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Although it's never been the case that I haven't been aware of Time Out Magazine, it's only in the last year and a half that I have come to love it as much as I do now. While I am at uni I buy it every week without fail; it is completely indispensable to me. When I started my second year one of my housemates was a student rep for Time Out, so she got every issue sent to her free. Therefore, we had countless issues lying all over our house, and this was when we all became completely dependent on it. When I'm at home I do buy it less, but this is because I'm further away from London than I am when I'm at uni, and the journeys into town are less frequent. In London it can be bought from every supermarket, newspaper shop or randomer on the corner, and I can always find it when I'm both at uni in Surrey, and at home in Kent. This is a listings guide relevant to London, so, naturally, the further afield you go the trickier it's going to be do to find. But then, once you're out of London-travelling-distance you probably wouldn't want to buy it anyway.
Time Out, ('London's Weekly Listings Bible'), is £2.50. For a weekly this errs on the side of expensive, however for the amount of priceless information you find inside this isn't asking too much at all. The magazine is split into listing sections so you can easily search for the kind of thing you're looking for. As well as covering each of these sections each week, the magazine also focuses on a particular feature. This week is a market special, giving you a guide to the best markets, where to find the best bargains, where to go for different items, that sort of thing. Each issue focuses on a certain theme, whether this be a particular section within the magazine such as books, music, or nightlife; or a particular area in London, like Soho, or recently there was an issues comparing the North of the river with the South. Also, one I was particular impressed with being a student was the cheap issue =D
The regular features; the editor's letter, letters & emails from readers, seven up, the big smoke and reporter, take up the first few pages of the magazine. Seven Up lists Time Out's seven picks of the week, this varies from museum exhibitions, clubnights, book readings, gigs, plays, films… Anything the editors feel should be experienced that week. It also has a column dedicated to the best free things to do that week. The Big Smoke contains small kooky features that appear every week. These are things like 'overheard underground', which lists amusing fragments of conversations that have been overheard on the tube. Every week we look to see if we've been overheard but so far no luck. One day though we'll be in print. (Side note, look at www.themanwhofellasleep.com for more of these, they're hilarious.) There's also bits in this section like columns from regular writers and photos of the city from readers. Reporter is a more serious page, which focuses on a particular news story of the moment. This issue there's a piece about squatting, and examining the accusation that underground music and crime are linked.
After these regulars comes a couple of articles. Dependent on what the feature of the week is, this could be where most of the information about it will be found. However, when the feature is on books or theatre etc, it will be in their particular section. The articles, regardless of whether they are based on the feature of the issue, are always informed and informative, written with a no-holds-barred attitude that actually tackles the issues rather than skims over them. They are always very obviously well researched, but also open to debate, as can be seen from the letters page. Even if the article is on something I'm not particularly interested in, I nearly always end up reading the whole thing anyway because the pieces are so engaging. The writing is always from an intellectual level, but is in no way patronising. On the whole, the journalism in Time Out can't really be faulted.
After this come the Time Off sections, each one focusing on a different area. I'll give you a quick rundown of each.
Around Town: This section focuses on talks, exhibitions, museums and attractions. There is a piece at the start of the section with maybe a museum director, or an in-depth look at an exhibition. There are reviews of exhibitions that will be opening that week, and their picks of the best things to visit in the week ahead. In the museum section, (which I found really useful), all the museums and exhibitions are listed so you know what's on where. There is also the Critics' Choice, which features in most of the sections.
Art: This is similar to the section before, except focusing only on art exhibitions and galleries. Once again, there will be a piece focusing on a particular event or artist, and then lists of what's on where. These lists also contain all the information like opening times, prices (and whether there's a student discount, woohoo!), and the nearest tube station.
Books: This is usually a shorter section. This week there is an interview with novelist DBC Pierre (who I really rate btw), and then reviews on books out this week. There is also a shorter interview with author Julie Parsons, and this section also lists readings, poetry nights and other events similar to these.
Comedy: With stand-up becoming increasingly more popular, these pages seem to increase every week. Each gig is listed, along with a short review of the night / comedian in question. It also highlights which nights are free, which is useful. As is the norm, there is a feature opening the section; usually this is an interview with someone supposed to be funny.
Dance: This, like the books section, is shorter than most. Dance is not as popular as other forms of entertainment, and this is reflected in the section as there are less reviews and features then there are in other sections. However, it must be said that when a big dance show hits town it receives the same amount of coverage as other forms of entertainment do. For instance, when Matthew Bourne's 'Edward Scissorhands' opened up late last year this section was in its element.
