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Our Journal

Plymouth: City Of Culture

There’s something special about the way that music, art and film blend in Plymouth, here's why we think the city is such a great place to study.

Plymouth is an exciting city with a special blend of music, art and film. Plymouth College of Art is actively involved in transforming the city into the regional capital of visual arts with partnerships in contemporary art venues, exhibitions and residencies, an onsite independent art house cinema, and in-house gallery. You’ll also find live music venues where you can catch local and touring bands throughout the year, as well as DIY creative communities and community interest companies springing up all over the city. This blend of art, culture and entertainment makes Plymouth an exciting and fun destination to study, jam packed full of inspiration.

From community art to established art institutions, Plymouth has a lot to offer for a budding art student ready to make their mark.

MIRROR, the college’s onsite art gallery plays host to major exhibitions and artists, including British Art Show 7 (with British Art Show 9 set to return to Plymouth in 2021), and shows by the likes of Martin Parr and Rose Wylie. Across Plymouth, creative events and exhibitions like We The People Are The Work, The Atlantic Project and Plymouth Art Weekender have welcomed internationally renowned names to the city. MIRROR often works in partnership, contributing actively to strengthening and enhancing the offer of arts and culture in Plymouth. You can find out more about what’s on at MIRROR on their website.

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MIRROR is a public gallery, events programme and online resource based out of and supported by Plymouth College of Art

Alongside the city’s much loved creative spaces, a new home for Plymouth’s museum and city archives opened in September 2020. With a £40 million rebuild, The Box is a cutting edge, interactive cultural centre that houses 13 galleries and exhibition spaces, a striking elevated archive, including collections from the South West Film and Television Archive, learning and research facilities and a brand new public square.

Founded in 2012, KARST is South West England’s largest independent artist-led contemporary arts gallery and studio space, located in the industrial Millbay area of Plymouth. A test-bed for experimentation and a charitable organisation, they work with other partners in the city such as cultural organisations, artist groups and creatives to curate exhibitions, events and critical dialogue to support the cultural growth of Plymouth and the South West. You can find out more on their website.

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The Box is Plymouth's new museum, gallery and city archive, opened in September 2020

Meanwhile, Ocean Studios in Plymouth’s historic Royal William Yard offers collaborative facilities, residencies and open-space workshops, and is already home to a wealth of creative, independent businesses - from screen printing workshops to contemporary jewellers - including our graduates! Keep up to date with events and workshops on the Ocean Studios website.

Public and community art also plays centre stage in the city, with artwork installed by artists such as the world-renowned Antony Gormley’s LOOK II sculpture on Plymouth’s West Hoe and local sculptor Joseph Hillier’s Messenger, situated outside the doors of the Theatre Royal.

Local community projects have also brought opportunities to students and local artists alike with the Plymouth Artists Together group transforming parts of the city centre with murals and street galleries and Cliik Community vamping up BT boxes around Stonehouse with colourful artwork and designs. You’re never far away from a piece of art in Plymouth.

Music isn’t far from the streets of Plymouth with a wealth of small, medium and large venues in and around the city, playing music from rock, punk and metal to jazz, soul and blues and everything in between.

For intimate live shows, Mutley Plain boasts a hotbed of new and exciting alternative music with The Junction and The Underground playing host to local and touring artists and bands. If you’re more interested in going musically back in time, the B-Bar, Annabel’s Cabaret and Blues Bar & Grill all offer throwback live tunes to dance or tap your feet to. Ebrington Street in Plymouth’s Cultural Quarter also offers a number of venues for live music including the Bread & Roses and Pit & Pendulum.

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Eden Sessions at the Eden Project. Photo: James Ram

Drawing some of the biggest names in music and comedy, Plymouth Pavilions offers the city an extensive programme of live music, entertainment and comedy throughout the year. Previous artists include Two Door Cinema Club, The Prodigy, Liam Gallagher, The Libertines and Elbow, as well as comedians such as Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Katherine Ryan and Bill Bailey. Keep up to date with tour announcements on their website.

