Pick Up a New Hobby

Disclaimer notice:

Opening Doors London (ODL) in no way endorses, supports or is responsible in any way or in any part for the following digital sites. ODL accepts no responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, language, reliability or recomendations contained within them. ODL is not responsible for any loss or risk associated with accessing the sites listed. Users of the links listed do so at their own risk and take full responsibility for doing so.

It is well evidenced that learning something new keeps our minds engaged and prevents negative thoughts from taking over. There is plenty of research that demonstrate that some  hobbies have a positive effect on people who suffer from depression.

Here are a range of activities you could take up, in the comfort of your own home, with the added bonus of potentially making new friends by linking up on associated fora.


click on the title to be taken to the relevant page

Learn to draw and paint: click here for free lessons in drawing, acrylics, oil, watercolour, coloured pencils and pastels.

*Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: Betty Edwards' best seller is sure to help you prove to yourself that you too can draw! I know, difficult to believe, but true! Highly recommended…. There are many You Tubers who demonstrate her techniques. You can also check out Betty Edwards' website by clicking here. And you can listen to a very interesting interview where she explains Why Art Matters (click on the title to be taken to the You Tube video)

*this is a link to the Amazon book for sale, but you can borrow it online for free by joining the Open Library 

Anna Mason Online School: Some of you may remember Anna Mason’s amazing work from her 2007 Gold Medal at the RHS Botanical Award show (if you do not, once the confinement is over, you should plan a visit to the RHS Lindley Library where her work is on display). Anna Mason runs a very successful online school and offers two free classes to help you master watercolour botanical painting,

Calligraphy:  Follow in Steve Jobs’ footseps (the founder of Apple) and learn / practice the beautiful handwriting… If you enjoy it, why not join one of Gaynor Goffe’s correspondence course, via Scribblers.



Skillshare: Offers a two months free subscription to their classes and workshops. Worth trying out!

Instructables: If you are not ready to commit to a full blown class in carpentry but simply want to get on with one simple project, do not forget Instructables, from the super-ingenious English Breakfast Teapot Floating Fountain to the extremely weird 3 String Wheelbarrow Upright Bass… you will find something to your liking for sure!

Craftcourses: Sells individual workshops in a range of crafts

Origami: Learn to fold the most complex shapes by following these easy instructions.

Masterclass: Here, the crème de la crème will teach you the best of what they are brilliant at! Penn and Teller will teach you magic, Gordon Ramsay how to swear and generally be rude to people cook, Annie Leibovitz photography… and Ru Paul will teach you ‘Self Expression and Authenticity’ (otherwise known as drag 😊 ) - what’s there not to like?  Well, not exactly free, or even cheap, but they are currently offering two one-year passes for the price of one…. A vos trousses de maquillage!

If you just want to have some fun and start a small scale project, check out the Equali blog page that proposes 27 gay crafts that celebrate LGBT history and culture (it's like a rainbow-coloured collection of blue Peter projects.)


Duolingo: Bilingual people tend to show slower cognitive ageing (see this article from the British Medical Journal); why not join Duolingo? You can learn at your own pace, with gentle reminders from their little green owl mascott Duo, earn rewards, complete a ‘tree’ exchange with other learners in online fora… all for free. You can also pay for a subscription, but you do get all the actual learning content in the free version. From German to Vietnamese, Japanese to Swahili, Latin to Klingon or even Esperanto…. Brilliant!

Open Culture: If the language of your dream is a little more obscure - say Bambara, or Estonian - Open Culture provides a list of links to various online offerings, from Youtube classes to Foreign Service Institutes around the world… take your pick!

Of course, you could also go for another language that is still British!!! How would you do that? Simply by choosing to take up British Sign Language... This online course provider is running 'pay what you can' BSL course during the Covid-19 confinement period. The School of Sign Language also has quite a few lessons online for free... you can even learn how to sign 'Thanks to the NHS'.

Or you could even refresh your knowledge of Polari by downloading the app to your phone! By clicking on the word Polari, you will be able to access a QR code to download he app to your phone, either Android or Iphone, but I have checked Google Play, and can confirm the app is free. After a few weeks practice I’m sure you’ll be able to understand this short film without need for subtitles 😊  


How about dusting up that guitar that is leaning against the wall in the corner of the room? Maybe you have an old keyboard you tried for a while and then gave up on... Or how about practising breathing exercises to improve your singing voice? Just a few ideas.... I will add more as we go.

  • Learn to play the guitar or the ukulele for free with Justin. More than 1000 lessons and almost 600 song to learn! That should keep you busy even if lock down goes on for twelve more weeks (hopefully not!) 
  • Andrew Furmanczyk on You Tube offers free piano classes - OK now, I know not everyone has a piano in their living room, but maybe some of you did buy one of these electronic keyboards once with the best of intentions... I know I did, it's even got those flashing keys which are supposed to help you train your fingers to follow the notes
  • If you like to sing and would like to improve your breathing technique and singing voice, just go over to Vocalist - the website is a little old but it contains a wealth of free information, including breathing exercises
  • just for fun - you can always play without an instrument, just use their virtual version at Virtual Instruments
  • If you are prepared to pay a subscription, here are two of my favourite sites: Guitar Tricks, where you can learn from beginners to advanced, learn zillions of songs, different guitar styles (from classical to electric, folk and blues or even bluegrass and rockabilly.... a gold mine! Alternatively, why not join the Online Academy of Irish Music (OIAM) and learn to play the tin whistle or the flute, the Bodhràn or the Irish flute - and if you really really dislike your neighbour, they even have courses on learning to play the Uilleann pipes. Both these sites are commercial and will ask you to subscribe, but both offer a 14 days free trial...