Film: This is one of the chunkiest sections, as it lists not only every film currently showing with a review, but also every cinema (both central and local) and what they're showing. Time Out film reviews are fair, but harsh. The reviewers are always well respected, as you can tell on film posters; they will always display a glowing Time Out rating if it receives one. It is only in the last few months that the magazine has implemented a star rating system, giving each film a mark out of 6. So far, they have only awarded one film 6 stars, which was 'Hidden', directed by Austrian Michael Haneke. (I didn't see it either…) This section also features short interviews, and is packed full of film posters. But it's not like these are distracting, more like they are the pictures in the picture book. After all the listings is a section on 'Other Cinema', which has information and listings on foreign films, independent films, things like that. After these listings there is a small section on this weeks DVD releases.
Gay & Lesbian: Another short section. This is really an extension of the Nightlife section, just focusing in more detail on gay nights and clubs. However, there are lists of events and meetings as well as bars and clubs. As ever each venue is listed with an address and nearest tube station.
Kids: Again, short, but does expand during school holidays. Gives details of shows, literary events, family days out, and specific events for toddlers. As I'm not a parent I can't say how useful this section is, but is all looks pretty ship-shape.
Music: Another beefy section. This section is loaded with interviews, reviews, previews, reviews of particular venues, reviews of particular gigs, reviews of particular artists, reviews of particular albums, reviews of particular songs. Albums are rated on the 6 star system, usually though an album has to be pretty amazing to be given 5. The gigs section is particularly impressive, listing all the gigs that are coming up in the next week, and also future ones that have been announced, including what they think is the booking of the week. Like the film section this section is littered with adverts for gigs, but far from being annoying these are incredibly useful and just as important to the section as the listings are. One of the great things about this section is the light-hearted nature of the interviews, one that often appears is the 'ask a silly question', which asks people, well, silly questions. I mean, nobody needs to read, yet again, about how James Bland used to be in the army or how Keane got together. The section does tend to focus on rock, pop and dance, however folk, blues and world gigs are also listed as well as jazz and latin, and there is also a sub-section dedicated to classical.
Nightlife: One of my favourite sections, and one of the ones I read the most thoroughly. This section has a couple of features on a particular club, or a DJ, or a newly opened club night, something like that. We always pay particular attention to the critics' choice, listing the 9 best club nights coming up in the next week. The writer's in this section really know their stuff, the reviews are always spot on, and the best nights are recommended. The listings are broken down within each day to that day's selection, and then the different music types. I'd be a complete loser without this section, probably staying every night and eventually just melting.
Sport: Known as the section I never read. I'm not into sports at all, but this section looks pretty informative, though is purely a listings section.
Theatre: Another section that's completely indispensable to me. This is one of the magazines best sections. Now, I'm not faulting their film or music reviews, but there are other magazines that do just as good a job. However, the theatre section is one that can't be beaten. I don't think I've gone to see a play in the last year or so without reading Time Out's review of it first, and I will definitely go see a play on the back of a Time Out recommendation. This section is set out in a very similar way to the film section, with a feature on a theatre or actor (etc) opening the section, and then reviews and previews of recently opened and up-coming plays. Then there are the obligatory listings of theatres, plays and musicals.
The next section is entitled Consume, and differs from issue to issue. Often related to the main feature of the issue, it contains articles and information based upon a particular theme. In the latest market issue it tells you where the best markets are, and what you can find in them. However, if the feature has already been covered in a different section then Consume will focus on something different, such as spa getaways, that kind of jazz. It also focuses on things like hotels and shopping.
After this comes food and drink. Personally I think this is a really good section, but I don't often eat in the places recommended, as their budget is just a bit bigger than mine! In this section is the Food & Drink 50, which lists London's 50 best restaurants and bars. This is updated every week so is interesting to read and note the new entries. This section not only reviews particular restaurants, but also reports on interesting and new ideas restaurants or bars are trying out.
Next comes the Time In section, which is TV listings. There is first a double page spread containing the picks of the week, and then each day there are picks, reviews for each film and the film of the day picked out. This isn't vastly to any other TV listings magazine, but is extremely useful nonetheless. (The listings run from Wednesday to the following Wednesday.) Also there is a short and sweet picks of the weeks best radio.
After this comes a few pages of classifieds, which should all just be skimmed over, BUT look out for the Once Seen ads, one day I'll be in there!!
The final feature of the magazine is 'My Favourite Londoner', where one Londoner talks about another one. This issue it's Graham Linehan on Steve Bell, but obviously this changes every issue.
I'm not sure why anyone who lives in London wouldn't buy Time Out regularly. The listings are fantastic, always spot on and in so much detail. There is something for everyone in here, the only problem with it is that I always have lists of things I want to do after reading it, something my bank balance doesn't agree with at all.
I am completely hooked on Time Out. Other listings guides just can't touch it.