If you’re looking for big names and an intimate setting, you can head a little further afield to the Eden Project, home of Eden Sessions. Each summer, rock and pop superstars descend on the natural amphitheatre beside the biomes with artists such as Björk, Muse, The Chemical Brothers and Foals playing in this breathtaking setting. Keep up to date with what’s on over the summer on their website.

If you’re more interested in making music than going to see it live, there are a number of options across Plymouth to practice in a live setting. Firstly, why not check out the Sound Studio on campus, available to all students. The recording area and control room offers you the opportunity to make sound ranging from foley sound recording to full audio production. Plymouth Music Collective is a community interest company offering nine rehearsal spaces, a recording studio, equipment hire, sales and repair. You can book a room through their Facebook page. Pirate Studios is another option in the city for budding musicians and DJs, based in the Millbay area, a short walk from the city centre. Whether it’s for a band rehearsal, solo drumming session or practicing your DJ set, Pirate Studios has an option for you. See rooms and booking availability on their website.

The artistic spirit of the city continues with film and performing arts, beginning as close as the Tavistock Place campus. Plymouth Arts Cinema is the city’s only independent cinema, located in Plymouth College of Art, boasting a 118 seat auditorium with state of the art sound and cinema screen with an extensive programme of arthouse, foreign language and modern classic films. The cinema also offers unique opportunities for students and the general public to attend Q&As and exclusive screenings all while supporting independent cinema. Keep up to date with viewings or book your ticket on their website.

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Plymouth Arts Cinema is the city's only independent cinema located on Tavistock Place in Plymouth College of Art

Plymouth is also home to the Theatre Royal, the largest and best-attended regional producing theatre in the UK. Not just the venue for our graduation ceremonies, Theatre Royal consists of the Lyric, a 1,300 capacity auditorium hosting musicals, opera and ballet; The Drum, a 200-seat studio; and The Lab, a 50 capacity studio. It also operates on a separate site, TR2, a production and learning centre featuring studios and workshops for set and costume production. Not only can you enjoy great theatrical performances from West End shows and pantomime to dance and comedy stand up, our relationship with the theatre provides opportunities for collaborations and industry experience. Book tickets and find out more on their website.

If blockbuster movies and luxury seats are more your thing, you have your pick in Plymouth. Located just across the road from the college is the Barcode, home to the new Cineworld, featuring 14 state-of-the-art screens including an IMAX and 4DX. A little further down the road in the Barbican Leisure Park is also a Vue, a multiplex cinema nestled among a number of restaurants and fun leisure activities.

Whether your family is down to visit or you just want to bond with your housemates, there’s lots of leisure activities to choose from in the city to keep you occupied on rainy days.

Britain’s Ocean City is home to the UK’s largest aquarium, the National Marine Aquarium, based on the Barbican. Home to over 4,000 animals and a huge 650,000 litre tank exhibiting some of the most colourful fish in the Ocean, the aquarium offers interactive exhibits featuring your favourite aquatic creatures from sharks to turtles to jellyfish. Book your ticket online through their website.

If you’d prefer to be in the water rather than looking into it, Plymouth has a number of swimming pools and leisure centres on offer. The Life Centre, based in Central Park, not only boasts Olympic swimming and diving pools, but you can also visit the gym, rent space for badminton, trampolining, basketball and more. Find out more and book online through their website. You can also climb bouldering walls and scale aerial assault high ropes at the Climbing Hangar just a short bus ride away. Open air swimming pools are also found across the city from The Hoe’s Tinside Lido to Mount Wise’s outdoor complex.

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Plymouth's coast offers exciting activities from wild swimming in tidal pools to exploring marine life at the National Marine Aquarium

If you’re just after some lighthearted fun, there’s still lots of choice within a short walk from the city centre. In the Barcode, you can explore a tropical island at Paradise Island Adventure Golf with two 18 hole courses of jungle adventure to challenge you and your friends. Book your slot on their website. If that’s not competitive enough for you, Tenpin Bowling in Barbican Leisure Park offers cosmic bowling under UV lighting, table tennis, air hockey and pool tables as well as an exciting arcade. Book your game on their website.

There’s so much to see and do in Plymouth, this barely scratches the surface, but we hope it gives you some idea of the fun, inspiring and exciting opportunities available to students in the city.