It may be a while since you set foot in a classroom but September means the start of a new hobby-learning year. Get yourself signed up for one of these dream courses
Words: Lizzie Pook And Sejal Kapadia, Images: Rex Features
Remember when September signalled a shiny new pencil case and a return to your school uniform? But that ‘start of a new school year’ mentality is still deep-rooted in us, even as adults, meaning it’s the perfect month to turn your hand to learning something new. And there’s no doubting that we’ve all got a craving for it – maybe it’s the dark nights signalling the end of alfresco fun, but new research shows that 44% of us feel like we’re stuck in a rut and want to shake up our routine outside of work.
Taking up a hobby or learning a new skill isn’t just gaining in popularity, it’s also proven to be hugely beneficial to our mental health. In fact, it could give you more energy, decrease your stress levels and make you better at your job. Any new hobby, from life drawing classes and knitting to getting limbered up for Bikram yoga, has been proven by scientists to be one of the best things we can do for our general wellbeing. According to researchers, filling your spare time with something you enjoy can enhance your creativity, sharpen your focus and even, as reports have found, decrease depression and anxiety.
“When people do things that make them feel good, it activates an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that controls how we feel about life,” says neurologist Dr S Ausim Azizi. This then stimulates the brain’s “feel good” area, making us feel happy.
“When you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state,” adds psychiatrist Dr Gabriela Corá. “Being in that heightened state of concentration raises the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain — chemicals like endorphins and dopamine — that keep you focused and energised.”
So, as well as a series of Sarah Lund-style jumpers, hobbies could also leave us with a better outlook when it comes to health, social life and work (so you can tell your boss that leaving 20 minutes early to get to pot-glazing class is for their benefit really).
And with these courses – which all have places left for the new term and last no longer than six months – there’s still plenty of time to master a brand new skill this year.
1. Boutique baking: cupcakes
Ever eyed up a red velvet cupcake and thought “I could do that”? This course is the perfect launchpad for any would-be Great British Bake Off contestant. Run by the Peggy Porschen Academy, it’s headed up by the superstar baker who’s created cakes for Kate Moss, Elton John and Madonna. Places are sought-after for this cupcake baking course where you’ll be taken through three flavours of cake: strawberry and champagne, sticky toffee and vanilla chiffon. The academy also runs more specialised sessions from learning piping techniques to gingerbread making.
When: 17 November, 10am- 4.30pm
Where: 30 Elizabeth St, London SW1W
How long: One day
More info: peggyporschenacademy.com
2. Diploma course in interior design
If you’ve got a small obsession with statement walls and vintage furniture, make like Kelly Hoppen and take home decorating to the next level. The Interior Design Institute offers an online diploma that you can do at your own pace. The modules cover everything from the history of style decoration, home textiles and the psychology of colour. The course is designed as a foundation to getting qualified as a professional interior designer.
When: All year round
Price: from £500
How long: Minimum 24 weeks, maximum 12 months
More info: theinteriordesigninstitute.co.uk
3. Taste of floristry
If you suspect there’s a lot more to flower arranging than plonking a bouquet in a vase, then this course should cater to you. Taught by Norie Fujimori, who has over a decade’s experience in floristry having trained with ‘celebrity’ florists Jane Packer and Paula Pryke, this course eases you in with the basics (selecting and arranging flowers in a vase). But if that whets your appetite, the school also offers longer courses including a six-week ‘career change’ course.
When: 7 October, 1.30pm-4.30pm
Where: The Flower School, Buxted Park Hotel, Uckfield, East Sussex TN22
How long: One day
More info: theflowerschoolbrighton.co.uk
4. WSET Level 2 Certificate in Wines, Spirits and other Alcoholic Beverages
Headed up by those enviable people who get paid to drink pinot, The Wine Academy is one of the most renowned wine education companies in the UK. Sign up for this course (basically, a GCSE in drink) and you’ll learn about tasting techniques, wine making and vintages from around the world. Use the qualification to boast about your wine knowledge, or as a steppingstone on your way to a career change.
When: 3 October-14 November, Wednesdays, 6.30pm-8.30pm
Where: Meltons Too, York YO1
How long: Six weeks
More info: thewineacademy.co.uk
5. Piano: beginners
Ever pictured yourself tinkling the keys of a grand piano in front of an audience? This is the course for you (or the start at least). Students will learn a basic repertoire of songs.
When: 6 October-15 December, Saturdays, 2pm-3.30pm
Where: Goldsmiths, London SE14
How long: 10 weeks
More info: gold.ac.uk
6. Life drawing and painting courses
If it’s inspiration you’re after, these life drawing and portrait classes take place in Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s original painting studios. The Scottish designer and architect actually took art and design evening classes at the school too. Take a course in Life Drawing and try your hand at working directly from a life model, or experiment with the Portrait Painting In Oils course.
When: October-March, Mondays-Thursdays, 7pm-9pm
Where: The Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow G3
Price: From £225
How long: 18 weeks
More info: gsa. ac.uk/study/ leisure-programmes
Don some Twenties regalia and replace that Zumba class with a spot of Charleston. Charlestonercise (yes, that’s right) is the brainchild of professional dancer Anthony Padgett. No partner needed; just show up and be ready to take part.
When: Thursdays 5.30pm-6.30pm
Where: Oldham St, Manchester M1
How long: Ongoing
More info: jazzswingdance.co.uk
8. Beginners photography
On this Central Saint Martins evening course, run by experienced photographers Bill Blanco and Chris Ould, beginners will be introduced to camera handling skills and black-and-white darkroom techniques. With a firm focus on film, rather than digital, expect to come away with a pile of photographs for your new portfolio. They also offer travel photography and photojournalism courses.
When: 5 October-7 December, Fridays, 6.30pm-9pm
Where: Granary Sq, London N1C
How long: 10 weeks
More info: csm.arts. ac.uk/shortcourses
9. Life, personal performance coaching diploma
Are you always the organised one? The one your friends flock to for advice? Maybe you should have a bash at life-coaching. The Coaching Academy offers well-respected, academically accredited courses that include six live training days (spread over weekends). Students will come away prepared to take the step towards a new career, as well as kudos in life-coaching circles.
When: All year round
Where: London and Manchester
How long: 6-12 months
More info: the-coachingacademy.com
10. Cactus language courses
At Cactus, the sheer volume of courses means you’ll find something to suit you so there’s no excuse to put off learning French any longer.
When: Courses start in October
Price: From £105
How long: Two days to 10 weeks
More info: languagecoursesuk.co.uk
11. Beginners shoemaking
If you’ve ever dreamed of crafting your own Miu Miu-style heels, or were constantly accessorising your Clarks school shoes as a child, this introductory course in shoemaking by respected accessory design school Prescott & Mackay could help you realise your true footwear potential. The two-day course will take you through all the basics of making a shoe, from patterns to materials, and students will come away with their own hand-crafted mules. No experience necessary.
When: October 20-21, 10am-6pm
Where: 52 Warren St, London W1T
How long: Two days
More info: prescottandmackay.co.uk
12. How to write a script
Always had a burning idea for a film script? Turn those ideas into reality on this Industrial Scripts course that covers everything from creating characters to marketing yourself.
When: 27 October, 10am-7pm
Where: 33 Newman St, London W1
How long: One day
More info: industrialscripts.co.uk
To discover more courses from beginners plumbing and tiling to ceramics workshops visit theschooloflife/shop/classroom; hotcourses.com; citylit.ac.uk; london.floodlight.co.uk/london/courses-classes-lessons; direct.gov.uk/adultlearning