mouthwatering pictures, as well as restaurant reviews and special offers.
And then we have the listings. Time Out magazine is not a tourists' guide to London...although I'm sure many tourists will find it useful! This magazine is primarily a London guide for Londoners, and, although published weekly, is full to bursting with events and so on throughout London and the surrounding area.
The actual listings are divided into eleven sections, detailed below:
1. AROUND LONDON: This is basically a guide to events, museums and attractions within London. Some things don't change from week to week (for example, the museums featured in the normal listings), but every week, new museum exhibitions, talks and kids' events are added, as well as any other events not included in other sections.
2. ART: A guide to the week's exhibitions in art galleries around London...and not only the huge, well-known art galleries. Even the tiniest galleries in the furthest corners of the capital have their space in here.
3. BOOKS: Short but fantastic reviews of the latest releases, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as details of book signings and readings around London.
4. COMEDY: Comprehensive listings of comedy all around London, including a small paragraph of text explaining what type of comedy each is.
5. DANCE: Covers everything, from watching dance performances to one-off dance lessons and courses.
6. FILM: A guide to the latest releases, including short reviews, as well as listings of other films currently showing around London. DVD releases are also covered here, and some of you may be happy to know that it is not just the standard, commercial releases that are covered...no, the arty films and foreign films are all in here too.
7. GAY AND LESBIAN: Events, meetings, bars, clubs and shows are all covered here in Time Out's guide to the gay scene...if you're in London and have no idea where to go, this is a good place to start.
8. MUSIC: This section is mainly listings of live music around London, ranging from tiny gigs in local pubs to larger, more familiar names. It does also, however, feature reviews of the latest single and album releases.
9. NIGHTLIFE: Club nights from R&B to drum and bass, from funk to reggae, there's something for everyone. And don't forget to check out Time Out's special offers that you can sometimes find in this section!
10. SPORT: Two different sections in this part of the magazine: "things to watch" and "things to do". "Things to watch" offers both professional and non-professional games/matches/events to see, and "things to do" gives details of courses for various sports.
11. THEATRE: A guide to the latest plays showing around London.
The listings in Time Out are, in my opinion, very well done: unlike other listings mags, where you get the basic details, this magazine offers much more. Firstly, each section contains detailed reviews of events, releases and so on, which are not only informative, but interesting to read. Secondly, the amount of information offered with each listing is very useful: not only time and date, but also prices and location, so you don't need to spend ages looking things up elsewhere or phoning up to find out more information.
The listings don't finish there, however: at the back of the magazine you'll find a guide to the week's television, as well as a "classifieds" section featuring property rental, travel deals and items for sale as well as the obligatory classifieds.
So, my verdict? It's a great magazine, packed full of interesting and varied things to do around our country's capital. As well as providing great, generally accurate listings, it's also a very well put together magazine: the articles featured are well-written and entertaining, the special offers featured are relevant and for places you'd actually want to visit, and the level of advertising is not excessively high, as in some magazines. In fact, flicking through, there are indeed a number of full-page ads, but these are either for films or things to do in London. I honestly didn't find a single ad that didn't have some relevance to the contents of the magazine.
The layout is also good for a magazine which could have been very boring: the articles are broken up by relevant and eyecatching photography, and the pages of listings are made easier on the eye by the addition of boxes detailing "critics' choices" and colourful ads for films, plays and the like. Art exhibitions are promoted by use of pictures of exhibits, and large headings help you to navigate your way around each section. Coloured tabs on the right hand side of the page tell you which section you are looking at, and make it easier to skip quickly from section to section.
In terms of value for money, I think the magazine is excellent. Each weekly issue costs only £2.35 - brilliant value considering how much is packed into the 175 or so pages, and considering the special offers featured in each issue. The price comes down even further if you take out a subscription to the magazine. The current subscription offer on the website (www.timeout.com) is for "buy 1, get 8 free"...and the price, if you then decide to continue the subscription, is only £7 every 4 issues rather than £9.40. This, however, is only a Direct Debit offer: if you choose not to pay by Direct Debit, you can take out a year's subscription for £49.99, a saving of 58% on the cover price. If, however, you are only visiting London briefly and want to find out what's on, the £2.35 you will pay for one issue is definitely a bargain, and will make it so much easier to plan your day.
So, will I keep buying Time Out? The answer is almost definitely "yes" - it's a fantastic way to find out what's going on in the capital, and actually makes for interesting reading too. True, not EVERYTHING that's going on in London is included, such as a lovely little French market in Ealing Broadway that I visited the other week...but there's more than enough. If everything was included, just imagine how long the magazine would be...and how much it would cost! At any rate, it's so refreshing to find a magazine with such a small number of ads! Highly recommended.