Big Issue Vendor

Smithfield150 and The Relaxed Prom are helping keep culture accessible to all

Relaxed performances, cut-price tickets and increasingly family-friendly attitudes are prominent in the contemporary London arts scene, says Claire Jackson

Most of us are acutely aware of the ever-increasing cost of living. Earlier this year, the headline inflation rate was revealed to be three per cent, almost double last year’s figure. The way we spend money on non-essentials is constantly in flux, changing to reflect wider societal trends. Our flirtation with economic fashions is reflected in the Office for National Statistics’ collection of goods, a grim acknowledgement of mainstream consumer spending, seen as the UK’s official shopping basket. This year sees children’s soft-play sessions enter the list for the first time, as well as active wear and GoPro cameras. (A stage show involving all the featured items surely beckons?) The underlying themes to the list are wellbeing, active leisure and experience.

Fresh keenness to explore new things and cultivate cultural curiosity – including engaging with music – is heartening. Given the constant demands of balancing budgets, it is all the better when there exist purse-friendly opportunities, such as the upcoming Smithfield150, a two-day festival hosted by London’s Culture Mile to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Smithfield Markets.

Culture Mile is an initiative led by the City of London Corporation alongside its core partners Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London, to encourage creative exchange and collaboration from Farringdon to Moorgate over the next decade or so. Entrance to Smithfield150 is free, as are most of the activities, with plenty of music and pursuits to engage a variety of ages. In between designing a new mocktail from picked and foraged ingredients from East London (embrace your inner hipster) and getting a fluro express manicure, you can catch Fulham Brass Band on the Smoothfield Stage (August 25).

Events organisers are becoming attuned to the reality that while fairground rides, dog shows and roller discos are great fun for lots of people, many find the hubbub challenging

Women’s suffrage is a notable theme across the programme: Stealing Sheep’s procession promises rousing artistic flair, and a game of musical bingo themed around the centenary hopes to attract a full house (August 26).

And if Hackney’s wild and wonderful family party Disco Loco or the Horrible Histories stage show is too stimulating for some, under-fives and their families can relax in their own mini-festival curated by Motherbrunch, which will include a chill-out area with arts-led activities (August 25-26). Events organisers are becoming attuned to the reality that while fairground rides, dog shows and roller discos are great fun for lots of people, many find the hubbub challenging.

The Relaxed Prom (August 27) develops this notion further with its ambitious aim to create a setting for orchestral music that is accessible for everyone. The programme includes works by Bernstein, Holst, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, plus a new piece by Alexander Campkin. There is an informal attitude to movement and noise during the performance, with sign language interpretation and picture communication on large screens.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is joined by its disabled-led ensemble BSO Resound, and the event is ideal for families, young people and adults with autism, sensory and communication impairments, or living with dementia. Better still, the BBC Proms has suspended its traditional ticket pricing structure for this event and all tickets cost £12 for adults and £6 for children.